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The Walters Art Museum Receives $50,000 Planning Grant to Explore Impact of Art-Enrichment on Early Childhood Brain Development

Baltimore—The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded the Walters Art Museum, in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Brain Science Institution and the Department of Cognitive Science, a $50,000 National Leadership Planning Grant. Beginning Dec. 1, planning will begin for the establishment of an arts-enriched museum program to measure the impact and outcome of arts integration on the development of early childhood cognitive skills. Research will help improve and inform the museum’s programming, build on its leadership position in innovative educational programs within informal learning environments, and contribute to the field of museum education. The program, for three to five year-olds, is tentatively named Start with Art.

Informal arts integration programs report positive anecdotal results, including increased attention, comprehension and excitement about learning, and improved memory.

“This generous IMLS grant allows us to conduct research to substantiate studies showing a correlation between arts integration and learning,” said Walters Director Gary Vikan. “By working together with outstanding developmental scientists at John Hopkins University, the Start with Art program will use evidence-based assessment tools to study the cognitive abilities and school readiness of young children.”

During the planning period, the Walters will produce and disseminate a literature review; convene experts in psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience and education; conduct focus groups; and investigate the feasibility of establishing a formal program for early childhood arts-enriched learning.

“We know early learning programs help children reach their full potential in school and life. We also know that highly enriched sensory experiences enhance learning. What better place than the Walters to create a research-based program that builds on interdisciplinary expertise?  This initiative is a wonderful extension of several past collaborations between the Walters and the Brain Science Institute,” said Susan Magsamen, Director of Interdisciplinary Partnerships with The Brain Science Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The Walters Art Museum is located in downtown Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre streets. Its permanent collection includes ancient art, medieval art and manuscripts, decorative objects, Asian art, and Old Master and 19th-century paintings. Wyndham Baltimore Peabody Court is the official hotel of the Walters Art Museum.

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