When you think about the Barnes Foundation, what comes to mind? Rooms of breathtaking fine art, installed from floor to ceiling? Peaceful gardens shaded by majestic specimen trees? Lectures and events that offer a new perspective on art appreciation? As the Barnes celebrates its 2nd anniversary on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and counts the 650,000th visitor through the majestic entrance, the answers to what the Barnes means are as diverse as the audiences we are engaging.
When I think about the Barnes, I think about learning. I see young faces filled with curiosity and wonder. I remember a 5th grade girl on a school trip to Merion asking me if I had painted all of the pictures in the gallery. I think about my son, who could learn visually more easily than through other teaching styles, and how important it was to provide him with opportunities to learn in this way.
The children who attend schools in the School District of Philadelphia are a priority for the Barnes and for GSK. The Barnes Foundation’s team of educators has developed programs to bring the arts into their lives, through programs that also strengthen their skills in core curriculum areas, including math, science, and literacy. We invite schools that are not already participating in programs that are offered by our sister institutions. We use a multi-visit approach because we believe that a class trip is not enough. Out first lesson is held in the public school classrooms, and by the time the children visit the Barnes, they are prepared and comfortable with a museum experience.
GSK’s leadership shares our belief that the arts are a critical element in a child’s education. As Deirdre Connelly and Joe Neubauer wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 25, “A solid education in the arts helps children learn how to debate, exchange ideas, and discover new ways of seeing, thinking, and perceiving the world around them”. The Barnes Foundation smART Fund for Education, established by GSK, has guaranteed that the Barnes programs have a solid funding base and that many thousands of children in our city will learn from these programs in the years to come.
The corporate community has a critical role in sustaining the arts in every city in our nation, and Philadelphia is home to many generous businesses that are supporting vital programs that benefit our communities. GSK has identified a program that meets their philanthropic goals and has put their money to work to strengthen not just the arts, but educational opportunity for the most underserved children in our neighborhoods. We thank them for enabling us to continue our programs as only an endowment can. We hope their generosity will inspire many other Philadelphia businesses to join us in our educational mission.