For more than twenty years, our Artist-in-Residence Toby H. Richards has worked closely with our community partners to bring art to local parks. Carrying out the Museum’s mission of taking art beyond our walls, Toby has worked to build lasting relationships with our neighbors, facilitating art projects throughout the city. With a new year ahead, Toby and the Museum’s Education department are taking the time to reflect on the work they have done and are looking ahead to exciting opportunities in the future.
Over the years, the BMA’s work in Birmingham parks has brought about many memorable projects. Toby and Associate Curator of Education Suzy Harris recall these highlights, like an excavation project with Inglenook Parks and Recreation, as part of our Pompeii exhibition; painting murals in parks and on dilapidated buildings to beautify neighborhoods across the city; and even bringing art projects to the fishing rodeo at East Lake Park.
Recently, Toby and the Education department have been looking for new ways to reach out. For instance, this past October, Toby learned about a community event in its first year, the Fun Fall Festival at Legion Field. The event was an incredible success, giving families a place to come and trick-or-treat in a fun, family-friendly environment. For trick-or-treating, Toby helped kids create their own treat bags. Not only were the bags a fun art activity, but kids were also asked to tell a story about their design, encouraging deeper thinking and creativity. “I am always excited to see art made accessible to residents in the neighborhoods we serve,” says Stanley Robinson, Public Relations Coordinator at the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board. “The expertise the BMA offers allows us to develop programs and activities that are unique, more diverse, and address the varied needs of the community.”
Looking towards the future, the Education department will continue to find new ways to collaborate with the city’s parks. “The partnership between the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board and the Birmingham Museum of Art has been key to the development of our youth throughout the City of Birmingham,” says Birmingham Park and Recreation Board Director Kevin Moore. “A recent study with the UCLA Graduate School of Education proved how impactful the arts can be on education by showing significant increases in test scores in all subjects. As leaders in our city, it is our job to do all we can for our youth; our partnership with the Birmingham Museum of Art does just that, and is a relationship we plan to keep for years to come.”
After twenty years and many more ahead, Toby says “We want the Museum to be the face of the community. Our involvement in Birmingham should be a model and encouragement for others to reach out and get involved.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Museum’s work in our community and if you would like to get involved, please contact our Education department at [email protected]