A Break and an Educational Support: The Launch of Art Break Live
Art Break Live began as a hybrid program that sought to create a dynamic, interactive tour for adults and elementary age kids while exploring a range of themes in the permanent collection as well as highlight special exhibitions. Each episode began with a 5-9 minute pre-recorded segment that guided viewers through close looking at artworks, consideration of artist’s social and historical context and how they responded to the conditions of their time, multisensory and imaginative learning, followed by a transition to a live segment. The live segment begins with a brief demonstration of an artistic idea, an activity to pursue, or an object to create together. Following this live introduction that sets the tone for making and exploring, viewer questions and comments are shared and discussed by a BMA educator.
Art Break Live first aired in May 2020, roughly 2 months into lockdown, when much online learning was ad hoc and families, students, and teachers were scrambling to educate children out of school. The program was aimed at anyone in an intergenerational group–adults and elementary-age children–who could gather around a device at 2 pm on a Thursday afternoon.
Art Break Live was successful in engaging both adults and children together, as seen in the comments: “My daughter wants to know what your cat’s name is and her suggestion is to have a pet discussion next time and thank you.” Likewise, people looking to engage students turned to Art Break Live as a resource for their own teaching with questions like this one from a local humane society “We love dogs and do a art show for students every year. Are there any tips we can give young people when it comes to drawing our furry friends?” In making ourselves available live, we became a community resource to people, especially as they were thinking about how to learn, artfully, alongside children. As one parent put it, “What a find! I am so thankful for Art Break Live!”
As a secondary audience, teachers from across the country invited their students to tune in to Art Break Live as a field trip. A Baltimore-area Latin class attended a tour on ancient Roman mosaics and a kindergarten teacher in California adapted an episode dedicated to Jo Smail’s shaped canvas collages for her students.
Changing with our Audience
As the summer progressed, we prepared to transition Art Break Live from a fully live program with a regular broadcast time to a resource for anyone teaching children. This transition supported the needs we were hearing from teachers, as teachers commented on episodes “Is this video on your website? I would love to share it with my students!” and messaged with requests for additional images. These recorded episodes have become teacher and family resources, as much as they are documents of a live program that incorporated visitor participation. Viewers of the recorded broadcast episodes are able to continue the conversation, through consideration of other people’s comments as well as adding their own questions and thoughts. As viewers of Art Break Live added resource links in the comments, or made suggestions for further activities to explore, the recorded broadcasts serve as starting points for independent artmaking and exploration.
Empowering Learners and Teachers
Art Break Live was truly an offering born of the pandemic lockdown and the rapid shift to digital learning. The BMA took the opportunity to build thematic exploration around Art Break Live episodes and worked to connect each program to other offerings. Artmaking activities that were featured on Art Break Live might be extended in more detail through a Free Family Sunday downloadable guide. You can see examples of the connection between creative writing about The Game of Knucklebones and the Art Break Live episode or learning about how Ndebele women express care for each other through their gifts of beadwork and making your own beads. These activities were also paired with more classroom-specific extensions, with the addition of the teacher resource Art to Go.
This deliberate networking of resources was in direct response to feedback from our audience of teachers, and adults teaching kids on their own: they knew that there were resources to be found, but didn’t have the time or wherewithal to find them. In the midst of a societal upheaval, Art Break Live took the pressure off adults who were facilitating virtual learning by creating a break in the day and an opportunity to connect the many resources of the BMA with its audience, through the human connection of a live program led by an educator.