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PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 21, No. 15, March 7, 2002

Education center provides unique hands-on learning opportunities

By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; slforres@illinois.edu
Photo by Bill Wiegand
Check it out Center coordinator Virginia Erickson and a staff of volunteers operate the Giertz Education Center. The center’s 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 UI’s 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 Center’s 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 Center’s 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 can’t find," Papajohn said. "I could never afford to give my students those things."

Besides art appreciation, teachers utilize the center’s materials in a variety of contexts, according to Virginia Erickson, Giertz Education Center coordinator.

"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."

Giertz Education Center
Hours during the academic year
(summer hours may vary):
Monday: closed
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.
Phone: 333-8218

Search the center’s 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.

The center’s 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 center’s collection available for viewing by approximately 172,900 people, according to Erickson.

Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers comprise 43 percent of the center’s users. Another 28 percent of the center’s 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 utilitarian aspects.

"Europeans and Americans often view art as something that’s extra and excessive, but that’s not the case in much of the rest of the world," Erickson said. "That’s very important for kids to understand: that many cultures in the world don’t 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 center’s 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 center’s 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 woodblock printing.

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 center’s collection, the donors expressly indicated they wanted viewers to be able to touch the prints and not just gape at them through protective glass.

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 Schools Foundation.

Most of the center’s items are replicas and not valuable artifacts; therefore, instructors and students are able to handle them freely, a feature that makes the center’s 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 it’s 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 a slide."

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 couple’s $500,000 endowment in support of Krannert Art Museum.


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