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McLean Project for the Arts “3 Solos = 3 X Steam”
ArtsFairfax Project Support Grant Recipient
ArtsFairfax connects you to all things arts in Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax, and the City of Falls Church. We know arts and culture activities transform and empower our communities, and so do our friends at McLean Project for the Arts (MPA). Their ArtReach program provides exhibition tours and hands-on art projects for Fairfax County elementary school students.
For the next ArtsFairfax Project Support Grant spotlight, we chat with Nancy Sausser, MPA Artistic Director and Curator, and Sharon Fishel, MPA ArtReach Director about their latest Spring Solo Exhibitions.
ArtsFairfax: What is the full name of the project?
Sausser: “MPA Spring Solo Exhibitions: 3 Solos = 3 X Steam (Science, Engineering, Math)”
Taking place every year, the MPA Spring Solos are three exhibitions we put on as a result of a DMV-wide call for proposals. Our goal is to find new artists to highlight in our galleries. This year, we selected electronic sculptor Chris Combs, painter Josh Whipkey, and sculptor George Lorio for the quality and originality of their work. They were each chosen to show a selection of their work.
ArtsFairfax: So how do these exhibitions relate to ArtReach?
Fishel: Following the Spring Solos selection, I wrote an ArtReach program and curriculum based on the work of the exhibits. The program is designed for Fairfax County students in grades K-6 and we utilize Standards of Learning concepts, finding the intersections of art and science, engineering, and math—otherwise known as STEAM.
ArtsFairfax: What inspired the creation of this project?
Fishel: Over the years, we have built MPA’s ArtReach program to address the need for Fairfax County school children to have exposure to contemporary art, while also utilizing the works in our exhibitions to address curriculum-based learning.
Sausser: Also, the students’ in-gallery tours are an opportunity for the students, who are largely Title I second language learners, to verbalize and build confidence in their own perceptions.
ArtsFairfax: How does this project support your overall mission?
Fishel: Our ArtReach to the community is a key part of our MPA mission to Exhibit, Educate and Inspire. Through connecting our contemporary art exhibitions with our arts education, we strive to make contemporary arts education accessible to all in our diverse community, including students in Title I FCPS schools, members of senior communities and individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, partnering with schools and nonprofits across the county.
ArtsFairfax: Tell us about an experience that encouraged you, your staff, or your project’s work.
Sausser: It is very satisfying for exhibition staff to be able to offer artists an opportunity to show a large, in-depth body of work and to help them accomplish this goal, especially as many opportunities for solo exhibitions were curtailed during and after the pandemic.
Fishel: We are also encouraged by the fact that teachers whose classes experienced the in-gallery tour program have written that the artists and science packets and activities were very helpful with keeping their students engaged. The parent chaperones also said they learned a lot as well.
Just last week, we received this really nice review:
“Our 3rd grade class from Greenbriar East Elementary School from FCPS had the opportunity to go on a field trip to McLean Projects for the Arts. Firstly, the teachers were impressed with the exhibit’s relevance to their students. They appreciated the professionalism and enthusiasm of the staff. Teachers have already expressed booking for next year’s cohort. Secondly, the students thought the exhibit so fun and engaging. Many of them said they had never been to a ‘place like this’ and wanted to find more. Kudos to the team. Look forward to next year!”
ArtsFairfax: What do you appreciate about the community you serve?
Fishel: Providing art education experiences for elementary age students is met with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, wonder and curiosity. It is extremely gratifying to see and hear. Their drawings also demonstrate their ability to synthesize visual concepts and to respond with genuine originality.
Sausser: It is a true pleasure to work closely with artists to produce solo exhibitions that are a culmination of deep research, hard work, and artistic mastery, and be able to share that with young people.
ArtsFairfax: How can the public see this work?
Sausser: The three exhibitions are available for viewing April 15 – through June 12, 2023. Anyone is welcome to come to the gallery to view the exhibits. There is also an opportunity to attend an in-gallery artist talk on June 8 at 7:00pm.
Fishel: For participation in ArtReach, in-gallery tours are available to students through their individual schools. Additionally, MPA pays for bus transportation for participating Title I elementary schools.
ArtsFairfax: Are there any resources you would like to highlight?
Fishel: Thanks to the ArtsFairfax Project Support Grant, we were able to produce an educational Gallery Guide with space for drawing, writing and extra questions for teachers to take back to their classrooms.
Sausser: For all visitors, we also produced a small catalog that shares more about the art and artists, which are free for them to take home. This publication allows the exhibits to live on after the exhibit is over, and for MPA and the artists to have documentation of the event.
ArtsFairfax: Thank you! We will definitely check it out!
More about ArtReach:
MPA ArtReach serves diverse audiences of seniors, afterschool groups, individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, and Fairfax County Public Schools. ArtReach Director Sharon Fishel builds art education curricula around each of our exhibitions, distinguishing MPA’s programming and putting outreach at the forefront of our mission by making exhibitions and arts education accessible across our vibrant community.