Minneapolis Public Schools is giving a group of summer school students the chance to study at the Walker Art Center this summer.
About 12 incoming ninth-graders from across the district are enrolled in a new introduction to visual arts course at the museum. The students are learning about basic art concepts such as the elements of design and are working on collaborative projects such as a stop-motion animation film. They’re also partially fulfilling their fine arts graduation requirement and developing skills they’ll need in high school, such as navigating Metro Transit.
Walker educator Shea Love and Bryn Mawr Elementary School art teacher Sarah Kehoe co-teach the class, after developing the curriculum this past school year. They said they hope the students build relationships with each other and see the power their art can have.
“It gives students a voice and a way to be proud of their story,” Love said.
The new class is part of MPS’ Fast Track Scholars program, which is open to students who qualify for summer school and all eighth-grade students in the Achievement Via Individual Determination program. The Fast Track Scholars program gives the students a chance to connect with future high school classmates, counselors and teachers and to earn a partial high school credit, the district says.
“The focus is transitioning into high school,” said Daren Johnson, director of extended learning.
Johnson noted how high school comes with higher expectations for students in areas such as homework and staying organized. He said the teachers in the Fast Track program are encouraged to talk not only about the classes they’re teaching but also about concepts such as grade-point average.
MPS is offering nearly 20 class choices this summer as part of the Fast Track program. They include offerings around robotics, health care, construction trades and drone design, among others.
Students take one class for the entire summer session.
The district holds all Fast Track classes at South High School, except for the art class at the Walker. It also partners with nonprofits Beacons and the YMCA to provide programming for students after the classes end each day.
MPS also offers summer school for students entering grades pre-K-8 and high school credit recovery opportunities for students entering grades 10-12. In addition, Minneapolis Community Education offers a range no- and low-cost sports, academic enrichment and theater programs and Minneapolis Kids offers full-day summer child care for kids ages 5-12.
The district also runs a summer food-service program that provides no-cost meals and snacks to all youth at more than 80 locations in the city. It has a complete list of summer resources on its website (mpls.k12.mn.us/resources).
Offerings at the Walker
Nora Schull, district program facilitator for MPS’ arts team, said the Introduction to Visual Arts class came about through the district’s relationship with the Walker. MPS runs a cultural experiences partnership program in partnership with Target and a number of Minneapolis arts institutions, including the Walker, The Ordway and the Guthrie Theater, among others.
The class includes a mixture of community-building activities, workshop time and larger collaborative projects, such as creating a mural. It will give the students opportunities to learn from local artists, including Wing Young Huie, Greta McLain and Lori Greene. Students will earn one-half of a fine-arts credit upon completion of the six-week class, which started June 18.
Kehoe said a goal is to break the students’ perception of what art is and to make them feel like they have a way of contributing to the art world. She said she believes that everyone is an artist in his or her own way and that it’s important for the students to find their strengths as artists.
Love said the students will benefit from being at the Walker, adding that it will give them an opportunity to take ownership of the space.
The new art class is one of several offerings the Walker has for teens. The museum will be partnering with Project Success and Wellstone International High School in the fall to teach a behind-the-scenes class at the museum. It also has its Teen Arts Council, a group comprised of teens from across the Twin Cities metro that meets weekly.
In addition, the Walker offers tours for all levels of school groups and five-day residences for all MPS sixth-graders, during which they learn about stop-motion animation.
“The Walker’s really working to develop a number of programs that can provide high-quality and meaningful arts experiences for teens,” said Simona Zappas, youth programs coordinator at the Walker.
She said that principals who are interested in working with the Walker on credit-bearing or credit-recovery opportunities can email firstname.lastname@example.org.