Polly Ellman ’22

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

Polly Ellman '22 paintingI spent my summer working as a remote education intern for the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, the campus museum associated with Vassar College. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Loeb closed its physical galleries to the public and began looking for ways to continue its mission of providing high quality arts educational content to the college and surrounding community. Because I was hired as a summer docent at the Loeb and was originally meant to conduct tours and help to lead in-person educational events for visitors, my role had to pivot as well, and my primary role became assisting with an initiative to donate over 800 art kits, complete with art supplies and activity guides, to low-income students from two school districts in the Poughkeepsie, NY, area. This project was driven by collaboration with teachers and administrators from the schools and aimed to address the concerns of art teachers who had found that many students lacked the supplies needed to make distance learning run smoothly. Overall, the project aimed to help the Loeb continue its mission of educational and creative outreach in the community as well as provide hundreds of students in the Poughkeepsie area with the means to thrive in their art classes and in their own independent art-making.

My primary responsibility in this project was creating lesson plans to accompany the art supply kits that drew directly from the Loeb’s collection, offering examples of works diverse in medium, cultural origin, era, and genre, along with art historical information about these works and art-making prompts to guide the students in getting started with their new materials. Each card centered on a single art-making material, pairing inspiring works from the Loeb’s collection rendered in each card’s highlighted medium with prompts for students to look, write, and create original artwork. These cards aimed to provide students with both educational content and thought-provoking exercises to prompt their own creativity, allowing for both guidance and independence in the students’ own art-making processes.

Throughout my internship, I was able to merge my passion for making art with my intellectual interest in art history, which is my major and the field I see myself entering after I graduate. It was especially rewarding to be able to share the knowledge of art history I have gained from my classes at Williams with students in my home community. I can definitely see myself pursuing more arts education roles in the future, and I am so happy to have had this experience as a stepping stone along the way.

I am so grateful to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for enabling me to have this experience and contribute to a project that I consider to be so important, especially at a time of such massive upheaval for students and teachers.