At the end of every school year an exhibition of the students' artwork is held at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Gallery 103B delights visitors with a surprising blend of imagination, endeavor, fun, and learning. The exhibit presents fresh and original perspectives from young artists aged 6 to 12. Imagine the work of 184 artists in a single gallery! The participants will probably never forget that thousands of people once came to see the artwork of the youngest artists ever to have their work displayed at the Museum.
Learning Through Art has its roots in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York. The program was founded in 1970 by patron of the arts Natalie K. Lieberman in response to the elimination of arts education in New York City's public elementary schools.
In 1998 the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao adapted the arts program to the needs and interests of Basque public primary schools. The project is a collaboration between the Museum and the Basque Department of Education's Office of Innovation in Education, with sponsorship from the BBK.
Learning Through Art has been operating as a successful education and art program in the Basque Country since that time. Over the years, LTA has reached more than a thousand schoolchildren and a hundred teachers from all stages of primary education.
Schoolchildren learn in many different ways: by listening, observing, talking, acting, and creating. They do all of these things in the course of the creative process while also learning to think critically and to plan and develop a project from start to finish. The program breaks down barriers between school subjects and academic disciplines and encourages schoolchildren to see the world in a creative and personal way. Art becomes a tool for discovering, exploring, and interpreting reality.
They also develop writing and language skills, as well as building appreciation for their own work and the work of others. Since schoolchildren are more receptive to learning through artistic activities, the workshops are highly effective with students who have difficulties following traditional learning methods. The workshops offer a wide range of disciplines: photography, painting, sculpture, video, events, theatre, music, digital art ... The program is conducted in 90-minute sessions once a week at the school over a period of 20 weeks.
After the teachers identify the objectives they want to achieve, and the skills and attitudes they want to consolidate, artists and Museum educators work together to design a series of workshops integrated into educational units. Each program is unique and custom designed to develop the interests and skills of the schoolchildren and to reinforce any area of school curriculum.
Collaboration between artists and classroom teachers is essential since the two mutually support the endeavors of the other. In 2009–2010 nineteen teachers opened their classroom doors to Learning Through Art: Nelly Ureta, Deiene Atela, Leire Maturana, Chelo Sampedro, Isabel Bajo, Julio Alba, Begoña Zilonizaurrekoetxea, Arantza Irueta, Jone Carbonell, Miren Zabaleta, Larraitz Artola, Celia Sáez de Ocáriz, Mónica Etxebeste, Mª Ángeles Gómez de Oteo, Antonio Martínez, Begoña Fuentes, Izaskun Ugarte, Arkaitz Manterota, and Julen Rotaetxe.
The role of the artists is fundamental. They are the ones who pump energy and life into the children's work, helping them to link conceptual thinking to artistic creation and apply them to specific subject areas. Elssie Ansareo, Naia del Castillo, Ibon Garagarza, Iñaki Gracenea, Maider López, Joxerra Melguizo, Manu Muniategiandikoetxea and Jorge Rubio are the artists who visit the schools and share their ideas.
But the true protagonists in this creative adventure are the children themselves. With their endless excitement and energy and their unfailing ability to surprise, they are the ones who inevitably reinvent the initial ideas put forward to come up with unexpected solutions all their own. The artists know that their role is to propose journeys whose final destination only time will tell. Every year, Learning Through Art embarks on a new adventure.
The schoolchildren become explorers in unchartered territory while at the same time discovering the joy of creating unique objects of art. They also take great pleasure in putting their creations on display for other people to enjoy. In addition, the workshops give the children the opportunity to learn the importance of teamwork and communication.
In 2009–2010 the young artists included the 6th grade class at El Casal in Gallarta; 1st grade class at Lamiako in Leioa; 6th grade class at Velázquez in Basauri; 4th grade class at Ruperto Medina in Portugalete; 3rd, 5th and 6th grade class at Arroa in Zestoa; 3rd and 4th grade class at Arrateko Andramari in Eibar; 6th grade class at Belaskoenea in Irún; 6th grade class at Divino Maestro in Vitoria-Gasteiz; and the 3rd and 4th grade class at Víctor Tapia in Laguardia. A total of nine schools and 184 children took part in the program.