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Supporting Inspiration and Creativity
Kids of all ages get excited about original art. Given the opportunity, they dive into the investigative processes that make up a strong art program—observing, questioning, exploring, creating, and reflecting on the artist’s ideas, the materials used, and their own responses to the work. They talk with animation as they engage with the artwork and then bend in concentration as they work on projects inspired by what they have seen, exploring their own ideas and ways to use materials. Their eyes light up when they explain the what, why, and how of their creations.
Creating art is immediate and physical—it involves their hands and their hearts—but most importantly it’s cerebral as well, feeding their thought processes and intellectual development. Like the in-house art education programs at the UW Art Museum, outreach programs challenge participants to think about the connections that art makes with the world in a way that is fun and lasting.
For example, the latest Ann Simpson Artmobile exhibit (Go Figure: Figurative Art as Story, Metaphor, and Presence) prompts students to think about the images of their favorite characters. Often, predictably perhaps, the kids come up with cartoon characters—SpongeBob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer.
Artmobile curator Beth Remington then helps students think about how characters show character: “As a culture, we have certain ways that we visually understand the good guys and bad guys. How do you work with that in your own art? How do you capture the difference between a good guy and a bad guy?” For example, villains often have pointy features, while heroes usually have square features. This can lead to discussions about community values, good and bad characters through history and literature, and more.
For 28 years, the Artmobile has been inspiring viewers throughout our 97,914-square-mile state to think about and create art, and all along the way FMC Corporation has supported this valuable program.
The Ann Simpson Artmobile
The Ann Simpson Artmobile is a Wyoming institution. For 28 years, the instantly recognizable van filled with Art Museum collections and art materials has brought UW arts outreach to people throughout Wyoming. The service is free to the host school or institution, and they are only asked to provide lodging for the curator.
For a typical visit of one to five days, the van arrives at the site early so that the exhibit can be unloaded and set up. Once the students (or other audience members) are assembled, Beth introduces herself and the program. Then she says, “It’s hard to talk about artwork you’ve never seen,” and she ushers them in to the exhibit, which they closely observe. Beth encourages exploration and answers questions as they walk around, and once they gather again, Beth leads the group in discussion about what they’ve seen. Then she introduces the equipment and techniques they will be using for their own art-making. The excitement builds as they get to work.
The aspiring artists work in a number of media, but a particularly exciting tool in the Artmobile’s toolbox is a traveling art press. This is especially fortunate, as Beth’s primary focus in her own work has been printmaking.
Beth engages her audiences in the exhibition in ways that are most relevant to them. She tailors each presentation to each audience and discusses media techniques and subject matter appropriate to the participants’ ages and developmental levels. She emphasizes the value of artistic expression, however we choose to include it in our lives.
The latest exhibition, Go Figure: Figurative Art as Story, Metaphor, and Presence, displays work that is “figurative” or about the human body. “This work is all figurative work—of the human figure—but the artwork also has strong narrative content, so we’re talking about the figure both as a metaphor and as an actual human figure,” says Beth.
The Artmobile typically spends two weeks of any given month out on location, and the curator tries to schedule nearby visits together. Recently, the program has served an average of 2,600 per year, and although a majority of its audience is children, the Artmobile serves Wyoming citizens of all ages. “K to gray” is their motto.
The Artmobile fulfills the outreach mission of the UW Art Museum while aligning with the museum’s rigorous in-house programs and state education learning standards. “We are able to address not only fine arts standards but standards in a variety of other subjects as well,” says Beth. “Art can be an entry point for learning about history, the sciences, and world cultures, and it can inspire expositional writing, poetry, and storytelling.”
FMC, through the support of the Alkali Chemicals Division that operates in Green River, has been helping the UW Art Museum since at least the 1970s. Then, in 2002, it began specifically supporting the Artmobile, and a significant new gift was awarded in 2011, which was doubled by state matching.
“We have long realized the value of bringing the university’s art collection into the communities of Wyoming, and FMC is proud to be a part of this ongoing program,” says Jim Pearce, FMC Alkali Chemicals Director of Manufacturing.
The main focus of FMC’s support has been on the van itself and the equipment needed for its use. Specifically, the FMC Ann Simpson Artmobile fund supports the acquisition, replacement, and maintenance of the vehicle, but it also may be used for salary and benefits, travel, supplies, equipment, and other operational expenses. This is particularly important as the van ages—the current vehicle is 10 years old.
“We are so pleased that FMC continues to support this important program by contributing to the purchase of a new all-wheel-drive van,” Beth says. “Our ten-year old van may be ready to retire, but the Ann Simpson Artmobile program keeps on rolling—providing thoughtful, engaging, and fun connections to original art and artists for students and viewers of all ages across Wyoming. The support of FMC makes viewing original art anywhere in Wyoming an exciting reality.”
Top: A student during a recent Artmobile visit (UW Photo Service)
Middle: The Ann Simpson Artmobile