Thursday, July 4, 2019

Newark Museum Interview

Good morning
"And the beat goes on................."

Note:  This is the final interview in a series with Aroha Philanthropies Vitality Arts grantees delving into their launch, management and continuation of creative aging programs for seniors.  A wrap up, including resources, will post next week.  

The Newark Museum "operates, as it has since its founding, in the public trust as a museum of service, and a leader in connecting objects and ideas to the needs and wishes of its constituencies.  We believe that our art and science collections have the power to educate, inspire and transform individuals of all ages, and the local, regional, national and international communities that we serve.

  In the words of founding Director John Cotton Dana:  "A good museum attracts, entertains, arouses curiosity, 
leads to questioning—and thus promotes learning."

Project Description:  

Contemporary Book Arts:
Explore a sampling of printing and book-making methods during 8 four-hour sessions: monoprinting, basic intaglio and relief printing and binding practices.

Create your own small suite of personalized books, both blank and content-filed. View contemporary and historical artist books and printed ephemera; learn through demonstration, hands-on making and experimentation.
Beginners welcome!

Mixed Media Sculpture:
During eight 2-hour sessions, learn to construct your own creative sculptures from repurposed objects, inspired by works on view at the Newark Museum. Manipulate and transform found and commonplace materials like discarded textiles, plastics, paper, wire, wood, beads and small household objects into art works, using two and three dimensional assemblage and construction techniques.


Barry:  What made you want to pursue a vitality arts program for seniors?  Had your organization had previous experience with crafting programs specifically designed to appeal to seniors?

Newark Museum: Newark Museum has recently been working to rebuild ongoing hands-on adult workshops and courses. Beginning in 1930, the Newark Museum’s Arts Workshops provided opportunities for our local population to engage in the Museum’s collections through artmaking programs. After eighty-eight years of continuous programs, the Arts Workshop programs were ended due to declining attendance and funding. Many of the participants in these programs were retirees (seniors) and have made it clear that there is strong interest in reviving the programs.

Barry:  Your project encompassed two separate opportunities for seniors: 1) book making, and 2) mixed media sculpture.  How did you settle on these two art forms, and why?

Newark Museum:  The subject of the courses was determined using suggestions from participants of previous programs, and by surveying the Museum’s docents (mostly seniors). Additionally, the Museum’s exhibition schedule influenced the decision. The mixed media sculpture course was directly connected to a recent commission of figure by a contemporary Native American artist, Jeffrey Gibson.

Barry:  In creating a budget for the project, what line items were included?  Were there expenses that were unanticipated?  Did you leverage additional funding from other sources?  What sources, and how difficult was raising the additional funding?

Newark Museum:  The budget included lines for Teaching Artist fees, Program Supplies, Marketing, Administration time, Part-time educator assistance, travel expenses, and catering for the reception. All budget lines were spent as anticipated except for travel expenses. Before the program began we thought we would spend more on bussing participants to the Museum and less on providing parking at the Museum.

Barry:  Did you accurately identify the workload and time involved that management of the project ended up taking, and can you describe that workload and the time involved.  How did you develop your team to oversee the project?  What roles did you include - teaching artist, project manager, marketing, evaluation, et. al. ?

Newark Museum:  The overall workload and time spent facilitating the four Vitality Arts programs in 2018 was generally as expected. The team consisted of the Teaching Artists, Project Administrator, Project Manager, and the Museum’s Marketing staff. After the spring courses, the Project Administrator left the Museum and her responsibilities were added to those of the Project Manager. The aspect of this project that was underestimated (or not presented clearly) was the reporting process. More time than expected has been spent on reporting the project. 

Barry:  The Aroha projects mandated inclusion of teaching artists to conduct the training for the senior participants.  How did you go about recruiting those teaching artists?  What was involved in their training and involvement for this project that you didn’t anticipate at the outset?  Were there benefits to the teaching artists involvement that came as a bonus?

Newark Museum:  The Newark Museum relies on the expertise of teaching artists for all our hands-on courses and workshops. The teaching artists for the Vitality Arts courses were found within the expansive network the Museum has cultivated over the years. The teaching artists used time before the courses to study the Museum’s collections and develop a curriculum that would support social interaction between students while creating opportunities for greater understanding and deeper appreciation for the Museum’s objects. 

