Museums engage their communities through arts education


Miami Art Week brings an opportunity to reflect on the positive impact that art has on our community. The world’s preeminent cultural leaders, gallerists and collectors congregate here, our museums welcome tens of thousands of visitors from throughout the region and around the world and our hotels, restaurants, and boutiques enjoy some of their busiest days of the year.

While Art Week and its fairs have helped focus an international spotlight on Miami, the enduring strength of our cultural landscape lies in what happens during the other 51 weeks of the year.

Look beyond the priceless works on exhibit and the celebrity-charged parties that grab headlines during the first week of December, and you find arts organizations thriving across Miami, from grassroots to global institutions.

No longer a “one-week wonder,” Miami has earned its place among the world’s top cities for year-round art exhibition, education and production. This rise has been fueled by a number of organizations and initiatives across our community.

Miami is home to visual and performing arts organizations, such as the National YoungArts Foundation and New World Symphony, committed to nurturing, recruiting and retaining talent. Meanwhile, our art museums and performing arts centers, such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, the Adrienne Arsht Center, and PAMM, offer educational resources free of charge for students and educators, including tours, teacher workshops, free performances and artist-led seminars.

Arts education initiatives like these are critical to ensuring positive outcomes for our children. Research conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts finds that students with high exposure to the arts demonstrate stronger performance in school, a higher rate of college enrollment and more civic engagement than those with less arts involvement. These programs also instill a stronger sense of community and tolerance among children, which are critical to advancing social justice.

Our community’s craving for arts education is by no means limited to children. Miami’s adults are likewise demonstrating a proclivity for lifelong learning and cultural engagement.

Earlier this year, ICA Miami launched the Art + Research Center (A+RC), a rigorous educational program presented in partnership with Florida International University, which marks a first-of-its-kind collaboration between a museum and an academic institution in South Florida. We launched A+RC in response to the enormous appetite for an advanced arts education program capable of sparking sustained public dialogue surrounding the relationship between the arts and important issues confronting Miami, such as environmental resiliency and climate change.

Adult education programs like these promote mental and physical health, as well as higher rates of happiness and fulfillment, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

October’s pilot session of the A+RC was enrolled to capacity, and we will host two additional sessions before moving into ICA Miami’s permanent building in the Miami Design District late next year.

Our new home provides us with a platform for expanding initiatives like the A+RC. Still, our programming at ICA Miami, and the important work of neighboring art institutions, is just one piece of the puzzle.

As interest in cultural programming reaches fever pitch, Miami’s public and private sectors have an opportunity — and a responsibility — to continue making meaningful investments in arts education, production and cultivating talent. Doing so will contribute to our community’s artistic dialogue, economy and quality of life.

Ellen Salpeter is director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami