7 Innovative Ways for Art Teachers to Partner With a Local Museum

phone using dali museum app

For most of us, our spring art shows have wrapped up, and the end of the school year is finally in sight. We can breathe a huge sigh of relief, soak in the sunshine and warmer weather, and count down the days until summer break. Without the pressures and stress of the school year, summer is the perfect time to take in some art inspiration from local museums. As you walk the galleries, you can look for creative ways to partner with your local museum to build bridges with the community and bring art to life for your students.

exterior of dali museum

To get your wheels turning, here are 7 fresh ways you can partner with your local museum.

Peter Tush is the Senior Curator of Education at The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Peter’s role oversees all learning at the museum. The programs The Dalí has been able to implement over the past several years have exploded in a rich arts education for students all over Florida and beyond. Although some of these programs are specific to The Dalí, Peter encourages art teachers to assess nearby available museums and bring all ideas to their education center. Most of The Dalí’s programs started because an art teacher bravely approached them and initiated a partnership!

class on field trip at museum

1. Mobile Art Classroom

The Dali Art Mobile is a portable classroom trailer. There are two themed trailers. The Dalí on the “Fly” Art Mobile features several large-scale Dalí reproductions and highlights science and math connections. The classroom also has an interactive magnetic wall with eighty magnets that depict details from Dalí paintings. Students use the magnetic pieces to compose an endless possibility of compositions!

This program is a unique partnership between The Dalí Museum and a local school district, Pinellas County Schools. While the county does have art teachers, the museum is too small to accommodate large field trips, especially with COVID restrictions. The Dalí Art Mobile has allowed the museum to bring Surrealism to life to over 40,000 K–5 students in the past four years. While this was a costly project to undertake, you can replicate it with grant money, fundraisers, and donations. Or, perhaps your school or district has a vacant portable trailer or unused classroom you can transform into something similar!

2. Wearable Art Fashion Show

Fashion Design at The Dalí is a free program for local teens. A local art teacher both created and teaches this fourteen-week program. High schoolers learn design and construction fundamentals from sketch to runway using unconventional materials. Final ensembles are showcased in a runway fashion show at PCCA-Gibbs High School, and a fashion film project is shot on location at The Dalí. Finalists get their outfits exhibited in the local Neiman Marcus.

Even if you do not have a similar program in your area, you can implement a lesson on wearable art. Reach out to your local museum to see if you can use their space for a runway fashion show. Many museums and galleries have beautiful outdoor sculpture gardens that would make a fabulous backdrop for the event. Your local department store may be willing to donate an atrium or window display to showcase your students’ creations.

fashion design shoot

3. Quick Lesson Plans

Do you enjoy lesson planning but do not always have the time or energy to write it out or research fun, interactive components? Most museums, including The Dalí, create art lesson plans accessible on their website. The Dali has lesson plans categorized by grades 3–6 and 6–12 and various one-page printable activities. They also have a fifteen-page activity book that can pair with a virtual or in-person visit. Download a copy here. If you find yourself in a pinch, try browsing lessons already written by other art experts!

DillyDally with Dalí Online is a live virtual program each Thursday from 5–5:30 p.m. ET via Zoom. It is geared toward students aged 6–11 years. Students can participate with their families using household materials, and each session results in a process-based artmaking activity. Share the program with your hardcore art-loving students as a supplemental activity or join yourself for inspiration to bring back to your classroom.

4. Creativity Challenges and Team Building

Innovation Labs, or iLabs, features virtual and in-person workshops for organizations and groups looking to team build and grow in leadership and creative thinking. Peter Tush detailed how Salvador Dalí was an incredibly creative individual. As a result, The Dalí Museum is a huge proponent of the idea that everyone is creative—they just need to find ways to tap into creativity and apply it to their daily approach.

While we can’t take our students to iLabs, we can harness the expertise of museums to design challenges that are sure to entertain and push our students simultaneously. Reach out to your local museum to see if they already have fun challenges students can participate in, either on a field trip or in your classroom. If there are no options available, this is the perfect opportunity to build a bridge with your local museum and design one together!

5. Augmented Reality of Masterworks

Augmented reality (AR) uses technology to bring environments to life with movement and sound. When AR combines with the art world, it can bring masterworks to life for students without the need to step into a museum. The Dalí Museum App is free from the App Store (iOS) or Google Play. Students can snap a photo of a real-life Dalí painting in the museum, or they can use a reproduction hanging in your classroom. Either way, students can experience eight of Dalí’s masterpieces via AR technology that triggers a short video and interactive symbolic elements. Additionally, the app features themed and virtual tours in many languages, making this an activity conducive for many English Language Learners.

phone using dali museum app

6. Peer Audio Tours

Sometimes, students can be more open to hearing from their peers than their teacher. It breaks up instruction, and students can convey information to each other in ways that can be more relatable. Teen Voices Online is a free program for high school students to learn about the world and works of Salvador Dalí. Students conduct research and participate in workshops before writing and recording audio files that break down Dalí’s artworks. Your students can listen to previous teen recordings here.

Try bringing this idea into your classroom. The next time you view artwork in class or on a field trip, have students research the piece and record a short statement discussing what they have discovered. These audio files can be archived and shared with future groups of students for years to come.

7. Student Art Exhibit

Partner with a museum in your state to bring many school districts and students together. Many museums host an art competition for students to enter. When the submission window is over, the museum will exhibit the artwork. This exhibit is a fabulous way to bring the community into their local museum.

The Dalí Museum does this a few times a year with a Surrealist Art Exhibit. One exhibit partners with Pinellas County Schools, one partners with Hillsborough County Schools, and one is open to the entire state of Florida. Click the links to see online galleries of amazing student artworks! If you are impressed with these pieces and want to bring similar work to your curriculum, watch the following two videos. The first video is an eleven-minute overview of Surrealism and is an excellent resource for older students. The second video provides key techniques, ideas, exemplars, and prompts from the Florida art teachers whose students’ work made it into the show.

Museums are wonderful resources not only for our growth as artists and art educators but also for our students. Museum partnerships can make art come alive with hands-on experiences and the ability to see masterworks in person. It can also make the visual arts a realistic career opportunity for students as they communicate with museum staff and see their creations in a professional context. As art teachers, we are always looking for out-of-the-box ways to engage our students. As Peter Tush reminded us, it never hurts to ask. Your idea and initial contact can be the impetus for a future program that impacts thousands of young artists in your area! Give one of the seven innovative ways a try and reach out to your local museum today.

For more inspiration from The Dalí Museum, check out their website, follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to them on YouTube.

What local museums are nearby you can reach out to?

How do you already partner with your local museum?

What is one benefit you have experienced from a museum connection?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Lindsey McGinnis

Lindsey McGinnis is AOEU’s Media Content Manager and a former high school art educator. She is passionately equipping art teachers to be successful in their classrooms and firmly believes that art is a safe place for students to explore and process the challenging topics and concepts around them.

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