Cornell University: Endowment strengthens museum’s K-12 outreach

A new endowment for the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art will enhance its K-12 outreach program, which reaches thousands of school children every year – including those from rural areas who would not otherwise have access to a world-class museum.

Moira Hintsa ’74, her husband Mark Hintsa, and their sons Matt ’10 and Mikey ’15 recently endowed the Hintsa Family Manager of School and Family Programs at the Johnson Museum.

The inaugural Hintsa Family Manager, Carol Hockett, has coordinated the museum’s school and family program since 2004. “For many young children, the Johnson is their first experience of art from another culture and their first visit to a college campus,” she said. “The impact of the museum experience is long-lasting and significant, with older students often remembering their first visit many years later. Kids never forget the joy of discovery – whether of an ancient terra-cotta warrior or a contemporary light installation.”

What began as a small grant-funded initiative for rural outreach 35 years ago now serves 6,000 local and regional students annually. Unique to this program, Hockett and the museum team consult with individual teachers from across Central New York to design sessions that best respond to the needs of the students and the New York state curriculum.

The Hintsa family’s endowment will help the Johnson build a national model for school and family museum programs, bring more Cornell undergraduates and graduate students into the museum’s teaching practice, and allow arts-related research happening on Cornell’s campus to have real-world impact in the heart of the university’s local and regional outreach.

“We have a world-class museum in our community, and each kid has an opportunity to come inside,” said Luvelle Brown, superintendent of the Ithaca City School District. “The Johnson is an important resource to build out conversations about important topics in our curriculum, using art as another language to process information and experiences.”

Moira Hintsa and her family have held strong ties to Cornell since her father, William Hearne, a fraternity brother of E. B. White, Class of 1921, graduated with an engineering degree in 1924. Her mother, Sheila Hearne, was a longtime friend of the Johnson and a proponent of educational equity. Her mother’s legacy inspired this gift and lives on through her daughter’s leadership on the Museum’s Advisory Council and her family’s service to Cornell, said Courtney Campbell, the museum’s director of development.

“Our hope is that this program encourages a student to make art, or read a book, or even become an Egyptologist – to follow a path they may not have previously imagined,” Moira Hintsa said.

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