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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 28, 2009

Museum educator to share strategies for grabbing students' attention

How does a university art museum compete for the attention of busy, self-focused college students? The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., has a well-deserved reputation for doing just that, which is why the University of Iowa Museum of Art has invited Ginger Ertz, the Tang's museum educator, to share the secrets of her success.

Ertz will talk about strategies to reach university audiences at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, in the University Athletic Club, 1360 Melrose Ave. The event, the first in the UIMA's new lecture series on art education, is free and open to the public.

"How to get a really busy, really self-focused audience to consider art museums as a resource is a problem all university museums face," said UIMA Director of Education Dale Fisher. "It's tough getting the academic and student community to slow down and think about the possibilities of art. The Tang Teaching Museum has a lively and engaged academic audience, which is contrary to the reputation of art museums as stuffy at best and tomblike at worst."

One key element of the Tang's success is its exhibitions and programming that appeal to many different academic areas, Ertz said. A prime example is "Molecules That Matter," a recent exhibition at the Tang showcasing 10 organic molecules that profoundly altered the world in the 20th century. For this show, the Tang juxtaposed large-scale models of the 10 molecules against contemporary art works by nationally recognized artists and a range of historical objects and documents.

"It's easier to get teachers interested in exhibitions like 'Molecules That Matter' because they see the curriculum connection," Ertz said. "But once we get them here, they're hooked forever."

Another key component for attracting students to the museum is getting them involved, Ertz said. The Tang engages students through work-study or credit-based internships, woos student art organizations with perks like dinner with an artist, and ups the "cool factor" of the museum with late-night programming coordinated by a student advisory group.

Fisher said he hopes a wide cross-section of students, educators, museum professionals, UIMA patrons and the public will attend the event to learn about these and other educational strategies.

"We have the chance to benefit from the experience of people at other innovative academic art museums," he said. "This is part of the brainstorming process for our stakeholders and audiences about our future museum. We have an opportunity to decide what we're going to be. Let's make the most of it."

Because of the 2008 flood, the UI Museum of Art offices have been relocated to the Studio Arts Building, 1840 SA, Iowa City, IA 52242, and Museum of Art events and exhibitions are being held at various locations. For up-to-date UIMA information, visit or call 319-335-1725.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Parrott, University Relations, 319-384-0037,; Writer: Maggie Anderson