For years, students have been coming to KAM as part of their university classes and the diversity of the classes is remarkable. They include the obvious ones like art history and the studio arts, but they also include the applied arts, social sciences, education, and the STEM fields. Now, KAM staff is making concerted efforts to provide additional ways for students to engage with the museum—beyond class visits.
We started off by revamping the Student Membership Program. First off, it is now free. Its new purpose is to open communication between the museum and students—let them know what is happening at the museum, and also provide a means for us to hear what they want. As an additional incentive, we created and gave away buttons featuring some of our favorite artworks which proved to be extremely popular. We had over 500 students sign up within the first few weeks of school, ranging from freshmen through graduate students with majors from all over campus.
We continued this big push with KAM Fest, a welcoming event for students that happened the first week of school. Two student bands, The Data Waves and JONT500, brought energy to the galleries; a pop-up exhibition featured the artwork from 38 student artists; students from the Noble Print Club screen printed t-shirts and tote bags; and last not but not least, we gave away 800 tacos from the ever-popular Maize Mexican Grill. With over 1,200 people in attendance, it proved that students want an event like KAM Fest.
After these initial campaigns, we are now focused on continuing student involvement. The curatorial team implemented a new internship program in which students are conducting object research. We have also kicked off a new Museum Education Volunteer Program, where students will not only help with school and family programs, but will also hear from museum staff about their work and create their own event. If you look closely at the upcoming list of public events in this newsletter, you will notice there are several student organizations participating in events this semester, organizing as the film screening of Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists, the performance of Indian music and dance, and the Student Art History symposium Fictions and Frictions: The Politics and Power of Narrative.
And for all of the students coming in and out of the museum, we are asking them to engage with our new Response Wall. Near the auditorium, we are regularly changing out artworks that relate to current issues and asking students to share their interpretations and ideas about how art responds to the world.