The new National Gallery an education tool

In the second in a series of articles that follow the development of the new National Gallery and Education Centre, we take a look the Susan Anne Olde Art Studio.

Over the years the National Gallery’s Education Centre has been housed in a series of temporary sites – first at Alexandria Place, then BaytownPlaza and at the Miss Lassie Duplex in South Sound. Fortunately, the NGEC will soon shed its migrant past as it moves into its permanent home under construction on the Esterly Tibbetts Bypass. This new studio, generously sponsored by long-term supporter and NGCI Board Member Mrs. Susan Anne Olde, will effectively allow the NGCI to consolidate its programmes under one roof for the first time. The studio will house all of the Gallery’s hands-on art activities including existing programmes such as Family Art Trek, Walkers Art Club, Art History for the Retired, selected Outreach programmes and the extensive continuing education programme that offers a wide variety of instructor-led arts classes for teens and adults. In addition it will allow for the expansion and diversification of this busy schedule.

Education is central to the NGCI’s mission of promoting the appreciation and practice of the visual arts of the Cayman Islands and beyond. In fact, since 1997 when the NGCI opened its doors to the public, the education department has grown exponentially, now offering 25-plus outreach and continuing education programmes monthly across all three Islands, and accounting for 70 per cent of the organisation’s annual output and budget.

“The new education bentre will be a wonderful resource for the entire community,” said NGCI Director Natalie Urquhart. “The accessible location and increased space will enable us to host a vibrant and diverse exhibition schedule that focuses on contemporary visual culture from the Cayman Islands and beyond. With our purpose built art studio, library and learning centre we will continue our dynamic educational programme offering more learning opportunities than ever before. And from our new headquarters, the NGCI will remain committed to operating programmes within each district maintaining a significant presence in all three of our islands.”

The NGED’s proximity to the exhibition areas in the new National Gallery also offers new opportunities to both visitors and students. Gallery staff will be able to provide a wide range of learning services and activities that help the visitor to optimise the potential of the collections and take control of their own self-directed learning. Each of the temporary exhibitions will be accompanied by a teaching guide with relevant cross-curricular classroom activities, while a more permanent learning guide will be published to support the National Art Collection on display in the permanent gallery. In part, this programme includes art training sessions specifically for teachers who wish to gain more confidence and ability in teaching art classes.

With the many benefits arising from better designed facilities, like flexible lighting and on-site supply storage, the new NGEC is sure to provide increased learning opportunities for the entire community. From residents at The Pines Retirement Home through to Cayman’s youngest primary school children, new programmes and classes are being developed to encourage cultural interaction and quality family time in a creative, informative and inspiring environment for people of all ages and ability.

The new NGEC has been a long time coming, but when it does finally open its doors to the public in February of 2012, it will serve as an indispensable adjunct to art education in the Cayman Islands.

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Randy Chollette workshop.

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