Education is part our mission at the Cummer Museum, and it is an integral part of what we do and an important outcome for the community we serve. Education at the museum is very simply the learning that takes place with and for our visitors. What we endeavor to do is engage visitors in our permanent collection through meaningful experiences that enable and promote learning.
The Cummer Museum recently developed a strategic plan with goals to center the visitor experience around quality, access, and fun. Through new initiatives and transformed programs and classes, we aim to increase visitor comfort with and participation in active, multi-sensory experiences with high quality artwork and gardens. Additionally, we want to slow visitors down by introducing them to close-looking strategies, the elements of art, and how to use these strategies and elements to explore the galleries and gardens more deeply. Finally, and most importantly, we want to engage people of all ages, backgrounds and interests.
With education as our charge and data as our guide, we identified a need to support families and multigenerational audiences in the Jacksonville community. There is an increasing body of medical research evidence demonstrating that stress levels decline by simply spending time in a museum or in nature, and that family wellness can impact a child’s educational outcomes. With this knowledge, we are introducing new initiatives that will help us further outcomes for students by supporting the whole family. These initiatives are designed to systematically and holistically remove barriers to visiting the museum and provide dynamic, relaxing, and fun experiences for all visitors in the hopes of reducing family stress and promoting opportunities for quality time together.
2019’s Family2Family membership match program enhanced the Museum’s partnership with Duval County Public Schools (DCPS). During the 2018–2019 school year, thousands of DCPS students visited the Cummer Museum, including many students who were provided a free tour of the Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman exhibition. Family2Family was a membership promotion that adopted a buy-one-give-one model for family memberships. The museum’s goal for the Family2Family pilot year was to secure memberships and donations to provide 5,800 fifth-grade students enrolled in DCPS Title 1 schools with a free family-level membership, ensuring they could come back to the museum with their families without restriction, whether to experience a special exhibition or enjoy playing in the gardens.
Building on this model of access, the museum is expanding its longstanding Cummer in the Classroom program to include opportunities for students in community-based after school programs to experience the benefits of visiting the museum. We call this strategic initiative Cummer in the Community. For more than ten years, Cummer in the Classroom has allowed our museum educators to provide students and teachers with enriching and fun educational art-making experiences. These experiences have enhanced learning outcomes by sparking students’ imaginations, creativity, and critical thinking skills. In addition to igniting the learning process, the museum can be a joyful and safe place for families throughout the entire community to come together, explore, relax, and decompress.