Community Artwork in Museums

I read an article today about a museum in Odessa, TX that is hosting an art fair type event called Art a la Carte this coming weekend.  There will be a sidewalk chalk art contest for children, after which families will have the chance to watch artist demonstrations and participate in many hands-on activities, such as painting, printmaking, origami and pottery.  This entire event is part of the community art projects that the Ellen Noel Art Museum sponsors every year.

One of the artists who will be present at Art a la Carte will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at the museum.  And this is what really caught my eye: Joan Son will be teaching children how to fold paper butterflies throughout the day at the event, and these specific butterflies will be included in her exhibition, “Beyond Paper Folding: The Art of Joan Son.”  These butterflies will hang from the ceilings and walls in Joan Son’s exhibition, which will also include sculpture and other folded paper forms.

Doylene Land, curator of education at the Ellen Noel Art Museum, said,“The idea behind the community art project is, of course, people working together. Also it gives the students a sense of pride and being a part of the museum. They want to come back and see where their project is. This one will be part of an exhibition. We are very honored and pleased that an artist will allow this to happen in their show” (

This museum has found a way to connect the community so closely to its programming and exhibitions that the public itself has begun to take part in making the actual art that hangs on the walls.  Admittedly, I have not done a ton of research about community art in museums, and so I do not know how often this type of interaction occurs.  Also, perhaps I shouldn’t be that surprised about the public being so involved in creating the art, as this particular museum’s mission is to serve the needs of the community in which it exists.

I just find the entire idea incredibly interesting, that the public has a hand in creating the art that will be shown in their museum. In this situation, the people in the community are students of art (when learning to make these folded paper creations), they are the artist themselves (as it will be their handiwork hanging on the walls), and yet as they will have ownership in the exhibition and a greater understanding of it because of their first-hand experience with the art, they may be the best teachers for their peers.

I don’t know, maybe the whole thing is more like a renaissance workshop, where the master creates the design and the apprentices fill in the lines. But maybe not. I think that the professionals at the Ellen Noel Museum are creating a very interesting relationship with the community in which they exist, and their ideas are definitely worth considering.


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