Saint Joseph art museum to use $300K funding to ‘transform’ connection with CT students

Students from Hartford visit the art museum at the University of Saint Joseph. A $300,000 endowment awarded to the museum will allow them to "transform" the way they reach out to and connect with Hartford teachers and students.

WEST HARTFORD — The art museum at the University of Saint Joseph was awarded a $300,000 endowment that will change the way they reach out to Hartford students, officials say.

The museum was awarded the endowment from the MJB Foundation, which was founded by Monsignor Thomas J. Barry of the Church of Saint Patrick in Farmington.

Ann Sievers, the museum’s director and curator, said the funding will allow them to “transform” their ability to connect with students of all ages in Hartford.

“For years now, we have done the occasional teacher workshop and organized family days,” Sievers said. “We’ve had a couple of high school internships, but that’s all been very dependent on grant funding or other private donations. It’s been more episodic. This endowment will enable us every year to do programs that specifically reach out to Hartford schools. We’ll be able to develop partnerships.”

The initial plan, she said, is to host more consistent teacher workshops with Hartford teachers who can then take what they’ve learned back into their school communities.

“We’ll be able to build on those existing relationships and expand them,” Sievers said. “The idea is to increase their skills in using original art objects in their teaching. The aim is that they go back to their classroom and use those skills to bring their students to the museum. If they become proficient it’s not just their current class it benefits...they can serve as master teachers.”

Eventually, Sievers said, they’d like to see the endowment funding facilitate field trips to the museum.

“We’ve never had funding before to help teachers bring their students here,” Sievers said. “It’s really important and it’s something that many museums have been able to do. Especially these days when everyone’s budget is stretched very thin, it’s important for us to help teachers.”

Sievers said the museum always loves to host students who are sometimes visiting a museum for the first time.

“It’s very important that students experience art first hand. We’re all about seeing the original works of art and being in the museum space,” Sievers said. “One of the really striking things, because it’s not a classroom setting, it often sparks interest in students who may have not been great performers in the classroom. There have been several instances of students who hung back in the classroom who now express themselves ... and show a real talent for analyzing art. Their teachers see a whole new side of them.”

The museum is planning an exhibit for 2023 that is based on a painting by the Puerto Rican artist Miguel Luciano. They see this exhibit as being important to Hartford’s Puerto Rican population.

“This painting is full of small images that surround the principal image that has to do with Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States,” Sievers said. “We’re looking very closely at that exhibition as an opportunity to address the really large amount of Puerto Rican children who came after the hurricane and who are living in Hartford.”

Sievers said the endowment is also going to allow the museum to boost the frequency at which they can offer internships to high school juniors and seniors living in Hartford.

“The students can get involved with various aspects of museum work, including working on the organization of exhibitions,” Sievers said. “There are many projects they can help with ... with an eye to opening up some potential career opportunities in the future or helping them discover their skills and interest. They will really get to know the workings of a museum and all the different jobs that occur.”

Connecticut Media Group