The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature launched the new “Virtual School Tour” to coincide with the fall exhibition opening of “What Might You Do? The Art of Christian Robinson.”
Like so many other cultural institutions around the world, the NCCIL knew that few, if any, traditional school field trips are likely this school year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This prompted the NCCIL team to dig deep into their vision to “inspire children to read and be creative” by becoming creative themselves.
“Since our inception, our School Tour Program has been the heart of our vision and mission,” said Trish Dressen, executive director. “When our gallery lights darkened and doors closed last March, our hearts were dimmed as well. We knew going into the fall school year that we had to find a way to bring the NCCIL to schools since they could not come to us. We wanted to be a resource for teachers who are overextended and constantly dealing with changes in procedure due to COVID.”
On average, the NCCIL sees about 3,500 students each year from local elementary schools across the Big Country and West Central Texas. The School Tour Program is led by a longtime AISD librarian Sandi Rainwater, who has been involved with the NCCIL for almost 20 years. The new virtual tour includes a professionally produced video gallery guide, a message from the artist, Christian Robinson, and a fine art lesson inspired by the artist’s medium.
The NCCIL contacts each campus, letting teachers and administration know of upcoming exhibition and tours, so they can sign up for a virtual tour time and a NCCIL Virtual Tour Bag is delivered right to their campus. Each tour comes with a NCCIL bag including fine art supplies for the project for each student, a book for their classroom, a poster designed by Christian Robinson, and other goodies for the students to encourage a love for art.
“As a former educator, I understand the challenges of keeping things as ‘normal’ as possible in the classroom,” said, Rainwater, the NCCIL’s Director of Educational Outreach. “So many teachers sing their praises for our virtual tour and the art project students complete. The students feel like they just met Christian Robinson and are excited to see how young he is! Teachers have expressed gratitude for us helping bring some normalcy into their classroom, while continuing to educate their students during this time. It’s like delivering a bag of joy each time I walk into a school and say, ‘I’m delivering more NCCIL bags for your teachers!’ I can see their faces light up, even behind the mask they wear!”
At press time, the NCCIL will have seen almost 2,500 students for fall school tour programming. The NCCIL plans to continue to see the same amount for spring, featuring art from David Small, totaling close to 5,000 students.
The NCCIL school tour program, made possible by generous donors and sponsors, is free to all students who attend schools in and around the area. There is no cost to teachers or districts to participate. The NCCIL collaborates with award winning artists to produce high-quality exhibitions of their artwork that are distinctive and appealing to museum visitors of all ages. Museum admission and programming at the museum are always free. Following their debut at the NCCIL, each exhibition travels to museums, public libraries, and galleries nationwide.
Contributed by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature