21, No. 15, March 7, 2002
Education center provides unique
hands-on learning opportunities
By Sharita Forrest,
(217) 244-1072; email@example.com
by Bill Wiegand
| Check it out
coordinator Virginia Erickson and a staff of volunteers operate
the Giertz Education Center. The centers mission is
to support East Central Illinois primary and secondary school
teachers by providing resources that integrate art appreciation
and art history into humanities and science curricula. Schools
may borrow materials free of charge.
The UIs Fred
and Donna Giertz Education Center at Krannert Art Museum is a portal
to the world for many Central Illinois students and educators.
The Giertz Centers collection of more than 3,200 items is available
for loan to university students, educators and community groups. The
collection comprises replicas of art objects, poster prints, slide sets,
books, interactive multimedia programs and videotapes.
Bethany Papajohn, a teacher at Yankee Ridge Elementary in Urbana, was
able to enrich her kindergartners study of Japan through Japanese
wood-block prints borrowed from the center. "It really made the
study of Japan come to life for my students," Papajohn said. "They
fell in love with Japan."
With budgets tight
at many institutions, the Giertz Centers free-loan collection
of art education materials has become very important to area teachers
like Papajohn who want to supplement their curricula.
"I really think the Giertz Center has pooled resources that I cant
find," Papajohn said. "I could never afford to give my students
Besides art appreciation, teachers utilize the centers materials
in a variety of contexts, according to Virginia Erickson, Giertz Education
"The things we have here are multicultural from throughout the
world, so the center enables educators and UI art education students
to do a lot of multicultural teaching," Erickson said. "They
might be doing a unit on animals, but they will provide representations
of cave paintings or sculptures by African or South American or Native
American people so their students are exposed to art from countries
all over the world and cultures throughout time as well."
Hours during the academic year
(summer hours may vary):
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday:
10 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m.
Wednesday: 10 a.m. to noon, 1 to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Search the centers list of available resources by visiting
the Krannert Art Museum Web site at:
Select "resources" on the home page, then "education
center" and "materials available." Search by
artist, image title or subject. The database password is KAM.
mission is to support East Central Illinois primary and secondary school
teachers by providing resources that integrate art appreciation and
art history into humanities and science curricula. Erickson and a staff
of volunteers operate the center.
During 2001, the center conducted 3,625 loans, making the centers
collection available for viewing by approximately 172,900 people, according
Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers comprise 43 percent of the
centers users. Another 28 percent of the centers patrons
are UI students in the College of Education, and the remainder are UI
faculty and staff members and community residents.
Borrowers can check out materials individually or in collections called
"touch kits," which contain groups of interrelated materials
plus lesson plans and pictures to aid instructors in their presentations.
While some of the kits were commercially produced, many were compiled
by UI art education students, including kits on photography, stained
glass and storytelling.
Art education students also assist the center by conducting background
research on donated objects so that borrowers and their students can
understand the cultural significance of the pieces as well as their
"Europeans and Americans often view art as something thats
extra and excessive, but thats not the case in much of the rest
of the world," Erickson said. "Thats very important
for kids to understand: that many cultures in the world dont create
art to be hung on the wall and viewed as interesting. Objects are created
to be used and understood and appreciated. Art is part of their whole
lifestyle. To us here, art is often considered something extra."
Recent additions to the centers collection include a Kyoto Dancing
Doll and 19 poster prints representing works from the Heritage Museum
in St. Petersburg, Russia.
With a grant from Target Stores, the centers resources on multicultural
diversity in the United States were expanded by purchasing more than
30 resources related to African-American and Latin-American art. Included
in the purchases was a kit of sugar molds of skulls similar to those
used by people in Mexico to celebrate the Days of the Dead.
A traveling exhibition on the art and culture of Japan titled "Japanese
Culture as seen through Ukiyo-e" is under development and will
contain many hands-on items, such as kimonos, ceramics, tea ceremony
tools and dolls dressed in formal kimonos.
The exhibit also will include 14 of the 50 Ukiyo-e (multi-colored Japanese
woodblock prints) donated to the center by the Utagawaha Moninkai, a
Japanese nonprofit organization interested in preserving the art of
The Giertz Center was the only institution in Illinois to receive a
set of the prints at that time, Erickson said.
Although the woodblock prints are more valuable than most objects in
the centers collection, the donors expressly indicated they wanted
viewers to be able to touch the prints and not just gape at them through
Kauyo Nakamura, a postdoctoral student in art education, is working
with teachers at Barkstall, Robeson, Westview and Yankee Ridge elementary
schools to develop the curricula for the exhibit, which will be available
during the 2002-2003 academic year for loan to area elementary schools.
The exhibition is funded by a grant from the Champaign-Urbana Community
Most of the centers items are replicas and not valuable artifacts;
therefore, instructors and students are able to handle them freely,
a feature that makes the centers pieces popular with area teachers.
"It really changes my teaching to give the kids things they can
touch and see instead of my just talking about it," said Sarah
Cardiff, an art teacher at Urbana High School. "The kids always
want to come up and look at things, and its easier to motivate
them to write about it or to be more conscientious about their own craftsmanship
when they can actually see a sculptural piece versus looking at it on
Originally called the Resource Center, the center was established at
the museum in 1990 by the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana to serve
as an art education resource for area schoolchildren. In 2001, the Resource
Center was renamed the Fred and Donna Giertz Education Center in recognition
of the couples $500,000 endowment in support of Krannert Art Museum.