Two students stand in an art gallery looking at a framed painting

New grant expands opportunity for students to learn, create, and collaborate at Worcester Art Museum

September 13, 2023
By: Deborah Alvarez O'Neil

Over the years hundreds of Worcester State students have visited the Worcester Art Museum for coursework, research, and creative projects. World language students have made well-attended community presentations in Spanish about the museum’s Remastered Gallery. Occupational therapy students have conducted accessibility audits of exhibits and communal spaces. Theater and creative writing students have composed original work inspired by museum artwork.

The experiences for students are transformativeso much so that demand for class transportation to the museum has tripled in recent years, says professor of English and Presidential Fellow for Art, Education, and Community Heather Treseler, who works closely with the museum on behalf of the university. A new $15,000 grant from The George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation will enable the university to quadruple to 800 the number of students the university can fund to attend the museum in academic year 2023-34.

“The Fuller Foundation’s generous support will have a significant, immediate impact on our students,” Treseler said. “We are delighted to expand our partnership with a world-class art museum to enhance our students’ life-long learning and engagement in the arts in the Worcester region.”

The grant came about over the summer as Treseler was sharing updates on the partnership with the Worcester Art Musuem’s Board of Trustees. Mark W. Fuller of the Fuller Foundation is also a member of the museum’s board and saw an opportunity to strengthen an educational alliance that is already making a difference in the community.

“This was a classic case of ‘opportunity knocks,’” Fuller said. “The Fuller Foundation’s grant allows two organizations of great importance to our Worcester community to enhance their collective ability to provide arts education to university students. It was an easy call for our Trustees.”

Worcester State and the Worcester Art Museum have had a formal partnership since 2012, which gives WSU students, faculty, and staff free access to the museum with their university ID cards. To date, 20 of the university’s 22 academic departments have utilized the museum’s collections, research library, and performance spaces for academic, research, and creative projects. This summer, several Worcester State faculty members designed new curricular connections—in courses such as Sensation and Perception in the Psychology Department and American Popular Art and Architecture in the History Department—using the collections at the museum.

A recent survey of students who visited the museum for academic work found that half had never visited before, and 90 percent planned to return. Feedback was resoundingly positive: “I can’t believe this amazing place has been right here my whole life and I never saw it. I’m going to be here all the time,” one student wrote. “I learned that we have access to amazing art in our own city.”

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