Mystic — Kindergarten students hopping aboard a bus with a green and black floral design parked outside of Northeast Academy Arts Magnet School on Tuesday found a museum waiting for them.
Signs at the entrance asked students what do they see, think and wonder, and the book “All Are Welcome” was on display.
The kindergarteners took a look at colorful artwork — created by high school students across Connecticut — on the mobile museum’s walls, played with blocks and drew pictures in response to the question: What does it mean to have hope to you?
Named cARTie, the mobile art museum geared toward prekindergarten through second grade students made its first stop Tuesday in Groton.
Executive Director Clare Murray said she co-founded cARTie in 2019 as a nonprofit with her mother, Tish Murray, to bridge inequities in education and arts access. Tish Murray has taught in several locales in Connecticut and her daughter is a doctoral student at Teachers College at Columbia University, and they came up with the idea when volunteering at a children’s museum. After three years of fundraising and planning, cARTie, based in Shelton, is piloting its programming this year.
The museum bus also will be at Northeast Academy on Wednesday and then will visit schools across the state, including in New Haven, Ansonia, Bridgeport and Shelton, said Clare Murray.
With all of Groton’s elementaries now themed magnet schools, Northeast Academy, an existing themed magnet school, is looking to reinvigorate its arts theme and seek new partnerships with art groups and agencies, Principal Ryan Chaney said. He said the launch of cARTie and the concept of bringing a museum to children and being able to really engage them in art was perfect timing.
He said cARTie gives children opportunity and access to art right at their own school doors.
“For our students, we hope it brings them a unique and fun opportunity to interact with meaningful pieces of artwork,” Chaney said. “At the same time, we hope it sparks creativity and imagination!”
Northeast Academy students in kindergarten, first and second grades are visiting the bus this week and participating in arts activities. The bus is slated to return two more times this year as part of an ongoing partnership between the school and the mobile art museum, he said.
Each class, split into two small groups, visited the museum and did an activity outside.
Students aboard the bus looked at paintings of boats, a raptor, and a tree with a landscape, among other images in the interactive museum. Tish Murray asked students to look at a painting and trace lines with their fingers and point out the painting’s colors.
Outside, Clare Murray led a small group of students, sitting on a blue tarp, in an activity focused on a high school student’s painting and asked them, “What is one piece about this work of art you’re going to take with you?”
cARTie had put out a call for high school student art and juried an art exhibition from those submissions, Clare Murray said. The nonprofit made sure to have a diverse representation of high school students from across the state so any prekindergarten through second grade students who hops aboard the bus can feel like they see themselves represented in the arts.
The mobile museum centered this year’s artwork theme around the question of what does it mean to be a kid during the coronavirus pandemic, Clare Murray said.
She said research shows that positive, prolonged, early exposure to museum-based learning matters not just for boosting academic scores, but for children to know they can walk into any kind of a cultural space and make it what they need, whether it’s finding calm or an opportunity to practice critical thinking.
The hope, she said, is to “help prepare the next generation to really, really be those innovative, problem-solving changemakers that Connecticut of course needs and will have.”