Meredith Bennett is the curator of education at the Roswell Museum of Art Center. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)
Meredith Bennett moved to Roswell a year ago and has become a positive force in helping children connect with art as curator of education for the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
Her energy and enthusiasm showed as she talked about her work.
“Everybody needs to express themselves. Making art is tapping into the power of learning … creating and evaluating our own art reaches the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy,” Bennett explained.
She pulled up a diagram on the Internet, showing a chart that showed different levels of learning objectives students can reach.
Bloom’s Taxonomy “is used to help teachers evaluate how their kids are learning,” Bennett said. “The experience of making art is something that sticks with kids. They are doing something that really helps them learn.”
Bennett moved from Austin, where she spent time as an intern at the Art Museum of Austin, a contemporary art museum that has since been renamed. She taught art in Texarkana before that, after earning a degree in studio art from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Her family lives in Arkansas.
Since arriving, she has joined the Young Professionals for the Arts Collective, a group of young professionals that organized last year.
Her latest project at RMAC has been an addition to the Second Saturday program.
In collaboration with the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico, the idea was that of SENMDSF Executive Director Missy Holman, Bennett said.
The foundation and RMAC will team with Assisteens to form an Art Buddy program. This will enable RMAC to begin including children with Down syndrome in the Second Saturday art program that the center hosts once a month.
“We were talking about how we could connect to enhance the programming here to offer more to our communities,” Bennett said. “(Holman) was saying she really thought an Art Buddies system would work great for the kids. The Down syndrome kids feel less inhibited if they are being mentored by someone close to their own age. We think it will be a successful and exciting program.”
Second Saturday is a two-hour free program, for children in grades 3 through 12, that RMAC hosts once a month from January through September. It was created to supplement public school art programs.
Each session features visiting professional artists, who instruct the children on their area of expertise. The first 15 minutes of each session is spent in a museum gallery, during which the visiting artist gives a talk about artwork. Then, the children spend time in the workshop creating a project. Bennett assists during the session.
“Two artists instruct and two administrators assist,” Bennett said. “They may make sculpture. They may paint. They may do printmaking. It all depends on what the artist’s expertise is. We really get to show them different mediums that they don’t have the time to do in school. The kids really enjoy it.”
Beginning in February, the special-needs children will be paired with a student a few years older to help guide them. The older student will receive training this month, Bennett said.
“The goal is for them to go through the Second Saturday process with this buddy,” Bennett said. “Their buddy is there to enhance the experience for them. Anything they need — additional encouragement, written instruction, if they need a helping hand … their buddy is there. It’s really just to help provide a supportive environment for the kid.”
Some of the children may only need the instructions repeated a couple of times or need extra time with the project, she said.
“Every kid is different,” Bennett said. “We just want to support every kid who participates and we want every kid to participate as possible. Its great to have all different ages interacting. It’s very interactive and fun.”
The project is a pilot program that the museum hopes to expect to its regular studio classes.
“RMAC is always looking to connect with other educators and groups, and really to engage every community that we can,” Bennett said. “I just think that the more people that participate the wider audience we reach, and the more learning opportunities we can provide.”
For information about the Second Saturday program, call Bennett at 575-624-6744, ext. 22, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get regular updates about RMAC, like the Roswell Museum and Arts Center Facebook page.