The Johnson’s aim is to connect exhibitions, programs, teaching, and research with the intellectual and cultural life of the university and our community. Cornell students are helping us fulfill that mission every day, and making an impact on the Museum’s educational direction in return.

The Johnson hosts around four hundred Cornell class sessions from more than fifty departments and programs every academic year. One is the College Scholar Program, which supports an undergraduate group in the College of Arts and Sciences who design individual interdisciplinary majors. As part of a weekly seminar during the spring of their sophomore year (COLLS 2001), these students are shown a range of pathways to approach their research. A new visual literacy exercise at the Johnson (see photos below) provided opportunities present complex ideas through descriptions of art. The activity emphasized the importance and significance of word choice and the way biases can be communicated.

The session was such a success, Leah Sweet, the Museum’s Lynch Curatorial Coordinator for Academic Programs, will be working on a second iteration to introduce the College Scholars to an array of art-based research problems and sample projects, with the hope that this sparks their own research interests as they build their majors.

Another course makes the Museum a fieldwork site for student educators. “The Art of Teaching” (EDUC 2410) is designed for students across Cornell interested in an education minor and taught by Jeff Perry, senior lecturer in the Department of Development Sociology. Several of his students participated in Museum projects last semester.

Sarah Meidl ’19, a history major with minors in Russian and Medieval Studies, shadowed the Johnson’s education staff as they taught elementary school classes on African and Asian art. While she assisted in the studio as students created their own art inspired by the culture they were studying, she also got the chance to help teach with an original work of art.

“The experience enhanced my appreciation for learning in museums,” Sarah said. “Young students are so enthusiastic to see an object up close and really share their enthusiasm with you through questions and comments on what they think.”

The “Art of Teaching” students created opportunities similar to the experiences to be found with SEAM (Student Educators: Art & the Museum), a program now in its fourth year at the Johnson. Members work with Annmarie Ventura, our Andrew W. Mellon Coordinator of Student Engagement, to implement new ways of engaging campus and community, and filling cocurricular needs. A study day during finals week addressed the need for a quiet and unique place to study, and members of SEAM and Museum Club hosted breaks with gallery tours, meditation, and snacks.

Public “Art Snack” tours will be offered again this September, where SEAM members choose one or two works of art on view to briefly discuss with visitors. The students get a new experience with intergenerational programming, and all involved can get a sweet treat afterward! Julie McLean, coordinator of public programs, is cultivating new partnerships to create other crossover programs where Cornell students can work with a broad spectrum of Museum visitors.

Threaded throughout our staff, more than twenty Museum interns work up to ten hours a week in a variety of departmental positions year-round. Eight interns are currently working with our education department on all facets of our academic, student, school and family, and community programs. Some write dossiers on works in the permanent collection, others design artmaking projects for “Art-Full Family Days.” Every intern continuously engages with our collection and our audiences.

Zoe Flores ’20, a biology and society major, is our school and family programs intern under the supervision of Carol Hockett, school and family programs coordinator. As Zoe begins a second year of her internship, she credits the Johnson with providing flexible opportunities to incorporate science in her art lesson plans, strengthening her experience working with school-age groups in the galleries and the studio.

“It’s the best part of Cornell,” Zoe said. “I can’t get this experience anywhere else.”