In Crystal Bridges’ department of Access and Inclusive Programs, we have the opportunity to work with many wonderful organizations in the Northwest Arkansas community, including Life Styles. Life Styles is a non-profit organization based in Fayetteville that provides supported employment, supported living, and educational opportunities for adults with disabilities. Over the past year, we have collaborated with Launch, a Life Styles program designed for young adults looking for a collegiate experience that might not otherwise be available to them.
The Launch curriculum includes several classes, including an Effective Communications course, and students enrolled visit Crystal Bridges as a class three times during the semester. Launch instructors and Museum educators collaborate to develop museum experiences that reinforce classroom themes and discussions while integrating the arts. Each session includes gallery and studio art experiences, facilitated by Museum educators, that are based on quotes studied in the Effective Communications class such as “Life is not about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself” (George Bernard Shaw); and “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” (Abraham Lincoln), among others.
Students discuss these quotes in class prior to their visit to the Museum, so each visit includes a rich discussion about how the selected quote and a work of art relate to one another. For example, at our session this month, the Abraham Lincoln quote above was paired with an exploration of Asher Brown Durand’s painting Kindred Spirits in the Picturing the Americas exhibition. The painting celebrates the friendship of artist Thomas Cole and poet William Cullen Bryant, both depicted in the painting. Durand was commissioned to create the painting, which was gifted to Bryant a year after Cole’s untimely death at the age of 47. The group discussed the painting, examining the details and symbols within it, and made connections between the quote, the painting, and Cole’s life and legacy. Following the gallery portion, we moved to the studio where everyone created an accordion-style book, filling it with symbols to tell stories about their own lives.
We love working with the Launch students and teachers every month, and participants enjoy the program for a variety of reasons. Shay said, “I like it a lot because we get to interact with different people and learn about the artists and their pasts.” Kenneth prefers the sculpture: “especially the Pinocchio, the big spider, and the tree out front. And I like the art projects because they are fun,” he said. Katie Beth shared: “I love everything I learned here. Because I love learning about the art history and the artists and it inspires me every day to learn about art. It inspires me to do art. I do a lot of artwork and I love art. Maybe one day my art will be in Crystal Bridges.”
We look forward to continuing programs with Life Styles in the New Year and to the creative expression and mutual learning that takes place at each session!
The Launch collaboration with Crystal Bridges is sponsored by Loreen Arbus.