Art Is Education: Learning in a Museum for All

18 May 2024

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Friends and family examining Claudia del Río’s drawings from the ‘Tin Tin’ series, 2011, displayed in the exhibition La trama sensible [The Sensitive Network], Museo Moderno, May 2024. Photograph: Josefina Tommasi

Art Is Education:
Learning in a Museum for All

Victoria Noorthoorn
Director, Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires
CIMAM Board Member

Art Is Education, the 2024 Programme of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, aims, first, to affirm the value of this public museum, devoted for 68 years to theoretical and practical research and to raising the profile of Argentinian art, working shoulder to shoulder with the artists who are the inspiration behind its very existence. Second, it makes its decades of research available to visitors while bringing visibility to the knowledge developed by the Museum around the link between art and education. This area recently led us to host the 2023 CIMAM Annual Conference on the contemporary art museum’s co-creative, social role.

The Moderno fosters imagination, research and experiment in Argentina’s thriving art community while striving to grow as a dynamic, flexible, permeable museum that promotes listening, empathy and horizontal dialogue and encourages a pedagogy of wonder and belonging. We see the museum as a public service and poetic refuge to return to again and again, a catalyst for individual and collective well-being.

The Moderno shoulders these responsibilities with the loving investment needed for one-on-one dialogues with its community’s stakeholders, spectators and actors. At the centre is the living contemporary artist; the nursery, primary, secondary and university teachers with whom our Educators build conversations and groups; and families, teens, young adults and adults, aged 0 to 99. Our programmes work outwards in concentric circles from the individual to the social. They cultivate interpersonal relationships, build group identities and enhance relations with public health and education bodies and ONGs in human development.

Our practices fostering art as education are motivated by the following convictions:

I. Art is a vehicle for knowledge building and flow

The art experience brings greater understanding of ourselves, the realities we live in and those more distant in time and space. Our Teacher Training Programme annually reaches 4,000+ professionals nationwide, putting art at the heart of curricula to develop imagination in all areas. Art becomes a tool for thinking about science or history with a focus on knowledge flow created in class. We get enthusiastic when groups meeting in our Galleries or school classrooms joyfully spin off out of their comfort zones into unexpected domains, forging new paths for human potential.

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Family Programmes at Museo Moderno de Buenos Aires. Photograph: Josefina Tommasi

II. Art is a tool to empower the individual

Our Family Programmes are led by Argentinian artists, who horizontally build trust, self-knowledge and autonomy in participants of all ages. Each programme has precise objectives and methodologies:

  • Our Kaleidoscope Workshop invites families to experiment with materials alongside artists from all disciplines, nurturing their relationships while enjoying the flow of imagination, the discovery of techniques, openness to new sensibilities and the building of dialogue and empathy.
  • Our Teen and Young Adults Workshop meets every Saturday as a laboratory where young people interested in art can work together creatively to articulate their concerns and dreams around contemporary culture. Young participants may join the Moderno’s Youth Council, advising the Museum on exciting peer programmes and activities.
  • Our Third Dimension Workshop for adults has evolved to provide several weekly meeting points, joyful spaces to honour participants’ memories, experiences and desires for the future. These workshops nurture a sense of belonging to the Moderno community, with senior adults steering the group’s experience in dignifying ways.
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Accessibility Program at Museo Moderno de Buenos Aires. Photograph: Jesica Echarri

III. Art is fertile ground for equity and inclusion

Our Accessibility Programme is a comprehensive institutional endeavour since 2017 to bring the public an inclusive quality experience. Grounded in universal design and an educational programme that welcomes people with disabilities to all activities, this Programme encourages participation, active citizenship, cultural access and artistic creation. This has meant raising compliance with accessibility standards, training the entire Museum Staff in the needs and rights of people with disabilities, constant dialogue with relevant NGOs and specialist professional organizations and constant redesign of activities for all publics whatever their physical and mental capacities. The process has involved deep reflection on the meaning of equity and birthed a beautiful understanding of the power of depathologisation to embrace human diversity. In 2022, the National Ministry for Tourism and Sports awarded the Moderno certification of compliance with Accessibility Guidelines. Our next step is to consolidate an Accessibility Team led by people with disabilities.

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Father and son looking at León Ferrari’s Hombre [Man], 1963, displayed in Moderno and MetaModerno exhibition. Photograph: Josefina Tommasi

IV. Art is a catalyst for social and environmental health

Our Community Programmes have enjoyed a positive learning curve since we reached out to diverse vulnerable communities, including psychiatric patients from the nearby prestigious Argerich Hospital.

  • Throughout 2014, ten patients on our Mental Health Programme visited the Moderno twice a month with their doctors. The experience surprised everyone: at the Museum, the hierarchy between doctor and patient dissolved, proof we are all equal before an artwork. This experience was scaled up by the Ministry of Health, germinating numerous collaborations between local museums and hospitals. Mental health’s association with pathologies is now a thing of the past.
  • This path to depathologisation has led our Museum to a more integral understanding of itself as a safe space for dialogue; the contemporary artist as key enabler; the patient as artist or curator. Our Educators have developed the Three Ecologies Programme, a fertile inter-disciplinary space of co-creation and communal learning, where Museum staff and local residents can share the input of contemporary artists and environmental activists and the joy, or pain, of introspection, while thinking about new, healthier, ecosystemically and environmentally reconceived societies.

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View of Moderno and MetaModerno installation view, Museo Moderno, May 2024. Photograph: Josefina Tommasi. Read complete caption below*.

*Image caption: In the background, left to right: Eduardo Mac Entyre’s Pintura generativa [Generative Painting], 1967, and Raúl Lozza’s Obra 171 [Work 171], 1948. On the right, Concrete Art works from the Museo Moderno Collection and works by Georges Vantongerloo donated as part of the Pirovano Collection in 1980. The QRs near the ceiling connect the works with digitalised Museo Moderno archives and publications.

Besides these Education Programmes, our current Exhibition Programme, Art Is Education, is designed to make the Moderno’s vast research resources easily available to our publics. While, at eye-level, each artwork in our Galleries follows a curatorial pathway, a quick glance around reveals a web of related QRs along ceilings and floors, transforming the works into research portals on and for the world:

  • Moderno & MetaModerno links 300 works from our Collection with our digitalised research resources – exhibitions, publications, talks – over the Museum’s 68-year history.
  • Opening in June, Endless Learning showcases Argentinian artists who have devoted their lives to redesigning the relationships between art and education. Here, the educators orchestrate and guide the conversation, inverting the traditional power relationship between curators and educators in contemporary art museums.

Altogether, Art Is Education is another step on the Moderno’s path to affirm its role as a public museum serving the ecosystem of arts in Argentina. We believe we can only cultivate a culture of being-in-art if we enact a culture of being-in-and-with-education.