WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — At the Clark Institute, there are thousands of worlds within frames, and the museum in Williamstown, Mass., is focused on inspiring and educating attendees of all ages.
“Many programs at the Clark are created with the intent of making the museum accessible to as large an audience as possible,” said Manager of Community Engagement Programs Sarah Hobin.
As a part of its mission of accessibility, the Clark offers an annual free Community Day, First Sundays Free program (October through May), and three months of free admission from January through March. These programs are intended to provide the community with multiple opportunities to attend the museum without any financial barriers.
Throughout the upcoming winter months, the Clark also provides free admission for children ages 3-6 and their families through their unique Start with Art program. The tours are specifically designed with young children in mind, along with art-making activities and printed guides that will take families into the galleries with prompts for engaging with the art.
Cost and availability barriers often prevent schools from visiting museums. Part of the Clark’s plan to combat the problem is their bus reimbursement program, which offsets the cost of transportation for schools within a day’s driving distance. This has encouraged schools as far as Washington, D.C., to visit and is a vital aspect of dismantling the barriers that prevent youth from accessing the arts.
“Opening young children to the experience of visiting museums will, we hope, encourage them to be lifelong museum-goers who appreciate that museums are a place for discovery, exploration, learning and fun,” said Hobin.
Through this approach, the museum involves children and adolescents by providing them with the opportunity to take part in art-making workshops and group discussions.
“Connecting people at a young age with the tools to process the world around them and to share their experiences and opinions feels particularly pressing at this time, and we enjoy making the time and space for that type of learning to happen,” said Hobin.
Many of the multi-generationally beneficial programs match community-specific needs, such as Meet Me at the Clark on Nov. 20, which is created to serve individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. Rx for Wellbeing studies the therapeutic potential of art to enhance mental health and wellbeing.
“Programs like these were envisioned in response to needs that existed within the community that were not being met elsewhere,” said Hobin.
In addition to the tours of their exhibitions, indoor and outdoor activities range from academic lectures, film screenings, and live music performances to art-making, docent-led tours, and nature hikes.
The scenic Berkshire location of the Clark is where many of the artists in the museum’s galleries drew inspiration for their own work. Art and nature go hand-in-hand at the Clark with their newest program, “Sensing Nature at the Clark: From the Outside In.”
Throughout November and December, the Clark’s calendar is filled with events for all ages to partake in, from Mohican Plant Medicines on Nov. 19 to the New Parents Gallery Tour on Dec. 1, where caregivers and their infants will have a guided visit in the permanent collection galleries.
“Museum education is not just learning about art, although that can be part of it, but practicing ways to engage with art,” said Hobin. “Connecting with culture, identity, and creativity through the arts can have transformative effects on individuals and communities, and we love seeing that happen at all stages of life.”
For information on the Clark and the upcoming events, visit clarkart.edu/events, or email [email protected] regarding their education programs.