Latent Emissions, Chakaia Booker
Sarah Martin is the driving force behind our Community Education Programs
Watch the reactions of visitors stepping into the atrium of the Snite Museum of Art, and you will witness a range of emotions—the delight of seasoned museum-goers on encountering a new venue to explore, the focused attention of students intent on finding artworks for their assignments, and the barely-contained excitement of school children on entering a new creative environment. It’s that last group that most fully engages Sarah Martin’s attention and energy in her role as the Curator of Education, Public Programs, at the Museum.
Martin’s journey toward becoming a professional museum educator began with an art history major at Saint Mary’s College. While working as an assistant at the Moreau Gallery, Sarah knew she wanted a career in the museum world; as a museum educator, she realized she could combine her art-historical interests with her desire to regularly engage with the public. She earned a master’s degree in Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then headed to the education department at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, where for seven years she worked with a variety of audiences. Martin credits that experience—especially her engagement with K-12 educators, both pre-service and active teachers—with preparing her well for her role at the Snite Museum, where she describes her audiences as “everyone not on campus, from pre-K to adults.”
Eleven years on, Sarah has built an impressive array of programs to meet the needs of the varied constituencies the Museum serves. There are programs in partnership with the three main area school systems: “Jumpstart” with the South Bend Community School System, “Young at Art” with the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation, and “Museum Morning: Perspectives” with the School City of Mishawaka. Additional programs catering to school children are “Family Days” events; the Summer Apprentice Program, which draws from selected high-schoolers from the area; and a “Science and Art” program with the DNA Lab at Notre Dame. Sarah and her assistant curator also run teacher workshops to train educators on methods to incorporate artistic practice and appreciation into their classrooms.
Beyond the Snite Museum’s connections with area schools, other community programs are in place and will be augmented with the opening of the new Museum. Sarah plans to forge closer bonds with such community partners as the Robinson Community Learning Center and the St. Joseph County Public Library. And, of course, such popular events as the Jazz Concerts at the current site, “ArtWords,” and “Side-by-Side Saturdays,” will continue to attract all ages of the general public
The Raclin Murphy Museum of Art will offer resources to welcome new guests into a creative space. A Learning Commons will be positioned inside the main entrance where school groups can assemble. Sarah intends to use the Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park, located adjacent to the new Museum, as a locale for focusing on nature and the artworks sited within the park. There will be studio space for creating art, a feature sure to be well-used by Sarah and her varied audiences. And to familiarize visitors with what the new Museum will hold, Martin will expand the pool of docents who currently give tours at the Snite Museum and the South Bend Museum of Art.
None of these initiatives would be possible without the vital financial support and volunteer labor provided by the Friends of the Museum. Membership dues and donations from Friends members fund Sarah’s position and that of the Assistant Curator of Education for Public Programs, enabling them to buy necessary supplies for their programs. Friends members also assist at Museum functions and, less tangibly but just as importantly, act as ambassadors for the Museum in the broader community through their professional and personal networks.
When asked what aspect of her job keeps her energized, Sarah said, “Visitors help me see works in a different way. Those exchanges keep things new for me.”