Last May, Kim Johnson, cofounder of the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, and Jessica Scheeter, executive director of the foundation, toured the museum with our director of development Jessica Welch and outreach program coordinator Abbey Day. After giving the museum a grant for its Art to Go outreach program last year, Johnson and Scheeter requested a site visit to see the museum’s education programs in action.

“It was great to see artwork through the eyes of the kids, and then see the space where the hands-on workshops happen,” says Scheeter about the museum’s See Art Make Art school tours. “Kim Johnson was excited to get to visit the museum herself and learn more about its programs and the intent of See Art Make Art. In follow-up conversations with Jessica Welch, we learned that the museum was recommitted to reach out to Title 1 schools specifically.”

Welch applied for a second Johnson Ohana grant to fund the art-making portion of See Art Make Art tours for Title 1 students, and last month she received this email from Scheeter: “I am pleased to inform you that the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation has awarded the Honolulu Museum of Art a $5,000 mini-grant for See Art Make Art for Title 1 students. The board is excited about the work you are doing to provide hands-on art education and opportunities to youth in Hawaii.”

Welch is excited about the partnership. “It’s fun to work with such smart, committed funders. They really care about Hawai‘i and are hands on—they want to know the nitty gritty of our programs,” says Welch.

The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, launched in 2008, supports programs the focus on environmental, art and music education, especially in Hawai‘i and on the West Coast. “We’re looking for groups that provide opportunities for children to engage with, in this case, art, in a hands-on way,” says Scheeter. “For this grant we were excited that the museum was showing commitment to reach more Title 1 students and schools. And we really liked that in addition to having the experience of visiting the museum and being exposed to the art they would be able to follow up with the hands-on art class so they could experience first hand different art themes and ways of creating art and thinking through the different mediums. It’s great that these kids get not only to see the art but also get their hands dirty afterwards and create art themselves.”

Why the emphasis on art programs? “Because schools often have limited resources and teachers feel time pressures, art sometimes gets left out, or is seen as nonessential,” explains Scheeter. “So having the museum offer this opportunity to take a field trip to the museum, have a chance to explore and learn about artists and art from many places opens up their world to so much more and lets them know that art is an important part of our communities and  is something of value. These children deserve the right to explore art themselves.”

The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation’s board of directors, which includes Jack and Kim Johnson, reviews all the grants. “We’re looking to help out where we can, and tend to support free or low-cost programs to reach out to students that may not have these opportunities,” says Scheeter. “We don’t always get to make site visits, but we love to when it is possible. That way we get a stronger sense of the program and the team. “We like to develop a relationship with our grantees when our missions are closely aligned.”

Welch says that the foundation’s other areas of interest can help shape the museum’s education program. “It’s nice to make a connection with foundations that also have an environmental focus. It’s fun to see how we can connect the arts to environmental causes. [Kim and Jessica] got really excited about the prospect of the museum doing an exhibition of artwork using marine debris.” Other Hawai‘i organizations that have received grants from the foundation are the Hawai‘i Arts Alliance, Hawaii Youth Symphony, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, ‘Ōhia Productions, Hoa ‘Āina o Makaha, and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Welch says that the Johnson Ohana grant signals new developments in the museum’s education program. “It’s work we’ve always been doing, but over the past year we’ve been much more strategic, focused and integrated—it is a cross-departmental program that now uses the museum in a holistic manner. We’re poised to make a difference in a meaningful, focused way, and grants from organizations such as the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation help make it happen.”

About See Art Make Art and Working with Title 1 schools
See Art Make Art provides students with the opportunity to follow a docent-led museum tour—at the museum’s main location on Beretania Street and at Spalding House in Makiki Heights— with an art-making lesson taught by a professional artist. The teachers can select a themed tour such as Animals in Art, European and American Masterpieces, Asian Masterpieces, and Music through Art.

The art-making lesson that follows the tour adds a valuable hands-on project that reinforces lessons learned on the tour. Studies show that the average retention rate of students increase from less than 5 percent to more than 75 percent when they “do” rather than just listen. The art lesson costs $4 per student, a fee that is impossible for many students from Title I schools—where at least 40 percent of the student body comes from households living at or below the federal poverty line. These Title I children have the greatest need for art because there is no art in their schools and little opportunities to experience art in their community.

While the museum’s school tour program is successful in meeting desired outcomes through core curriculum, the proportion of Title I school we serve could be dramatically increased. Out of the 17,500 students who participate in the museum’s school tour program each year, an average of 5,000 are from 40 Title 1 schools. The Honolulu Museum of Art’s goal over the next three years is to double the participation of Title I public school students on its school tours, including the See Art Make Art Program.

To meet this goal, the museum has secured funding from the Atherton Family Foundation to add a Teacher Liaison position to our Education Department. This new staff person will collaborate with Title I teachers to ensure that museum programs meet their educational goals. The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation grant will make it possible for these teachers to register their students for See Art Make Art.

Read the blog post on the Atherton Family Foundation grant.