The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art a two-year, $100,000 grant to study the museum’s educational programs for local public schools. The study will help the Wellin Museum work more effectively with public school educators to supplement school curricula within the structure of the Common Core requirements. Study results will be used to create new programming for the museum. The results of the study and an assessment of the pilot programs will be widely disseminated so that peer institutions, locally and across the country, may benefit from the Wellin’s work.

“Locally, arts programs are frequently the first to be cut, leaving huge holes in the educational experience for students,” said Megan C. Austin, manager of educational programming and outreach at the museum. “The Wellin seeks to address this gap by becoming a primary source for arts programming for K-12 students in the Mohawk Valley. This grant also allows us to further develop our educational outreach program and launch new initiatives to serve students in the region and at Hamilton.”

More than 1,500 public school students from nine area school districts have visited the museum since it opened in fall 2012. As part of the Mellon-funded study, the Wellin will continue hosting focus groups with area school districts, educator events and teacher think tanks. The museum will also use the grant to conduct after-tour surveys and personal interviews with educators and to visit peer institutions to discuss best practices.

The Mellon grant will expand the role of museum educator Amber Spadea, who has consulted with the Wellin since 2013, to a full-time position. New funds will also be used to create original pedagogical materials and hire a Hamilton student as an intern. 

“Hamilton College is proud of the impact the Wellin Museum has had on our campus and our region in just two short years. We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for making possible a study of our education outreach program and, in turn, enabling us better to support our Clinton community,” said Hamilton College President Joan Hinde Stewart. “The Wellin’s connection with public school teachers and their students is an important extension of our mission.”

The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art was founded in 2012 as a teaching museum. Education is at the core of its programming. While that naturally puts on-campus curricular integration initiatives at the forefront, Austin said, the museum has been equally focused on public education.

“The Wellin Museum enables the community to engage with works of art in a new and refreshing way,” said Wellin Museum Director Tracy L. Adler. “Thanks to our stellar education team, school visits are customized to meet the needs of the teachers and their class curricula. As docents, Hamilton students often interact with local school groups as emissaries for the museum, both on site and at local schools. It’s a learning experience for all involved. The Wellin Museum is a portal to our local community through which we enrich educational offerings in our area schools.”

According to its website, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation “endeavors to strengthen, promote and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.  To this end, it supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.”

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