When The Barnes Foundation recently relocated to the Parkway from Lower Merion, it moved close enough to inner-city schools to allow for their improved interaction with the museum and its holdings. And thanks to the collaboration between the museum and PECO, even more public school students will have the opportunity learn more about ancient Africa and other cultures.
The program, Crossing Boundaries, allows students from a dozen schools to visit the museum, while it infuses its offerings into a year-long initiative that officials hope will not only increase the students’ love of art, but also introduce them to various academic avenues and possible employment options in the technology and natural sciences arenas.
“This partnership came about due to the Barnes relocating to the Parkway, and we certainly wanted to be a part of that and bring the Barnes’ collection of world-class art to Philadelphia students and beyond,” said PECOspokeswoman Mellanie Lassiter, noting that PECO also sponsors other programs, including the museum’s “Free First Sunday” offering. Crossing Boundaries was open to all schools in the five-county area and to schools throughout PECO’s service area.
“One of the great aspects of this is that students have the opportunity to visit the Barnes Museum twice,” Lassiter said. “And Barnes [officials] visit the schools as well. It’s the cross-discipline of bringing art to the classrooms, so students can look at and study artwork from across the African diaspora.”
Baldi Middle School, Dimner Beeber Middle School, Feltonville Arts and Sciences Middle School, Hill Freedman Middle School, Logan Hope School, James Martin School, St. Francis De Sales, Steston Charter School, Universal Vare Charter School, Wagner Middle School, Warren G. Harding Middle School and the Wadsworth Academy are the area schools participating in the Crossing Boundaries program, and each classroom will receive free tickets, transportation and teaching materials.
Seventh-graders from those schools will learn about traditional African sculpture and the impact it had on European artistswho came after. Eighth-grade students will work with the museum’s ensemble displays, and will also focus on the Navajo traditions of storytelling and weaving techniques. Both grades will participate in two in-class sessions conducted by curators with the museum.
Students got a glimpse of the program’s offerings during a presentation last week, in which African stilt walkers and professional weavers displayed their talents and wares.
“We have, for a very long time, supported arts, culture and education, and this allows us to bring [those elements] to the students. The Barnes’ helps students gain an additional perspective,” Lassiter said. “We wanted to use this program to serve underserved schools, schools that don’t have art as an ongoing part of the curriculum, or communities that might not have the opportunity to experience the Barnes in any other way.
“When the Barnes was in Lower Merion, these students couldn’t really get there,” Lassiter continued. “We’re hoping that with Crossing Boundaries, students will come and experience the Barnes for the first time, go home and tell their parents, and then their parents come back on First Free Sundays.”