Barry:  Did the project involve any collaborative efforts and / or partnerships with other organizations within the community, such as with universities, senior centers, care facilities or otherwise?  How did those come about and how did they work?  How critical were those to the success of the project?

Newark Museum:  Most of the Mixed Media sculpture course participants were involved with the course through a partnership with a local senior center. The senior center promoted the course to their audience and served as a pick up and drop off point for a hired bus company. This partnership helped to ensure access to the programs for people without transportation and help to provide experiences that the senior center is otherwise unable to provide.

The Contemporary Book Arts class utilized the Museum branch of the Newark Public Library system to further their study. During one of the sessions the participants met with the Museum’s Librarian, William Peniston, to view rare books and various types of binding techniques.

Barry:  Who did you target as participants in the project?  Was recruiting senior participants easy or difficult?  How did you deal with issues such as non-native speaker participants, diversity recruitment, dealing with disability and / or transportation issues of the senior participants etc.

Newark Museum:  For each Vitality Arts course the Museum creates an Eventbrite page which is embedded into the Courses & Workshops page of the Museum’s website. The link for this page is then added to digital member newsletters and shared on social media platforms. For the Contemporary Books Arts course, this marketing strategy was able to sell out the course. For the Mixed Media Sculpture course, only a few people registered using Eventbrite. To recruit more participants, the Museum collaborated with a local senior center to offer the course to their audience. The transportation costs for the senior center collaboration we predicted and were covered by grant funding. 

Barry:  What kinds of marketing did you employ in recruiting senior participants?

Newark Museum:  Eventbrite registration, email, targeted social media, printed cards and member mailings

Barry:  What criteria did you use to determine if the project succeeded from the organization’s point of view?  How did you evaluate the project during its course, and post completion?

Newark Museum:  The main criteria for the success of the course was the commitment of the participants. Weekly attendance was used to determine the level of commitment. Course participants also completed a pre-program survey and a post-program survey that evaluated interest and engagement using Likert scale assessments. In addition, the teaching artists completed a weekly program log that tracked progress during the course, and included successes and challenges in facilitation and individual participant’s progress.

Barry:  What lessons did you learn from your experience with the project in the provision of services to seniors in the creative aging arena?  How will you apply what you’ve learned to the sustainability of offering this, or new and additional projects to the senior community in the future?

Newark Museum:  Facilitating programs for a senior audience has unique challenges that influence the format and delivery of our courses. The Vitality Arts program consisted of one session per week over 8 weeks. This commitment of time was challenging for participants. Although many were retired, some worked part-time and had variable schedules. Some participants could not predict more than a week forward if they would be scheduled to work and if they would be able attend the next session of the course. Others had personal and familial commitments that prevented them from attending all sessions. When considering our future programs for seniors, a shorter time commitment may benefit both the facilitation of the course but also the rate of participation. 

Barry:  When you conceived the project, what obstacles and barriers did you identify, and was the reality of designing, then implementing, the project pretty much as expected, or were there elements that surprised you?

Newark Museum:  During the initial planning of the courses, transportation to and from the Museum was identified to be an obstacle for seniors from Newark that may not drive and may rely on public transportation. To address this obstacle, the Museum partnered with a local senior center which acted as a gathering point transportation to the Museum. 

Barry:  What were the overall pros and cons, logistically and otherwise, in designing, creating, and implementing the project?  What benefits were there to the organization - e.g., new volunteers, new support, new audience members, greater community involvement, media coverage, expanded organization image within the community etc.?

Newark Museum:  By offering two courses each spring and fall over the past two years, the Museum has dramatically grown its audience for hands-on multi-session courses. Out of all the course participants surveyed, most are very interested in participating in future offerings.

Barry:  Would you recommend that other arts organizations consider creating and launching their own creative aging vitality arts programs? Why or why not?  What are the major considerations arts organizations ought to consider before embarking on the launch of their own programs?  What are the specific considerations in your experience that museums ought to consider in planning a creative aging vitality program?

Newark Museum:  Yes, it is our recommendation that other arts organizations create their own Vitality Arts programs. These programs allow organizations to connect with an audience that is traditionally neglected in educational efforts. Working with seniors also fosters social and cultural engagement and offers opportunities for seniors to be active in the community, while using their own life experiences to create objects with meaning.

One consideration to highlight when planning a senior program is to allow more time for conversation and discussion as well as more time for project-based aspects of the program. Both limitations in mobility and the general eagerness to share experiences and perspectives requires additional time in class.

