Educating Artists II

By Gail Spaien
Maine College of Art
Associate Professor/Chair, Painting Program

Last spring I had the opportunity to work with Julia Einstein, Coordinator of Youth and Family Programs at the Portland Museum of Art, on a family project for the exhibition Objects of Wonder. She asked me if I knew of a few students who would like to create a Family Event with her at the Museum. I immediately thought of Nicole Stroumbos, Maggie Muth, Hannah Godbey, and Meg Gervasio because they all have the studio skills, the organizational skills, the people skills, and the energetic spirit to collaborate on a project like this.

My favorite part of “Educating Artists: MECA students/PMA Family Project” is that the whole Museum becomes the studio. I love to see these boundaries blurred. Kids and families are engaged in a more personal way. Instead of passive viewing, there is active looking and doing. The Museum, which is usually a hands-off kind of environment, becomes accessible in a new way.

There is an inner life to the artist’s process that museum goers usually don’t get to see. Museums present finished work. It’s when artists are making stuff that we are passionately engaged. Each time I produce work for an exhibit, as soon as it see it hung in the gallery I’m on to the next project. I experience an openness in my thought process when I’m designing a project or problem solving a painting. Seeing a piece completed uses my brain in a totally different way—much less fun.

A family activity like this encourages adults and children to experience their own imagination. Instead of aiming for a single, correct solution to a problem, it’s okay to come up with multiple answers. Everyone accesses their intuition and reasoning skills. Those who come to this event get to be creative, create, and have a glimpse into what occurs in an artist’s studio.

One more thought. I have to mention how great it is to work with Julia. I know this first hand, and the MECA students Nicole, Maggie, Hannah, and Meg say the same. She is an excellent facilitator and collaborator who is always looking for innovative ways to use our Museum. She has a loose idea, invites collaborators, and then she let’s the brainstorming begin! The projects she puts together make a difference for visitors to the Museum. She develops ways to engage members of our community in thoughtful, productive, and fun ways. This is what this project is all about. I can’t wait to make something! See you there.

Collaborate with Gail and art students during February Vacation: Family Days in the Museum, Tuesday through Thursday, February 22 through 24. Drop in between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Free with Museum admission. (All children must be accompanied by an adult.) Learn more…

This blog post is the second in a series on a collaborative project between art educators at Portland Museum of Art and Maine College of Art.


  1. Posted December 29, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I have taught visual arts in a Southern Maine High School for over 24 years. We are now in conversations about how to make our exhibition a more interactive experience. Although lovely to look at, a traditional exhibition brings nothing to the table about process and promotes the idea that talent is all that art is about. I sent this blog post to my dept chair and city wide director. Bravo! We NEED people to understand the value and richness of art learning. It is the only way to keep good educational programs alive for our students.

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