March 11, 1997

Caribbean Workshop at Middlebury College

An exciting and innovative workshop took place at Middlebury College recently in conjunction with the exhibition running at the College's Museum of Art, Caribbean Visions: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture.

The initial workshop held for teachers in January, and the ongoing workshops throughout the winter months for the teachers and their students from elementary through high school levels, "was wonderful," according to Sandi Olivo, curator for education at the Museum of Art, who spearheaded the project. This was her third annual school program on special exhibitions. "It included different components such as workshops and research materials. We prepared the teachers first with detailed background on the exhibit so they could relate it to their students." Many of the students read essays, stories, and poetry about the Caribbean before visiting, and were well versed on its history, demographics, and the impact of Christopher Columbus on the region. "This is a wonderful resource," commented Paula Bellerose, a teacher at Middlebury Junior High School, as her English class viewed the exhibit. The annual programs have been a way of reaching the community and discovering how the museum can better serve it.

The initial workshop also held some very special events. There was a talk by Miriam Basillo, doctoral candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, a concert of music from Puerto Rico by Carlos Velez-Blasini, assistant professor of psychology at Middlebury College, storytelling by Dolores Sandoval, associate professor of education at the University of Vermont, and a special panel presentation by four Caribbean students attending Middlebury College.

"It was fun," said Suzanne Minott '99, a native of Jamaica and a math/Spanish major. "I learned more about other Caribbean countries. It is not just a tourist area. I was excited about being on the panel, too. We got into politics and education." Ms. Minott further explained that Jamaica is an agrarian country and not everyone gets to go to high school, but to supplementary schools. "The education at the high school level in Jamaica is of good quality," she said. "It's rigorous." About the panel discussion, Ms. Minott noted "We had them laughing. Someone in the audience asked, 'Does the sun shine all the time in Jamaica?' 'Not at night,' we responded."

The museum has 15 College students who serve as voluntary assistants. "They're excited," said Ms. Olivo. "They're wonderful students." Many are interested in pursuing careers in art and art history. Many people in the community also work for the museum, as well as members of Friends of Art. A number of the museum assistants also study in Middlebury's teacher education program and visit the schools involved in the teacher workshops. There is a big crossover of talent and great opportunities for different professional experiences for the students.

(NOTE: For more info on the exhibit, Caribbean Visions: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, see also the "Visions" article, of January 20, 1997, below.)