Barry:  Do you intend to continue to offer these kinds of program to the senior community?  Why or why not?

Newark Museum:  Yes. The Museum’s mission is to serve the local population.

Participant Observations:

1.  Geraldine Code - 
Single, 65 year old, former teacher, living in East Orange, New Jersey interested in ink art, fiber arts double dutch, working now part time teaching arts and crafts at the Boys and Girls Club.

She volunteered that she decided to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program to explore other areas of art less familiar to her.

In rating the program she said:
"The project met my expectations  I wish that it was longer.  i had fun exploring and discussing the collections and exhibits in the museum." 

Will you continue to pursue the art form that you learned in the program?      Yes 

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program?
"I would tell them to absolutely sign up and explore their creative side."

2.  Jean Goldstein - a married, 72 year old, former Counselor at a community college, living in West Orange, New Jersey interested in Reading, mah jongg, knitting, tennis, and art.

In your own words, please Rate and Review your involvement in the project:
Did it meet - or exceed - your expectations?  What were the benefits of participation?
"It was a fun experience. I enjoyed the teachers and other students, as well as learning about art or craft forms I had little or no knowledge about. I also liked being a part of a program at the Newark Museum"

As a result of the program, have you decided to become involved with the sponsoring organization in other ways - say as a volunteer, or audience member, or financial supporter or?
"I’ve considered volunteering at the museum but haven’t made the commitment to reach out and do so."

What advice can you give to the sponsoring organization to make the program better?
"Allow more time to complete projects; provide reduced parking at the museum for participants. Loved the receptions at the end of the courses for participants and our families."

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program?
"Do it!"

3.  Betsy Vinegrad - a married,  61year old, former fashion industry tech designer, from Short Hills, New Jersey interested in sewing, quilting, knitting and attending art or craft shows and exhibits. Going to the theater.

Why did you decide to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program?
"I saw the Fashion the Future: Wearable Technology class posted on Facebook. It looked like a great way to sample using some of the resources in the Maker Space."

In your own words, please Rate and Review your involvement in the project.
Did it meet - or exceed - your expectations?  What were the benefits of participation?
"I took 2 classes: Fashion the Future: Wearable Technology and Contemporary Book Arts. Both exceeded my expectations. Although I have a lot of experience in fashion, I still learned a lot. I had no experience in book arts and did not feel intimidated by my lack of knowledge. This is a credit to the teachers and the organizers." 

"There were no negatives. I was pleasantly surprised that the programs were tailored to allow those with no experience to learn and still keep those with experience engaged."  

Will you continue to pursue the art form that you learned in the program?
"Yes. I would like to see shorter term workshops with deeper focus on parts of the series classes. For example, there could be workshops using the 3D printers or, one day doing mono printing."

4.  Elizabeth Wall - a  divorced, 70 year old former telecommunications consultant from Irvington, New Jersey interested in gemstone and silver jewelry creation, sewing, sketching/painting, vegetable and flower gardening, reading. 

"I have been on at least six day trips with the Newark Museum and the Environmental Center in Roseland NJ. I’m currently enrolled in the Rutgers Master Gardeners Course (three hour weekly class) which started September 2018 and concludes May 2019. Participating in this class has availed me of many opportunities to volunteer in Essex county: pruning trees at Brookdale Park, working at Branch Brook Park’s Concourse Hill area with other volunteers to clean up the area. Preparing (digging up) Canna plants for winter storage at Turtleback Zoo."

Why did you decide to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program?
 "I am  interested in the arts and related programs."

Had you participated in any arts program like this before?
"The year before I participated in the 3d Jewelry Making program"

"I was surprised at the work that I produced in the class last year (painting). Having had no formal lessons in this subject, I had no idea that in such a short time I could accomplish so much."  

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program?
"Choose your class and sign up for a life changing experience that you can continue with after class ends."

5.  Brigitte Wofford - 56 year old, married, teacher, interested in nature and wildlife, arts, reading, learning languages, exercise...

Why did you decide to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program?
"I liked the idea of combining making a piece of jewelry with learning 3D printing. I would have loved to take the other classes too, but I live far and I still work."

 "I really enjoyed the class. I got to meet people I would not have met otherwise, while learning in a fun environment."

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program? "
I would recommend it wholeheartedly." 

Thanks to Ryan Reedell at the Newark Museum for his help with the interview.

Have a great week end.

Don't Quit