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Art Bridges Foundation supports growing audience at Art Museum of WVU

preschool story hour takes place at the Art Museum of WVU

The Art Museum of West Virginia University has received an Access for All Grant from the Art Bridges Foundation to fund educational projects through the next three years.

The Access for All Grant is the fourth partnership between Art Bridges Foundation and the Art Museum of WVU. Art Bridges has previously supported the Blanche Lazzell traveling exhibition and the Bridge Ahead Initiative to help the museum connect with the community remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Art Museum also worked with Art Bridges on implementing Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Surveys (COVES), which helps the museum learn about visitor demographics and experiences.

"The Art Museum of WVU is thrilled to continue to partner with Art Bridges on this new initiative,” said Education Curator Heather Harris. “The theme of access is at the core of our work, which is why admission is always free at the Art Museum. Now, we are looking to expand access in other ways through extended hours and programs that target new audiences – including preschoolers, teens and seniors."

The grant is already at work to bring new visitors of all ages and languages to the museum. It recently hosted the first preschool story hour. In February, it will offer the first tour and program with a Spanish-speaking option, and there are plans for a teen night in March.

"We are the premier art destination in North Central West Virginia, but we are still a relatively young institution,” Harris said. “There are so many groups and demographics we haven't tapped yet, and the funding for this project allows us to boldly imagine how to forge partnerships across the city of Morgantown and the broader region."

Like many cultural institutions, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the Art Museum's attendance. The grant will help the museum continue to rebuild its audience and bring art to people in new ways.

"The time is now to think beyond WVU and invigorate a robust and diverse base of museumgoers in the broader community,” Harris said. “The lessons of the pandemic helped us to think flexibly and nimbly about digital engagement, but I am so excited to bring people and art together again."

According to Art Bridges Founder Alice Walton, that is what the new initiative is all about.

"Everyone, no matter where they live, deserves access to art," Walton said. "We started Art Bridges to support museums in deepening their connections with local communities and to pave the way for new audiences to experience the creativity and joy that comes with seeing art.”

The foundation's mission of "activating works of art in exciting and innovative ways" perfectly aligns with the values of the WVU Art Museum.

"I love those word choices. To me, they speak to what the best museums are -- places for excitement, innovation, and engagement," Harris said. "Our collection has the potential to incite dialogue and help people build community around the conversations it sparks."

The Art Museum of WVU takes visitors on a journey through artworks from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The museum’s collection is home to more than 4,000 artworks from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries including paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and photographs. Aside from an incredible look into international art styles, the museum features regional artists such as Blanche Lazzell and James Edward Davis.

"With the support of Art Bridges, we will be able to make our resources more apparent and welcoming to a larger swath of West Virginians, thereby reaffirming our commitment to WVU's land-grant mission,” Harris said.

The Art Museum of WVU is open Thursday through Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Its spring exhibits include “Off Kilter, On Point: Art of the 1960s” and “Where the Wind Blows: Selections from the Collection 1960-1975.” For more information about upcoming events and exhibits, visit You can also follow the museum on Facebook and Instagram.