Come Back to SAM! Get tickets now »

SAM Connects Students to Art for Free

A new school year often welcomes crisp air, spiral notebooks, and pumpkin deliciousness. This school year brings one other exciting change: Seattle Art Museum school tours will now be free for all public schools at all SAM locations! Bus subsidies are also available for Title 1 schools. Offering free tours for public schools grew out of SAM’s mission and strategic plan to champion access and equity for all. The museum firmly believes every student deserves access to high-quality arts education and creative learning. 

Even though the arts remain a required school subject by Washington State law, arts education is often one of the first programs to be cut. According to ArtsEd Washington, “In Washington State, 75% of elementary students receive only two hours, or less, of arts education each week.” Not only that, but Create Advantage Seattle notes, “Race, family income, and home language are all predictors of a students’ access to arts education in Seattle Public Schools.” 

Research reveals that consistent arts education improves high school graduation rates, empathy, motivation to stay in school, critical thinking, voter turnout, and even raises math scores. Arts Impact says, “Arts-infused learning in reading and math eliminates the achievement gap between children of color and poverty and their white upper/middle-class peers.” Also, SAM’s Kayla Skinner Deputy Director for Education and Public Engagement, Regan Pro, strongly believes in furthering arts education. “Everyone talks about how they value things like creativity and innovation. If we are saying that but aren’t supporting arts in schools, then how do we expect those muscles to grow?”

Typically, school tours at SAM start with a warm welcome from a trained docent or tour guide and a teaching artist. The docent or tour guide leads the group into SAM’s galleries where students and teachers might stare into the eyes of a giant mouse sculpture, learn the history behind Kwakwaka’wakw house posts, or discover a treasure chest lock in the Porcelain Room. With three locations and art from all over the world, tours can complement and enhance any curriculum.

After the tour, SAM’s teaching artists facilitate an art-making experience based on the works that students just saw in the galleries. Students walk away holding their own work of art, such as a three-dimensional sculpture, a two-point perspective painting, or a self-designed family crest. Plus, teaching artists provide students with an opportunity to view potential career paths in the arts.

“Being in the art museum was a new experience for many of my students. They were intrigued and, to my surprise, were able to connect with some artists. I feared they would find the museum too “high-brow,” but the variety of art allowed most to connect in some way.”

– Educator

In addition to free school tours, SAM has continued to develop school partnerships. One of those partnerships, called “Drawing from Nature,” is now in its fourth year. Through this partnership, SAM offers all second graders in Highline School District a chance to explore the Olympic Sculpture Park. Building off these field trips, SAM provides lesson plans and professional development sessions to teachers. Furthermore, SAM is partnering with Seattle Public Schools on a new program at the Seattle Asian Art Museum when it reopens in early 2020. This partnership supports third through fifth-grade teachers as they build connections between art and social studies.

“This was an amazing experience and many of the themes were continued to talk about and apply in other subject areas.”

– Educator

SAM’s Senior Manager of School & Educator Programs, Anna Allegro, says school partnerships provide students with a sense of ownership of SAM. “We’ll work with a school for five years, the kids will come every year, and they just have this sense of ownership and comfort. It’s so different from when they first walked in where SAM might have felt like an intimidating kind of space. Our goal is that students know they can be seen and heard here.”

With SAM’s partnerships and free school tours, the museum is honored to support arts education and creative learning for all young people whilst continuing the goal to promote equity and access for all. As much as art museums play a role in advancing arts education, this mission extends beyond our four walls to everyone in the community.

“Everyone can be an advocate for arts education. If you’re a parent, talk to your principal. Talk to your PSA. Ask them how they are supporting the arts. How is that a part of their classroom? If you’re a grandparent or if you live in a neighborhood, understand what the public school is in your neighborhood and how you can help support it.”

– Regan Pro

Learn more and book a free school tour at SAM before they fill up!

– Lauren Farris, SAM’s 2019 Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Photos: Robert Wade

Donor Spotlight: The Rivera Family Support Seattle Asian Art Museum

It feels like we came to Seattle at a very exciting time. The Seattle Asian Art Museum is re-imagining an historic building, adding a world class conservation studio, and—very dear to our hearts—creating a beautiful space for education and meaningful hands-on experiences.

Education is very important in our family. Tim was a teacher in the Peace Corps and I have been working and teaching in the arts my entire life. The new education center will make this collection, and the museum in general, more accessible to all. Our family has lived in many different places and Seattle, even more that other cities, seems to be intrinsically connected to the arts. SAM has helped us meet other people that share our passion. But at a recent event we were asked, “Where are all of the other 40 year olds?” We’re not sure but we’d like to invite them all to come and join us. The Builder’s Club is the perfect way to make a mark on Seattle. Literally. Our names will be on the building and we look forward to bringing our family and friends for years to come.

