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The Clark Announces Center for Education in the Visual Arts

For Immediate Release

November 29, 2007

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute announced today a new initiative that will bring the Clark’s education philosophy to a broader, national audience of educators. The Center for Education in the Visual Arts (CEVA) will serve as a resource for education professionals from schools, museums, and academia by offering workshops and symposia, providing opportunities for information sharing, and promoting research in visual arts education. It was also announced that Michael Cassin, curator of education at the Clark since 2000, will serve as director of CEVA.

“The Center for Education in the Visual Arts will extend the Clark’s educational reach beyond the Berkshire region and help advance visual arts education through training and the generation of ideas and model approaches,” said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. “We are excited to begin this initiative that will have a lasting impact on how people engage with works of art.”

The Clark’s successful docent summer school, a week-long training program that brings museum docents and volunteer guides from around the country to the Clark, provides a model for one of the programs CEVA will offer in its first year. While following a similar outline to the existing program, the new program will be geared toward museum educators. One-day docent training workshops will also be offered at museums around the country, and a two-day symposium will bring together experienced educators from museums and schools, as well as those in the field of research and education technology.

CEVA will examine and evaluate the effectiveness of the range of visual art education methods currently in use, including online and other distance learning opportunities. The center will work with educators to extend and integrate the Clark’s education philosophy into their urban and rural institutions and communities.

The Clark’s education philosophy differs from many museums in that it emphasizes interactive engagement with the audience as opposed to the traditional one-way flow of information from presenter to audience. While many museums are embracing the move to a more interactive education style, the Clark’s approach is more flexible and less pre-determined resulting in a fuller, more personal and meaningful experience for the audience. The approach stimulates cultural, social, and historical awareness that carries beyond a particular work of art.

“It's genuinely amazing to watch students go from an initial lack of interest to real engagement with a work of art,” said Cassin. “What excites me the most about leading this initiative is the opportunity to be part of that process not only through direct interaction with students, but also by working with other educators to make that transformative process more widely available.”

The Clark currently offers a variety of interactive, thematic gallery talks relating to different areas of school curriculum, including history, science, creative writing, and French language and literature, as well as studio art and art history. Gallery talks can also be customized to meet the specific requirements of an educator or group. “Start with Art,” a program for preschoolers and their parents, offers activities that are specifically designed to meet the special learning requirements of younger children and encourage engagement between the parent and child.

Before coming to the Clark,Cassin worked in the education department of The National Gallery, London, and was, for nearly 10 years, head of education at The National Galleries of Scotland, during which time he also served as a member of the Scottish Museums Council Education Advisory Panel. Cassin has lectured widely on museum education at national and international conferences, has contributed many articles on the subject to museum publications, and is currently the representative for North America on the board of the International Council of Museums’ education committee. His publications include More Than Meets the Eye, a book about art for young people, and Art and…, which makes connections between the visual arts and other curriculum subjects.

The Clark

Set amid 140 bucolic acres in the picturesque Berkshires, the Clark is one of the few major art museums in the United States that also serves as a leading international center for research and scholarship. In addition to its extraordinary collections, the Clark organizes groundbreaking special exhibitions that advance new scholarship and presents an array of public and educational programs. The Clark’s research and academic program includes an international fellowship program and regular conferences, symposia, and colloquia. Its programs draw university and museum professionals from around the world. The Clark, together with Williams College, sponsors one of the nation’s leading master’s programs in art history and encompasses one of the most comprehensive art history libraries in the world.

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