Volume 8, Number 10
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Member Spotlight: Johnson County Community College
Art Is Part of Campus Life
Johnson County Community College
Overland Park, KS
Part of the mission of Johnson County Community College, located in the heart of Overland Park, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City), has been to develop an arts education program that fosters an understanding of the arts’ essential role in realizing core values in education and in life.
In October, the college completes another step in that mission with the opening of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, a 38,000 square-feet limestone and glass structure designed by Kyu Sung Woo Architects, Cambridge, Massachusetts, working with the local architectural firm Gould Evans Associates.
In addition to exhibiting major works of art in 12,000 square feet of gallery space, NMOCA will offer educational programs and materials. Visitors and students of all ages will enjoy opportunities to explore contemporary art and develop critical thinking skills and visual literacy. The Tearney Art Education Center in the new museum has two rooms dedicated to education, one for children K-12 and the other for adults.
Interactive art appreciation tours led by volunteer docents, who have gone through extensive training, will support appreciation and understanding of contemporary art in the NMOCA exhibitions and the permanent collection on view throughout campus.
Regular museum programming will feature visiting artists’ lectures and workshops and an international film series in the 200-seat M.R. and Evelyn Hudson Auditorium. Studio classes will be offered for children. JCCC art and art history faculty will use the gallery for credit students, and long-term plans call for classes such as science and math to explore their disciplines through art. Printed orientation materials, interpretive labels, and self-guided tours will enhance museum experiences for visitors of all ages.
NMOCA is only the most recent initiative in JCCC’s mission to educate through the arts.
In 1980, the college’s board of trustees approved a yearly art acquisition program. A guiding principle for the acquisitions was that works be installed in a variety of locations throughout campus. Accessibility and visibility were deemed vital to ensuring that art would be readily available to students and the community. Ultimately, the trustees thought a permanent collection best enables students to directly engage with art.
Since then, JCCC has been collecting contemporary art from around the world. Today, the work of more than 600 local, regional, national, and international artists is presented in JCCC’s collection, which features a diverse range of painting, photography, clay, sculpture, and works on paper. The college’s collection is installed in focus areas throughout campus. Focus groups will remain even with the opening of the new museum, providing a spontaneous engagement between art and students, faculty, staff, and visitors. For many students, the works of art they encounter at JCCC are their first exposure to the richness and diversity of artistic expression.
In 1990, JCCC opened a 3,000-square-foot Gallery of Art, the site of more than 80 major exhibitions of established and emerging artists during its 17 years. The new museum increases that space fourfold.
The renowned Oppenheimer Collection at JCCC was founded in 1992 by philanthropists Marti and Tony Oppenheimer and the Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation. It includes sculptures sited on campus as well as major paintings, photographs and works on paper. In 2004, the Oppenheimers began assembling a collection destined for NMOCA. In addition, the Oppenheimer New Media Gallery will display video and electronic media, a resource for the increasing number of JCCC students in that field.
JCCC has had a strong foundation in arts education since its inception. Well-credentialed fine arts faculty have always taught as well as displayed work at national and regional studios and exhibitions. Faculty have also encouraged students to exhibit, and a permanent JCCC Student Gallery opened in fall 2003.
The NMOCA is situated near JCCC’s performing arts center, home to the ArtsEducation program, a program for the community in performing arts, now in its eighth year.
Visual and performing arts education at JCCC have been driving forces in the community for creative expression, aesthetic pleasure, intellectual stimulation, and social interaction. At JCCC, art is a part of everyday life.
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