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Accessible Museum / Special Education

Best Practice Case Study: Programs for Children with Disabilities at Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene, OR

ArtAccess refers to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art’s (JSMA) education programs for K-12

children, and adults with disabilities. As part of its ArtAccess program, the museum

created three instructional videos training classroom teachers, art teachers, arts providers, and museum

educators on techniques and strategies for creating accessible arts lessons for children on the spectrum

of autism, children with developmental disabilities, and children with physical disabilities.
In addition to accessible arts programs on site at the museum, we conduct art programs off site at places

such as Holly Residential Care Center. Holly’s clients live on site and have experienced traumatic brain or

spinal injuries. Every Friday the museum provides art experiences for their clients to assist with memory,

fine and gross motor skills, and creative expression. As part of our mission, the JSMA strives to find

connections between our visitors’ daily lives and the visual arts. The museum’s ArtAccess represents this

initiative and priority.

Funding: The museum’s ArtAccess program is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Center VSA program in

Washington, DC. The Kennedy Center’s VSA program focuses on providing art education for children

and adults with disabilities and has provided access to the arts across the United States since 1974.

Because of the JSMA’s commitment to inclusion, diversity and programming for visitors with disabilities,

we were awarded $17,480 to support our arts programming for visitors with disabilities last year, and

$10,000 this year for our program. An additional $5,000 was awarded in a grant from the Oregon Arts

Commission for the museum to continue to expand and increase accessible materials for use during

museum tours. (This includes tactile reproductions, raised line drawings, enlarged details of museum

objects, and scents for use during looking in the galleries.)  ArtAccess priorities are to focus

on increasing the number of tours and studio programs for visitors with disabilities. The museum has

created monthly accessible studio classes designed for children with disabilities and are led by museum

educators and an occupational therapist.

Program Audience: K-12 children and adults with disabilities

Why was this program developed? This program was developed and expanded as a result of the

community need. We conduct teacher surveys for our tour programs and it became apparent that

four or five students on each tour were on an Individualized Education Program or were identified

with a disability. In addition, agencies such as Holly Residential and Specialized Advocacy were

seeking accessible social and creative experiences for their clients. Recently the University’s Arts and

Administration program started a master’s degree in Arts and Healthcare so this also influenced our

decision to expand our programs and use the resources of graduate students who were enrolled in this

program on campus.

Number of participants served in individual sessions: 12-35 each session

Number of participants served annually: 500+

When did this program begin operation? The museum has provided accessible arts programs for the

past 15 years, but the newly expanded ArtAccess began in January 2013.

Start-up costs: $18,000

Ongoing costs: $5,000, not including staff time.

Source(s) of funding (both start-up and ongoing): Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Oregon

Arts Commission, Wells Fargo Bank, Cheryl and Allyn Ford Endowment.

Form of evaluation: Visitor surveys, parent surveys, observation and tracking, caregiver surveys, and

teacher surveys.

Is your program a model of another program or an original? Our program is inspired by the Albright-

Knox Art Gallery’s Matter at Hand program and the Peter and Elizabeth Tower Program for Special

Needs at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, both located in Buffalo, New York.

Have you changed your organizational structure to respond to changing education needs inside

or outside your institution? The museum has recently gone through a successful strategic planning

process, and this program is one area that aligns with the priorities for diversity in our institution. One

of the changes we have made for this year is to dedicate our graduate research student (who works 15

hours a week in the museum’s education department in return for tuition remission) to working on our

ArtAccess program. By dedicating this position’s duties to focusing on this program, we are now able to

provide stronger and sustained projects as part of the ArtAccess program.


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