A group of 11 students from the Twin Cities metro area who have just finished eighth grade have enrolled in a high school-level introductory arts course — through a first-of-its-kind summer program by Minneapolis Public Schools in partnership with the Walker Art Center in which participants can earn credits.
The students, who intend to study visual arts in high school, are learning about fundamental art concepts during the classes, in addition to getting hands-on training during field visits and interactions with artists in town. The program, which runs through Aug. 2, is part of the school district’s Fast Track Scholars Program, open to students who qualify for summer school and to all eighth-graders.
“The students are introduced to visual arts considered a prerequisite for those who want to study arts as freshmen in high school,” said Daren Johnson, the school district’s director of extended learning. Students who attend will earn a half-credit for high school.
The district has collaborated with the Walker and other museums before, but this effort is unusual with its onsite training and field visits. Two art teachers — one each from Minneapolis Public Schools and the Walker — teach classes Monday through Thursday at South High School and then at the Walker.
“The teachers at the Fast Track program do not just talk about classes they are teaching but other concepts such as grade-point average,” Johnson said. The district runs a cultural experiences partnership program in collaboration with Target and various arts institutions, including the Walker museum.
Nora Schull, K-12 arts district program facilitator for Minneapolis Public Schools, said the program is a mix of community-building activities, workshops and collaborative projects with the goal of preparing students entering upper grades as they set out to learn about and contribute to the art world.
“It’s basically a transition from middle school to high school,” she said.
Along with visiting galleries at the museum to sample different art media, students are also trained in skills that they need in high school, such as navigating Metro Transit. “Students take [a] bus on [the] way to the classes and during the field trips,” said Simona Vappas, youth program coordinator at the Walker.
The students also get an opportunity to learn from local artists such as photographer Wing Young Huie, muralist Greta McLain and mosaic/textile artist Lori Greene.
District officials say they will use feedback to improve the program; they plan to make it an annual offering.
“We may also start other programs, maybe on math, social studies and other subjects in which we will collaborate with other institutions in [the] metro area,” Johnson said.