A couple years ago, I heard a Candice Anderson from Cool Culture speak at the American Alliance of Museum Conference. I was, and still am, impressed by the work this New-York based organization is doing in terms of connecting low-income families with cultural institutions; essentially serving as a bridge and mediator. This week, we hear from Melissa Davis, Social Media Fellow for Cool Culture who presents her organization’s concept and activities. -Rose
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Cool Culture, a non-profit organization in New York City, offers low-income families with young children, ages 3-6, free access to cultural institutions. The initiative, launched in 1999, is rooted in the belief that exposure to arts and cultural activities helps develop reading comprehension, analytical skills, numerical understanding and language proficiency. Children express this through sharing their observations and opinions about what they experience in museums, gardens historical homes and zoos.
Cool Culture interacts with families through their respective school or Early Childhood Education Center. In other words, a school partners with us and makes a commitment to make art and the Cool Culture program a part of their educational planning. In return we provide schools with a) the Cool Culture Pass for families, which grants up to five family members free entry to Cultural Institutions, and b) professional development for teachers and staff.
Cool Culture also develops resources for families that they can utilize while on their visits to Cultural Institutions. One product is our “Culture Hunt Cards”, available in English, Spanish and Mandarin, that prompt families to find particular objects in the cultural institutions they visit – and to discuss both the objects and the institutions before, during, and after the visits.
Publicly funded early childhood education centers in New York City that serve low-income families can apply as well as New York City Department of Education pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs. We currently serve over 150,000 families in New York City.
Experience is a trigger that enables children to organize their brains to support the challenges they meet. We also work with specific populations that would not necessarily have access to museums, cultural institutions and zoos due to financial constraints and cultural barriers.
One such family is from the Stagg Street Center for Children. This particular family participated in Cool Culture’s Literacy Through Culture Program called the “Family Explorers Club”. For Juan, the father, his family’s trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of Cool Culture’s Literacy Through Culture Program represented two big “firsts”: First, it was his first time ever entering a museum. Second, it was he and his wife Sam’s first time taking their 3 year-old daughter Skylyn on public transportation! We had a chance to sit down with Juan and Sam and talk about what their participation in Cool Culture has meant to them:
She [Skylyn] asks and answers a lot of questions. She talks a lot more. She’s more likely to think and answer questions. We try to incorporate what we’ve learned. Each museum has a different theme, that’s what I look forward to. Seeing something different. Maybe one day she’ll take her kids and remember her parents taking her when she was little.
Cool Culture can be a family’s first ticket of a lifetime of learning.
We’re working toward a future where all young children can have access to art and cultural institutions and in that future, museums are as inclusive and diverse as their communities.
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Melissa Davis is the Social Media Fellow for Cool Culture. She comes to the organization through a second year fellowship with Public Allies New York. Melissa has a 10 year background working in educational non-profits across New York State, and most recently worked in online publishing and social media management. She has always found importance in helping give a voice to varying undeserved populations. Melissa has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from Marist College.