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Wendy Woon, Beatrice Cummings Mayer Director of Education

The MCA's Education Department provides the interpretive services and in-depth programs that curious people need to better understand and explore the art of our time. We partner with a myriad of generous people—artists, curators, teachers, volunteers, docents, trustees, and donors—to foster both the holistic study and focused inquiry of contemporary art and artists. In addition to tours and in-gallery information, we offer talks by artists and curators, lectures, symposia, classes, workshops, Creation Labs, teacher resources and programs, school and community partnerships, and more, serving tens of thousands of people each year.


School Programs

School tours are one of the key ways we introduce the next generation of museum visitors to contemporary art. Consistent with past years, more than 11,000 students attended in fiscal year 2005, and 76 percent of our audience came from Chicago Public Schools. We maintain a ten-to-one ratio between students and guides, fostering shared discussion and exploration of art and empowering students to build skills in looking at and interpreting works of art.

Training is another component of our programs, and teachers are influential advocates for contemporary art in the community. Though we reduced our teacher programs by half this year due to budgetary restraints, teachers from all disciplines participated in workshops. Two successful teacher workshops, An Investigation of Artists' Responses to the Changing World and Universal Experience: An Investigation of the Culture of Travel, were offered to all teachers, while additional workshops were offered to teachers of our partner schools and the State of the Art program. With the MCA Teacher Resource Book out of print, we have focused on internet resources through our website, with new pre-visit preparation guides posted for each exhibition. The members of our Teacher Advisory Committee continued to offer valuable insights into our programs and exhibitions. In May and June of 2005 their students' work, which demonstrated the use of contemporary art curriculum in the classroom, was featured in the Robert B. and Beatrice C. Mayer Education Center.


Lectures, Classes, and Workshops
Thanks to the generosity of the MCA's donors who have graciously endowed our lecture programs, we offered free exhibition-related and topical lectures on art, architecture, and design. Highlights included lectures by Carol Becker, Maurice Blanks of Blu Dot, Toshiko Mori, Martha Schwartz, Fiona Tan, and Mark C. Taylor.

Classes and workshops included an excursion class entitled A Road Less Traveled, Globe-Trotting: Travel Tourism and Globalism in Art since 1970, Cities as Cultural Meccas, and A Sense of Place: Landscape Painting. These programs provide in-depth investigations of contemporary art in seminar-like learning environments.

This year was the first year of extensive programms specifically for families. In September, we launched the MCA's new family website (www.mcachicago.org/family). Two new marketing pieces specifically for families were developed and sent out to advertise free fall and winter/spring programs. We offered four free Family Days, one in partnership with Children's Humanity Festival and another with Lookingglass Theatre Company. Four Artists and Their Kids exhibitions and talks were held as well, featuring artists such as Adam and Tyler Brooks; Tony and Gaby Fitzpatrick; and Dawoud Bey, Candida Alvarez, and Ramon Alvarez-Smikle. Video interviews are now included on the MCA website. In May, our director Bob Fitzpatrick and artist Tony Fitzpatrick hosted a delicious pancake breakfast for families.


Community Programs
In addition to bringing the audience to the art, we provide opportunities for direct contact with living artists not only to help fulfill the MCA's mission but also to enrich the viewer's understanding of our exhibitions. Creation Labs, a free series of artist-led tour and studio programs, use the exhibitions as a catalyst for creative projects. This year more than 2,700 students learned the basics of screen-printing while exploring identity as they created self-portraits and large-scale collaborative works.

We also work with two select high schools for three years and provide artists-in-residence twice per year for ten-week sessions. Artists and students develop projects that serve the school's needs while building their knowledge and experience with contemporary art. Active partner schools John Hope High School (in its second year) and Taft High School (in its first year) enjoyed successful residencies that included photography, ceramics, and painting.

During the summer, the MCA located two kiosks, cleverly configured from dumpsters, in Humboldt Park. Throughout the summer the MCA hosted a series of programs for the public out of the kiosks. Both the locations and the functions—one a cultural kiosk and the other a community health kiosk—were determined by community consultation at the park. The cultural kiosk hosted a range of visual art, poetry and music performances, exhibitions, and workshops throughout the summer, hiring and featuring local talent from within the community. Programs were geared to adults, children, and families. The MCA extended its relationship with Humboldt Park's Center Infantile, offering their associated families free transportation and lunch at our four free Family Days throughout the year.

MCA Education staff members continued to participate in community advocacy for the arts, including the Chicago Community Trust's Task Force on Arts Education. The MCA hosted a thought-provoking Saturday Seminar for principals and teachers involved in the program, using Chinese photography and video as a catalyst for creative projects about identity.


Support for Our Programs
Two key accomplishments brought us particular gratification this year. The Women's Board has made a multi-year commitment to finding new funding for family and educational programming. This initiative, which fosters the next generation of MCA audiences, harkens back to early efforts dedicated to youth that are the historical foundation of the MCA Women's Board.

The Polk Bros. Foundation, which generously supported MCA Education Programs in the Chicago Contemporary Campaign with a one-million-dollar endowment, has agreed to allow us to shift the purpose of the endowment from "educational programs for children, families, and teachers" to endow a staff position, now known as the Polk Bros. Associate Director of School Programs. This significant act of support clearly demonstrates the esteem with which the Education Department is held in Chicago. As of 2005, the Education Department has two endowed senior positions: Beatrice Cummings Mayer Director of Education and now the Polk Bros. Associate Director of School Programs. This commitment to the professional stewardship of contemporary art education ensures our ongoing ability to connect diverse audiences of all ages with the range of ideas and sensibilities expressed through the art of our time.

The art of our time, like the times themselves, can be challenging indeed. Strong points of view and unanswered questions come to the fore, requiring a spirited and diverse approach to educating and learning alike. We look forward to another year of collaborating with dedicated, talented colleagues across the arts and education communities, sharing our passion for delving into contemporary art to experience its richest rewards.