Director's Letter: Winter 2024

Investing in Younger Learners

JOHN R. STOMBERG, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director
Hood Quarterly, winter 2024

"Call on me!"

That is one of my favorite things to hear in the galleries. A class of elementary-school students will be sitting cross-legged on the floor, listening to a curator or docent and eager to join the conversation. Their comments often amaze me, which makes me wonder, in turn, why the observations of children can strike adults as uncannily profound. I think that as we grow up and experience ever greater bodies of knowledge, we become accustomed to having all the answers. I know I do. Those answers, though, come from our long exposure to shared understandings and worldviews. When we are young, we have yet to access this vast resource, leaving us to rely on our own ideas rather than the ideas of others or society at large.

This was among the reasons why, when our staff rewrote the museum's mission last year, a major goal was mutual learning.

We learn from our community of visitors. Whether it's in the context of college classes, public talks, or grade-school sessions, we walk away with fresh perspectives on the art in our care. Dartmouth and the Hood Museum have the resources necessary to contribute to neighboring communities well into Vermont, down almost to Massachusetts, up to northern New Hampshire, and over toward Maine. Many of the school systems we serve have scant access to art for their students without the Hood Museum (and our sister institution in Manchester, the Currier Museum of Art). This investment of staff time and resources bolsters the great work of the educators in our area, amplifying and complementing their curricula and providing "fieldwork" opportunities for their students.

I say all this because I am frequently asked why the Hood, a college museum, has such a strong commitment to educational programs for kindergarten through high school. My answer: because it is the right thing to do. As children form their worldviews, exposure to art from people around the world and throughout time can help shape those views in positive ways. Students learn to appreciate differences in people and develop the sense that, even though time perpetually changes the details, some very human concerns remain constant. This, I believe, is the essential lesson that comes out of art education: people now, and throughout time, have more that unites us than divides us. Sharing that message with our younger learners must be a priority for all adults.


Written January 01, 2024