International art experts, conservation colleagues, and artists seeking to get up close and personal with the work of their peers and predecessors often visit the conservation studios in the Art Institute of Chicago to see the creative process unfold before their eyes. However, students or the public have rarely seen these spaces where creativity takes place. Now, through new digital and interactive tools, the museum’s walls have become permeable, giving everyone access to the specialized labs where the work of conservators—part artist, part scientist—happens. In the studio, laboratory tools such as high-powered microscopes can magnify the painted surface of an art piece hundreds of times to examine a crack, to study a graphite underdrawing that shows in the openings of an artist’s brushwork, or to precisely trace the contours of a past restoration. Students can visit the conservation studio virtually and learn about an object or area in the lab. They can also see an enlargement of a work and learn the artist, title, and more about the conservation treatment the work is receiving.
Budding young artists, photographers, or digital experts will appreciate the Master Class offerings that are part of Smithsonian Summer Virtual Adventures. Designed for students in grades 6–11, these weeklong studio courses help students develop specialized skills as they create personal projects inspired by Smithsonian collections.
The P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children’s Education offers Teacher Art Grants of up to $1,000 to support new or evolving programs that integrate the arts into educational programming in a classroom setting.