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Contemporary Art Museum Receives Federal Grant To Expand Art Education Program

Vashon High School art instructor Tim Jennings (left) with sophomore Dalonte Chatman (right).
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis has received a federal grant to take its art programs to more St. Louis-area schools.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded CAM $193,753 to expand the organization’s ArtReach programs. CAM teaching artists help students create art and photo projects and exhibits.

The grant will allow ArtReach to hire more teaching artists, said Lisa Melandri, executive director of CAM.

“On the practical side, it really allows us to be able to expand our service and to think big about what we can do with the ArtReach program and specifically in the school system in the St. Louis region,” Melandri said.

The three-year grant is part of about $22 million the institute awarded to 130 museums across the U.S. for community programs.

CAM's program received funding because it immerses students in art, said Erica Jaros, a communications specialist for the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

CAM's ArtReach program aligns with the institute's mission to promote lifelong learning, Jaros said.

ArtReach’s most well-known partnership is with Vashon High School, where CAM teaching artists help develop art projects with students. Other schools have asked CAM to establish similar programs for their students, Melandri said. 

But CAM has been unable to help all of the schools that want to participate because it lacked the staff. The grant will allow the museum to do so, she said.

“It’s not really been possible because of the limitations of a three-person education staff and funding and resources,” Melandri said. “This really gives us a chance really to hope that by year three we get to say yes a lot more often.”

ArtReach plans to work with 18 schools by the third year of the grant. The increase in school partnerships will provide more opportunities for students who might not have access to art resources beyond Vashon High School, said John Grapperhaus, visual art and springboard coordinator for St. Louis Public Schools.

“We’ve even had some of those students who wouldn’t have thought of going into school or getting a bachelor's in fine arts to start considering going into art school, and that’s just out of Vashon,” Grapperhaus said. “I would like to see people at the middle school and high school level, more schools having that intensive type of program.”

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Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.