Introducing New Students to the Gardiner Gallery

This week’s post is by Jordan Griffis, who is responsible for the OSU Museum of Art’s public relations and outreach. When I noticed the incredible uptick in class visits to the Gardiner Gallery this semester, I invited her to write about what motivated her to expand that aspect of our programming.

As part of an effort to raise awareness and familiarize new students with the OSUMA, we’ve been excited to introduce more than a dozen new classes (of mostly freshmen) to the gallery since August.

We’ve had students from music, communications, English and more visit the gallery and use it in some way to complete assignments in their courses. We have a graduate-level curriculum studies class from the College of Education making a visit to the gallery next month as well.

Students in the Gardiner Gallery during Welcome Week.

As a former OSU student, and non-art major (public relations, 2010), I’m completely aware of how many students have no idea there’s an art gallery on campus, much less an understanding of what we do and how great a resource this can be to them.

Since I took this job a year ago, one of my main goals has been to introduce ourselves to as many students across campus as we can, create a larger presence at OSU as we begin our expansion downtown, and encourage students in other areas of study to incorporate the Gardiner Gallery/OSUMA into their coursework.

After some emails inviting freshman orientation instructors to visit us, and a little bit of networking, we’ve welcomed between 12 and 15 class visits to the gallery in the first 6 weeks of class.

An instructor leads a class discussion in the Gardiner Gallery.

Most of the classes are general freshman orientation groups: brand new students at OSU who are still carrying campus maps and memorizing schedules. It’s often their first time in the Bartlett Center at all and, depending on their major, it’s possible they could go on for a few years without visiting the building if not for this class visit.

The class visits have also proven to be valuable for OSU students who already have an interest in the arts and want to be involved with the things we’re doing here, but wouldn’t otherwise know how. This visit provides them with a schedule, gallery materials, and the opportunity to join our mailing lists. It’s been a perfect way to invite students to our upcoming receptions and events and tell them how to find us on social media.

It’s also been a great opportunity to let other students know that we’re here and we’re not an intimidating place to visit! As a rural Oklahoma teenager myself once, I realize how many college freshmen have literally never been inside an art gallery, and might not ever consider how they can incorporate this experience into their other classes, no matter what their major. In that regard, it’s been exciting to recently see students of all areas take advantage and use our exhibitions to broaden their academic experience.

Here we have strategic communications majors taking in the Faculty Exhibition and writing practice press releases and news articles.

Reaching out to instructors and coordinating these class visits has already been successful in broadening our online presence, potentially increasing our attendance at receptions/lectures/programming, and contributing to the well rounded university experience of students in all areas of study across campus.

So if you’re a faculty member or a student reading this: Have you considered how you can use the gallery in your classes? We are here and we want to help!

You can contact Jordan to schedule a class visit or learn more about using the Gardiner Gallery by email (jordan.griffis@okstate.edu) or by phone (405-744-4143).

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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