Arts & Culture

The Renzo Piano Pavilion’s educational mission

When Kimbell Art Museum officials were planning their new building, exhibition space was their primary need. Second on the list of must-haves was a location for the education department and classrooms.

“Since 1972, we’ve had to make do,” says Kimbell Director Eric Lee. “We’ve set up under the portico or in the lobby. Developing classrooms and studios was a major reason this building was built. Well, that and to keep the permanent collection up, but it was also critical to get education classrooms and not have to make-do in other spaces.”

The education department had no physical location. There were no offices or classrooms, just “a narrow cubbyhole shoebox with things stuffed in there including a couple of interns,” says Nancy Edwards, the Kimbell’s curator of European art and head of academic services.

The programs had to be scheduled around events and tours. Space to hold the meetings and art-making projects were grabbed from the cafe, under the portico, in the lobby or outside in the garden areas.

That is no longer the case. In the new Piano Pavilion building, the Kimbell has a four-classroom education wing. With space for messy art-making projects and rooms for meetings with video projection capabilities. They will add these to the two auditoriums, and all the outdoor areas that have been off limits for three years during construction. Finally the education department has an expansive home.

“The new space allows us to do ambitious programs for toddlers to adults. We’ll be able to offer more drop-in programs and take advantage of the weekends with the new studios,” says Edwards.

Some of the first events will be an introduction to the new museum, including a family festival that will highlight activities and programs as well as introduce the latest calendar of offerings.

Programs that will be able to expand include Pictures and Pages, a toddlers’ program, the adults’ workshop, which is held on Wednesdays, a book club called Artful Readings, and the access programs such as Viewpoints, which is tailored to people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

More space for family programs will exist, too; these will roll out next year, particularly in the summer, Edwards says.

“Family experiences are really cherished. Our research has shown that kids who come with their families are future museum goers,” she says. “So we have made it easier for families, with family restrooms, changing stations and activities for young children with short attention spans.

“We have lots of ideas and an increased staff that will allow us to serve the community. We have such a great institution and collection, we want a broad spectrum of people to feel welcome and enjoy it. We are looking for different way to do that beyond lectures and seminars, but with social experiences that allow people to engage in their own ways.”