The Springfield Museum of Art has been awarded a federal grant to fund its Artful Play program aimed at preschool children. Here students from the Springfield Promise Summer Bridge program discover art at the museum’s galleries during a summer school field trip. Photo by Brett Turner

Springfield among 30 small museums in U.S. awarded federal grant

The Springfield Museum of Art is one of just 30 small museums in the country to be awarded a national grant to enable its early childhood programs to continue and prosper.

The Museum will receive the Institute of Museum and Library Services Inspire! Grant, a two-year federal grant worth $38,744, beginning July 1. Funds will be used toward the Artful Play program that allows preschool children and educators learning opportunities including access to the Museum of Art’s galleries, works and studios and professional development for teachers.

It arrives just as another two-year grant, the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation grant for excellence in teaching, expires on June 30.

“We are so lucky. The new grant enables everything we’ve been doing to continue,” said Museum Educator Amy Korpieski.

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The Artful Play program has served 1,503 children and 861 adults since 2015. It began with the Head Start programs at the Miami Valley Child Development Centers and expanded to include the Springfield City School District’s Clark Early Learning Center two years ago due to the Jennings Foundation grant.

Artful Play involves three components including a series of three visits for preschool classes to visit the museum and for Korpieski to visit the classroom; professional development integrating arts into the curriculum; and involving pre-service teachers and education students to do on-site observations.

It will also allow the Museum of Art to work with Clark State Community College to have co-teachers on sight where they can gain work experience through Artful Play with student teaching and professional development workshops and lecture opportunities. Korpieski said Wittenberg may also be involved.

The Inspire! Grant is offered to smaller museums such as Springfield who can sometimes struggle against larger museums. According to Korpieski, 202 such museums applied.

“The big focus is engaging kids and the adults in their lives, whether those are parents, teachers, future teachers or whoever. We are raising hope at making kids feel comfortable at the museum,” Korpieski said.

Korpieski added that by learning art and the operations that deal with creative thinking and learning, it can scaffold into other academic areas including reading, which pleases Clark Early Learning Center principal Debra Accurso.

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“Our teachers include the arts in their projects and investigations, often using different art processes and artists as the main investigation,” she said. “The children get to experience art at the museum and they get to come back to school and engage in a different level.”

Students’ parents and guardians can also experience the museum and its offerings.

“So many have never been here. As a museum, we try to figure out where we can be and that’s why children are great ambassadors for our museum,” said Korpieski.

Korpieski helped develop a peer-to-peer professional development relationship with the Columbus Museum of Art, which enhances the program.

As an added bonus, the Museum of Art’s Smithsonian Affiliate status will allow Korpieski and a colleague from the Columbus Museum to study at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center in summer 2020 to learn techniques to improve Artful Play even further.

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