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ARTmobile adventure.

When the art department of Pinellas County Schools, Florida made a commitment to an ARTmobile in the early 1960's, there was really no way of knowing just how the program would grow and develop. The goals of this program include giving students opportunities to experience art and cultures they might not ordinarily have a chance to see. Every effort is made to ensure that all students who enter these ARTmobiles have a meaningful learning experience that affords them enrichment, understanding, enthusiasm and an introduction to a lifelong appreciation of art.

We now have two ARTmobiles and the genuine excitement generated by both students and teachers indicates that the idea was a sound one. These travelling museums/galleries are housed in trailers measuring 12' x 28' (3.6 m x 8.5 m) that are towed from school to school. It takes four years for each ARTmobile to visit every elementary and middle school in our county.

Our newest ARTmobile, Gallery U.S.A. 1950-Present, was launched in October, 1988. The interior space has the clean, pristine white look of a contemporary gallery featuring undulating walls which are lit by track lighting. Additional artwork is mounted in a cabinet and can be pulled out for viewing. A TV, VCR and storage space is tucked diagonally into a corner. The floor is covered with gray low-pile carpet except for the cabinet area which has parquet flooring. Through collaboration with the University of South Florida Art Museum (Tampa), twenty-two pieces of contemporary artwork are on loan. This loan gives Gallery U.S.A. authenticity and professionalism.

The ARTmobile is, of necessity, completely redone with each new theme. Before the actual reconstruction of interior space, a design team of tour to five art teachers decides on the theme and arranges for purchase or loan of art and artifacts. The team also makes other necessary/design decisions to culminate in a viable, exciting environment--inside and out. A model is constructed to guide the summer construction crew--more art teachers. Summer work time and money is always a concern and much has to be done in a minimum of time and with only four to six participants. We have witnessed tremendous cooperation among teachers involved, a real sense of commitment, enthusiasm and spirit of accomplishment that outweighs the hard work and deadlines. Ultimately, the positive response of students, teachers and others who visit the ARTmobile is the real reward.

In the ARTmobile students are involved in art criticism, art history and aesthetics. When back in the artroom, they create art. Art teachers enjoy their visits based on artists represented in the exhibit. Periods of art represented include Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Op Art and Super Realism. They make way for a plethora of new lessons and ideas. For the Gallery U.S.A. exhibit, the design team decided it was necessary to include well-known artists such as Frank Stella, Alexander Calder, George Segal, Jackson Pollock and Claes Oldenburg. Artworks created by art teachers are also included and stand up quite well beside these other artists.

It is interesting to note that as we continue to develop curriculum, our ARTmobiles become more valid as a means of communication. Incorporating art history, art criticism and aesthetics in greater depth and involving greater dialogue by students than ever before, students truly become involved in the artwork. We delight at the potential to make art come alive for our students in an environment conducive to learning about art. For the art teacher who pushes a cart, and, unfortunately, a majority of our teachers do, the ARTmobile provides a little bit of heaven! Furthermore, this wonderful relation between Gallery U.S.A. and our curriculum objectives validates the importance of our ARTmobiles as learning and growing environments.

The ARTmobile is also a perfect public relations promotion for art education--not only for parents but for people within the school administration. A large reception is a must to introduce the newest ARTmobile. Local radio and TV stations are invited. The guest list includes all elementary and middle school principals plus other administrators. It is recommended that art teachers have a reception at their school when the ARTmobile arrives and invite the faculty, staff, administration, PTA and other interested persons. All this creates excellent publicity and an adventure in art that is a sound way of building both school and community support not only for ARTmobiles, but for art education in general.

Joanne Koontz teaches art at Plumb Elementary School, and Teresa Terry is an art resource teacher for the Pinellas County Schools, St. Petersburg, Florida.
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Title Annotation:the mobile art center of the Pinellas County Florida School District
Author:Terry, Teresa
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1990
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