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  • Linnea Iannazzone

A State of the Art Collaboration in Springfield

Springfield students learn about one of the pieces in the museum

Most of the time, students learn art history through books and images projected on a screen. But thanks to an innovative local partnership, Clemente students in Springfield, MA, are able to get up close and personal with their studies by attending class inside an art museum!

The Springfield Museums were established over 160 years ago on the conviction that art should not be hidden behind the walls of a private house, but shared with the world. Today, that founding legacy is honored by the organization’s generous roster of programming designed to make art accessible to the Springfield community.

“We believe that direct access to the beauty and creativity of art—being able to really look close, see methods, see brush marks—is inspiring and makes the study of art history more rich, because it is also tangible,” says Karen Fisk, Vice President of Community Investment and External Affairs for Springfield Museums. The space provides a beautiful and inspiring backdrop for Clemente, especially when the class explores individual works through the lens of their readings and discussions.

The Springfield Clemente Course poses in the museum

Meeting in the museum also allows students to become comfortable and familiar with the space. All over the country, students have reported that participation in Clemente changed their perception of cultural institutions, helping them feel at home in spaces that may have once seemed rarefied and intimidating. According to Karen, the Springfield students bring a “positive, electric energy” to the space.

Soon Springfield Museums and Clemente will take their partnership further to improve the gallery experience for patrons who are Blind or low vision. Students will have the opportunity to choose a favorite work of art and write the script for an audio description of the piece, including physical aspects like the work’s size and medium as well as contextual information about the artist and their intent. Museum staff will collaborate, offering suggestions on the text, and then students will record their final description, becoming a part of the chorus of voices working to make cultural spaces more accessible to all.

“The partnership between Springfield Museums and Clemente recognizes Clemente scholars as community members welcomed into the Museum space, and Clemente scholars as knowledge producers supporting access and understanding to the art,” says Gina Ocasion, the Academic Director of the Springfield course. “As with all Clemente sites, this access and value goes beyond the currently enrolled scholars to model a connection with art, history, community, and current events for the children, parents, and friends of Clemente.”

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