Valley art teachers plead for kids show
A sign out front said, “Art for all ages and abilities.”And that sentiment was on the minds of art teachers from around the valley who attended a heated meeting with the chief curator of the Aspen Art Museum on Thursday. The meeting at the Wyly Community Art Center in Basalt took place, at least in part, because of the anger inspired by the museum’s recent decision to end a popular art show for children.Chief curator and Director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson said the decision to replace the Valley Kids Art Show with a program that teaches young adults how to curate their own shows is final. The decision was hard, she said, but it has the backing of the museum board of directors and its executive committee.”Letters to the editor are not going to change museum policy,” she said.That did little to placate some of those in attendance.Matthew Thompson, assistant curator, explained the Young Curators of the Roaring Fork program, which replaces Valley Kids, but was interrupted when a teacher asked what ages it would serve. The course is aimed at 13- to 18-year-olds, the group was told. The Valley Kids Art Show, which had been an annual event for more than a quarter-century at the Aspen Art Museum, displayed works of art from preschoolers up to seniors in high school.The new program makes it seem as if the museum “just doesn’t want young kids’ artwork,” another teacher said.About 30 art instructors, all women, attended Wednesday’s meeting. Paula Ponto, who works at Aspen Country Day School, said there was nothing wrong with the previous children’s show. She said she had brought with her a survey of other teachers’ thoughts about the decision.”I’m upset. Does the board not want to know what we’re thinking or feeling? They did not ask us,” she said.Jacobson said it was troubling that news of the decision appeared in The Aspen Times earlier this month before the museum was ready. Several teachers objected to that. Ponto said they got word of the decision via e-mail.The museum’s former education coordinator, Kat Townsend, who was fired in September, sent the e-mail. The museum hadn’t approved the e-mail, and it was an unfortunate way to communicate, Jacobson said.Jacobson called herself an art advocate and said she wants to be a part of the community. But she said she understands if people take potshots at her since she is the face of the museum.The Valley Kids Art Show was not the most effective or popular way to use museum resources, she said. As many people as this has angered, a similar number has joined or rejoined the museum because of the decision, Jacobson contended.She repeatedly said it was time for the institution to move forward – “The decision stands,” she said – and tried to discuss other programs and ideas. But the Valley Kids Art Show dominated most of the meeting.Jacobson said, “A lot of kids will see their work””A lot of kids?” a teacher interrupted. “How many?”The total number of children involved in the Young Curators program is not known yet, Jacobson responded.Sixteen young adults are currently in the program, and everyone who has applied has been accepted, Thompson said. The youths will be the ones actually selecting the artwork for the show, which runs from April 28 to May 7 at Aspen Meadows.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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