Art, Community, and Culture on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Special thanks to Sharon Shaffer, Executive Director, Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, for this guest post.

Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, Welcome Center

The Ohr O’Keefe Museum of Art (Gulfport, MS) tells three significant stories through its museum and collections. It is the museum design of Frank Gehry, the unparallelled collection of pottery by George Edgar Ohr, and the artifacts of freed slave and craftsman Pleasant Reed that tell important stories of culture and heritage in the Mississippi Coastal Region.

The Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC) partnered with the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art (OOMA) to bring these stories to area students through educational field guides, supported by an IMLS grant.  SEEC museum professionals–Sharon Shaffer, Betsy Bowers, and Anna Forgerson– authored the field guides, while OOMA professionals will vet, edit, and create the visual design for the materials.

The student field guides are specially designed for developmental levels (early elementary, upper elementary, middle school, and high school) with six individual experiences defined for each level.  Each set offers an introduction to the museum, an exploration of the work and life of George Ohr, Pleasant Reed, and Frank Gehry, and a culminating experience that looks at the intersection of these individuals.  The intens is to fully engage students to look, reflect, connect, relate, and imagine, in the galleries and then return to the classroom to extend learning with standards-based ideas provided in teacher’s guides.

"Blackberry Woman" by Richmond Barthe on loan to OOMA from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

A group of K-12 educators from local Mississippi schools serve on an educational planning committee and have offered an inside voice for the experiences crafted by SEEC educators.  They will also play a role in the two days of professional development that SEEC will lead at OOMA in January 2012.

Teachers are eager to begin using the new standards-based materials and the museum is excited to be able to serve area students through newly developed experiences that highlight the stories of their museum.  For all, particularly SEEC, this has been a labor of love… collaborating with exceptional museum professionals and dedicated classroom teachers to tell stories of Mississippi culture and heritage through the beauty of the museum.

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