The Whitney, with one of the finest collections of 20th and 21st century American art, has long faced the issue of how to make its nearly 20,000 masterworks accessible to all—in a city that’s world renowned as a leader in art and culture. One of the key ways the Museum addresses this issue is through its signature outreach and education initiative, Artreach.
For over 30 years, the myriad programs that comprise Artreach have made the Museum’s art and artists accessible to diverse audiences. Artreach provides free programming to New York City public school students, teens, visitors with disabilities and seniors—groups traditionally underserved by cultural institutions. Artreach programs for schools, for example, feature long-term in-depth partnerships with New York Title 1 public schools, where the majority of students live below the federal poverty line. Programs teach students crucial critical thinking skills and help fill gaps in school curricula. And with its planned 2015 move to the Meatpacking District, the Whitney will be able to significantly expand its impact to new communities and engage new audiences.
Bank of America has supported the Whitney since 2001 and Artreach since 2005. Leading up to and after the move to the new 200,000-square-foot building, the bank will support a broadened Artreach effort. Says Donna Desalvo, the Whitney’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, “The work comes alive when people have the opportunity to engage with it and that’s what Artreach makes possible. Our new building will house an expanded education center that will have classrooms as well as studio space for making art. The Whitney’s move downtown creates many opportunities for us—to become a vital cultural anchor and community resource for our immediate neighborhood and for New York City’s schools, teachers, families and teens.”
Shaneice Frank is just one of many young people who got involved with the Whitney through its Artreach programs for teens. She’s been a tour guide for other teenagers, attended an intensive summer program, met artists connected with the museum and gotten immersed in the collection. She said, “Working at the Whitney changed my life. Before the Whitney, I was all over the place. Having a place to come to every week helped my academic work, my personal life—it shaped me.”
This level of support and this type of access to art and culture plays a critical role in the life of New York City. Says Kate Levin, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, “Culture is the city’s only industry that’s in every neighborhood in all five boroughs. It’s a huge employment sector and it makes a big difference to the city’s economy, identity and quality of life. And Bank of America has been an extraordinary partner to New York over many years. It is one of the tenacious and visionary corporations here that have a track record of supporting the arts and, in doing that, making the city a better place.”
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