Often the phrase “Art Education” conjures images of dimly lit art history lecture halls and slide carousels, or young children in tiny aprons creating their very first tempera paint masterpieces. But in January 2020 Columbus Museum of Art and The Ohio State University (OSU) embarked on the first steps of creating a different kind of space for arts learning. Coincidentally positioned halfway between OSU and CMA, the Pizzuti Collection of the CMA bridged the two institutions and provided a physical space for students and educators to experiment with a new kind of art museum education.
This past semester Dr. Dana Carlisle Kletchka from OSU’s Department of Arts Administration Education and Policy held her class Teaching and Learning in the Art Museum on Fridays at Pizzuti Collection of CMA and utilized the current exhibition Driving Forces to practice the in-gallery teaching techniques discussed in class and hold conversation in front of artworks. While it might seem a natural idea to host such classes in museums and galleries, in Dr. Kletchka’s experience, this is not always possible. Beyond many higher education institutions not having a formal partnership with their local museum there may be an array of other issues preventing such an opportunity including demands on museum staff. “I feel fortunate that the Pizzuti Collection of CMA is willing to invest time and resources into our program,” says Dr. Carlisle Kletchka, adding that “[the experience] is so much more rich if you are in the building, in front of the object” as opposed to discussing a teaching strategy in the abstract.”
The ethos to support concrete experiences for students in the larger Columbus community extends across disciplines at OSU. Concurrent with Dr. Carlisle Kletchka’s class the Pizzuti Collection served as a partner site for graduate students from the Fisher College of Business. The course paired student teams from the business college with local organizations for hands-on consulting-style experiences. The opportunity to partner with real-world organizations requires critical thinking, creativity, and interpersonal skills all helping to prepare students for their next steps in the working world. Echoed by Art Museum Education student Megan Wanttie, the opportunity to incorporate gallery learning and off-campus projects is “relevant to all students and expands beyond the boundaries of disciplines.” Of the art museum education course, Megan describes it as “truly unique” continuing that she finds the course “exciting as a student and as someone who looks forward to being a practitioner.”
Despite the cancellation of in-person classes at OSU due to COVID-19, Dr. Carlisle Kletchka is excited for future collaborations with the CMA and opportunities to utilize the Pizzuti Collection site and exhibitions for future classes and new student experiences. Joining OSU’s faculty in 2017 (in part because of opportunities to collaborate outside of campus) and recognized as an innovator in the field of Museum Education, Dr. Carlisle Kletchka has sought to create a one of a kind program – one she hopes to expand – based around observed issues in museums and approaching art “as a conduit to grappling with social issues.” Aligning with the CMA’s visitor-centered approach and community focused programming (which Dr. Carlisle Kletchka admires CMA’s leadership for), the partnership is a natural fit. Gesturing to contemporary art’s particular aptness to address such social issues, Carlisle Kletchka adds “Maybe the Pizzuti’s impact isn’t just the art, but a manifestation of much larger community goals.” Notably, she sees in the younger generation of students a commitment to critical social justice, engagement, and inclusion.
Moving forward CMA and OSU plan to strengthen the relationship forged this semester. The foundation laid will help to support new initiatives and opportunities to collaborate between the Pizzuti Collection and the Department of Arts Administration, Education, and Policy. With Pizzuti Collection of CMA functioning as an “art laboratory” OSU and CMA will continue to explore forward thinking ideas in the field of art museum work and prepare the next generation of art museum practitioners.
– Mark Zuzik is the Manager of Visitor Experience and Operations at the Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art and held multiple positions with the Pizzuti Collection prior to its acquisition by the CMA.