Like so many families, the holidays are a special time for us. Our favorite family event is SAM Lights at the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s a lot of fun for our three year old twins, our teenage boys, and even the grandparents. The crisp air and beautiful lights make the sculpture park a special experience for the holidays.

–Laura Marie and Tim Rivera

Get to know Regan Pro, SAM’s new Deputy Director for Education and Public Programs

On August 28, 2015, SAM announced the appointment of Regan Pro as the museum’s next Kayla Skinner Deputy Director for Education and Public Programs. We sat down with her to ask her some questions about her role, her vision for SAM, and to learn more about her life outside of the museum.

SAM: First off, congratulations on your new role as the new Kayla Skinner Deputy Director for Education and Public Programs!

Regan Pro: Thank you!

SAM: You held your last role for a little over a year, but you’re not a new employee to SAM. What will change in your day-to-day as a result of your new role?

Pro: I’ve been at SAM for six years, and started out as the Museum Educator for School & Educator Programs, and then became the Manager of School & Educator Programs. After that, I became the Associate Director of Education and Public Programs then went on to become the Interim Director, which is the role I’d held since the departure of Sandra Jackson Dumont in June of 2014.

In terms of what will change, we’ve continued to evolve and grow our programming during the interim period but now I think we will be able to focus on more strategic thinking, and aligning our work to a new vision and mission. This is a chance to make some more long-term plans for the division, which is very exciting.

SAM: What are your goals for SAM in the coming year?

Pro: Some of my immediate goals are: growing the role of our reciprocal community partnerships, embedding a social practice more deeply in our programming, building out new content and programming focused on onsite experiences across the three locations, and to increase staff focus on equity and social justice. I’d like to take a reflective and critical look at how our programming is representing and responding to the communities we serve, particularly as Seattle is changing so rapidly. Additionally, I’d like to grow programming at the Olympic Sculpture Park, especially during the winter season. I’m also thinking more about the Asian Art Museum, and how we can embed it more in the Capitol Hill creative community.

SAM: As a Capitol Hill resident, I think that’s very cool.

Pro: Definitely. Focusing on young people, SAM hopes to do some new programming this year that brings more light to creative career pathways. Through programs like Design Your Hood, Teen Arts Group and our school partnerships work, I’d like the museum to be a space to not only foster creativity and youth voice but also give young people new access to creative careers through internships, site visits and partnerships, ideally raising the visibility of the critical role creativity plays in all careers- from tech and beyond.

SAM: That sounds like a fantastic goal and resource for the community. It’s also a great segway into my next question: what do you love most about your role, and about SAM?

Pro: I really love my job at SAM and feel grateful everyday that I get to engage in this work. The arts and artists transform people’s understanding of what is possible. They are powerful tools for social equity and perspective sharing. There are so many complex, incredible narratives that you can learn from works of art in our museum and so many complex, incredible narratives you can learn from the people looking at these works. I think to advocate for art as a transformational tool from the platform of a museum is powerful. But what I love most about this job is the people, and the relationships that I’ve cultivated with staff, artists, and community members. I’m lucky to have a job where I share ideas with brilliant, curious and committed people all day long.

SAM: What are you most proud of accomplishing at SAM?

Pro: I’m proud of the work we’ve done with school partnerships, helping to fill in the gaps of arts education, and of the Creative Advantage program, (which offers free professional learning workshops focused on sharing best practice for K–12 arts learning).

Internally, we’ve built some great collaboration across museum divisions. Within the department we’ve helped cultivate a space where everyone can continue to grow in their roles, work on the projects that they feel strongly about, and to develop better best practices at work.

I’m also proud of the moments when we’ve leaned into our discomfort and asked difficult questions of ourselves as an institution. I hope this is an area where I can continue to push the work.

SAM: Last question: what do you like to do when you’re not working?

Pro: I love to geek out on all of the opportunities to experience art and culture in the city. I go to a lot of exhibitions and performances. I’m excited for the upcoming On the Boards and Seattle Arts & Lectures seasons particularly, Alison Bechdel and Ta-Nehisi Coates, coming up soon.

My husband is a musician, and music is an important part of our lives. I also have an 18-month old son, so I have a newfound appreciation for our local parks and libraries. And the more time I spend floating in bodies of water, the better and happier I am.