By Lane Wright
Every morning at 8:30, 22 professors from different art schools in China meet at the Museum of Art at BYU, eager to begin another day of learning.
Jing Jing Lin, head librarian at the MOA (and the only staff member who speaks Mandarin), translates the classes and lectures for the enthusiastic educators-turned-students.
Inspired by BYU”s performing arts groups” tours in China, the educators came to BYU to learn how to make better use of art in their education. BYU officials chose the MOA as the principal site for the two-week educational experience because of its natural inclination towards the arts, said Campbell Gray, director of the MOA.
“Because we are a significant player of the arts on campus, we are providing the base venue for the workshops,” Gray said.
The professors came to learn about various aspects of art in education, including dance, music and the visual arts.
As part of the visual aspect of art, the Chinese professors are learning how to integrate an art museum and an educational experience for students and the community.
“We just wanted to give them some insights on how this museum is used with the campus audience, the K-12 school audience and public programs,” said museum educator Rita Wright. “They are such eager learners and so excited about the opportunity to see how we conduct our programs and the concepts and materials we use to help our audience with exhibition interpretation.”
Wright said she was concerned about giving them all of the materials because they were in English. When she expressed that concern through the translator, their reply was almost desperate.
“We”ll find someone who can translate,” said one of the professors.
“They were so pleased to have those materials to take back with them to China and use them as models for their program implementation,” Wright said.
Wright said at first it was difficult for the visitors to ask questions because the model for education in China is solely lecture. They are not used to raising their hands in class and asking questions because in the Chinese educational system, professors lecture to a silent audience.
Herman du Toit, head of audience education and development, explained to the Chinese professors how to make the museum more people-friendly. Du Toit said even though the Chinese have museums, they don”t do much to help others better learn and understand the works. Some of the things that enhance the learning experience of museums, for example, are the labels that accompany the works.
“We produce interpretive media such as gallery guides and label texts,” du Toit said. “We also generate public programming that helps to broaden the academic learning experience.”
The Chinese asked BYU to “put together a one-month conference on education and the arts to teach teachers how to teach and market the arts,” Gray said.
The one-month conference was cut down to two weeks because of pressures inherent to running campus during fall and winter semesters as opposed to the summer, Gray said.
The educators originally planned to come to BYU in the summer of 2002 but had to delay their plans due to problems in getting visas, he said.