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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces the Windgate Educational Excellence through the Arts Endowed Fund

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces the Windgate Educational Excellence through the Arts Endowed Fund established by a $15 million gift from the Windgate Charitable Foundation. This first-of-its-kind fund supports an ongoing process that identifies current issues facing schools and develops responsive arts–based initiatives to improve student outcomes. The initiatives will focus on quality education, arts access, learning readiness, and workforce skills with an emphasis on underrepresented and lower socio-economic youth.

“The Windgate Foundation has been visionary in advancing education through the arts,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Crystal Bridges. “We are honored to receive this generous gift that allows us to address learning outcomes through innovative approaches. This fund is precedent-setting in drawing upon art museums’ unique resources as a catalyst for change.”

“We are pleased to be partnering with Crystal Bridges to explore ways to use the arts to improve the lives and learning of students,” said artist and Windgate Charitable Foundation board chair Robyn Horn.  “We feel that there are significant opportunities that will be developed by establishing an exemplary advisory board with the oversight of the Crystal Bridges educational staff. We anticipate that this think-tank of experienced individuals will be a critical first step in determining what programs to pursue.”

Windgate Advisory Board

 The Windgate Advisory Board was established to identify the most pressing challenges and advise on programs to pursue in response. The board, chaired by Dr. Jane Best, director of the Arts Education Partnership, consists of advisors from all over the country.

“Crystal Bridges is uniquely positioned to make a difference in a child’s well-rounded education,” said Best. “This investment from the Windgate Foundation and an advisory board with respective expertise in arts, education, research, and public policy, help Crystal Bridges rise to the challenge of ensuring that all children have access to the arts in learning.“

The 2017-18 Windgate Advisory Board includes: Dr. Sarah Cunningham, executive director for research at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts and founding director of the Arts Research Institute; David A. Dik, national executive director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning; Jean Hendrickson, Oklahoma A+ Schools director emeritus; Sage Morgan-Hubbard, Ford W. Bell Fellow for Museums & P-12 Education at the American Alliance of Museums; Dr. Deborah B. Reeve, executive director of the National Art Education Association; Mario Rossero, senior vice president for education at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and Sherman Whites, director of education initiatives at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Art Museums and PreK-12 Schools: Partners for the Future

At the inaugural meeting on May 10, the board discussed issues facing schools, teachers, and students including the need for classroom resources to address students’ social and emotional growth.  From this discussion, the board moved to focus the first Windgate Fund project on the School Partnership Program, a multi-year collaboration that looks at how the arts can support academic outcomes, and the impacts the arts and art museums can have upon social and emotional development.  Over the next year, the program will reach more than 20 schools in urban, suburban, and rural districts. The partnership will include professional development for teachers, teaching artist residencies, and multiple field trip experiences. (Read more about how a museum field trip can improve critical thinking and other skills here.)

“We believe the arts are essential for improving social-emotional development, creativity, and critical thinking for students, “ said Anne Kraybill, Director of Education and Research in Learning at Crystal Bridges. “The Windgate Fund will empower Crystal Bridges to explore innovative solutions to issues facing students and move museums from the periphery to the center of that conversation.”

 To support this and other Windgate Fund initiatives, Crystal Bridges will provide fellowship opportunities for post-graduate level students as well as undergraduate internships to lead formative research, project development, and implementation efforts. After conducting formative research the museum will convene scholars, practitioners, and stakeholders to further understand the issue and collaboratively brainstorm solutions.

Distance Learning: Outcomes

The Windgate Fund follows a successful collaboration with the Windgate Charitable Foundation that addressed challenges for students and teachers, particularly students in rural school districts, by accessing rich and rigorous visual arts curriculum. In 2013, the foundation partnered with Crystal Bridges to create an effective model for distance learning that reaches students beyond the museum’s physical walls.

As part of the project, a Distance Learning Summit convened national leaders and educators to discuss research findings and refine a distance learning model. Following the summit, Crystal Bridges developed two online courses and learning tools, piloted the courses with Virtual Arkansas, made modifications as part of an ongoing process, and has begun to scale up the program. Today, teachers in 22 states are getting prepared to teach using Crystal Bridges’ online courses, and the project continues to be scaled on a national level. For more information about Distance Learning, visit here.

Kraybill adds, “The Windgate Fund will leverage the success of the distance learning model to allow us to explore and test ideas. The ultimate goal will be to scale new programs on a national level to make a positive and sustained impact on students’ lives.”