Whitney Museum of American Art: Laurie M. Tisch Education Center
DateOctober 15, 2020
Expanding Access to the Arts
The Whitney Museum’s Laurie M. Tisch Education Center, which opened with the museum’s new building in 2015, was the Museum’s first permanent dedicated space for education in its history. The Laurie M. Tisch Education Center serves as the hub for expanded programming featuring a broad spectrum of activities designed to engage diverse audiences.
In preparation for the Whitney’s move downtown and the creation of the Education Center, the Whitney’s Education Department engaged in extensive research, outreach, and an inclusive planning process to build a strong foundation for the Museum within its new neighborhood. This project included focus groups with area families, planning meetings with local schools, pilot programs with diverse community organizations, and careful study of the rich industrial and artistic history of the neighborhood. Since 2012, the Whitney Education Community Advisory Network (WE CAN), a group of local residents, teachers, parents, and representatives from social service providers and community-based organizations in downtown Manhattan, has convened regular meetings to involve Whitney neighbors to explore ways that the Museum can become an essential resource for this diverse and dynamic community.
Comprising the Hearst Artspace, the Seminar Room, and the Education Department offices, the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Education is a hub where visitors of all ages can engage with artists and enliven and enrich their experiences at the Museum. Centrally located on the third floor and adjacent to the Susan and John Hess Family Gallery and Theater, the Laurie M. Tisch Education Center brings visibility to the Whitney’s educational mission and provides opportunities for museum educators to work in new ways, offering spaces for an array of drop-in activities, hands-on learning experiences, and in-depth and interdisciplinary programming.
The Whitney approaches museum education as an experimental process in which art helps us to better understand the world around us and inspires creative thinking far beyond the Museum’s walls. The Museum offers a range of experiences with art, from personal reflection and contemplative study to collective conversations and participatory events.
Public Programs and Public Engagement
Public Programs engage audiences in critical conversations about art and cultural practice around the Whitney’s collection and current exhibitions. Artists, curators, critics, writers, and scholars participate in panel discussions, symposia, lectures, performances, readings, and other events that offer nuanced and in-depth perspectives on American art and culture. Programs reflect research developed in collaboration with artists, curators, and outside partners such as artist-run organizations, academic institutions, publishers, and other cultural organizations.
School and Educator Programs New York City public schools visit the Whitney free of charge. the Museum’s thematic, guided visits for K–12 students explore the multifaceted roles artists play in our culture—as experimenters, observers, critics, and storytellers— and forge thoughtful connections between K–12 classroom learning and the art on view. Long-term, multiyear partnerships with a small number of New York City schools engage the whole school community; programs include tours, professional development, and parent involvement. Programs for K–12 teachers include special preview events, conferences, and Teacher Exchange, a yearlong, paid program in which participants trade ideas with colleagues, Museum educators, artists, and curators.
Youth Insights (YI) is an after-school program that connects New York City high school students to contemporary artists, providing opportunities to work collaboratively, discuss art critically, think creatively, and make art inspired by the exchange. Semester-long programs introduce students to the Whitney’s art and artists, while participants in a yearlong Leaders program plan events and tours for their peers. Offered in the summer, Youth Insights Arts Careers introduces teens to careers in the arts and practical job skills, and Youth Insights Introductions provides experiences at the Whitney for high school students who are English Language Learners and recent immigrants. Large-scale and drop-in teen programs, including teen openings, workshops, and artist-led events, reach additional New York City teens.
In 2015, the Whitney Museum published Room to Rise:
The Lasting Impact of Intensive Teen Programs in Art Museums, a multi-year study conducted in collaboration with the Walker Art Center, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, with support from a National Leadership Grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Family Programs offer interactive tours, art-making workshops, artist-led programs, interpretive materials, and special events that encourage kids and families to learn about art together. In Open Studio, the Museum’s drop-in art making program, families get creative and experiment with different forms and materials. Family openings and events feature art making activities and other fun ways to celebrate and learn about current exhibitions.
Community Programs build sustained connections that go beyond the single museum visit, bringing art, ideas, and dialogue to classrooms, senior centers, and community-based organizations around the city. Community Partnerships offer extended programming tailored to the needs and interests of partner organizations, promoting the Museum as an essential resource. Since 1994, the Whitney has partnered with some of New York’s most vital community-based senior organizations, such as United Neighborhood Houses, to create customized programs that challenge seniors to actively engage with the Whitney’s collection and exhibitions, make art, share ideas, and relate what they learn to their own lives and experiences.
The Whitney invites visitors of all abilities to experience the richness and complexity of American art in an inclusive, welcoming environment. Access Programs include Whitney Signs, tours in American Sign Language led by expert Deaf educators; Verbal Description and Touch Tours that allow visitors to experience the Whitney’s exhibitions with a highly skilled museum educator trained to provide vivid, detailed verbal description of the works on view, while introducing a selection of objects through touch; and the Vlog Project, the Whitney’s award-winning, open-captioned, online video series in American Sign Language.
Whitney courses are multi-week programs that examine key issues in twentieth- and twenty-first-century American art and culture. Courses offer participants the opportunity for close study of works of art on view in the Whitney’s permanent collection galleries and in special exhibitions with instructors who are experts in the field of art history. During the fall and spring, courses related to special exhibitions include sessions with artists and curators. Additional courses focus on introducing key issues in contemporary art as well as methods of visual perception and formal analysis.
Developed in collaboration with Museum curators, the Whitney’s interpretive program produces interdisciplinary resources including wall texts, video content, and multimedia guides that foreground artists’ ideas and creative processes and make the Whitney’s collection and special exhibitions accessible to Museum visitors on-site and online. Whitney Docents and Joan Tisch Teaching Fellows welcome and engage visitors through introductory tours that explore the ideas behind the works of art on view in current exhibitions.