The Aldrich Contemporary

  • Group of students sit and work in the galleries at the Aldrich


Ridgefield, CT

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum initiated its partnership with its local school district in 2014, in order to realign their educational programming to fit the museum’s core values. These values require that programs fulfill one or more of the following criteria:

  • Connecting the public with artists
  • Drive attendance and/or revenue
  • Created in collaboration with the audience
  • Tackle new materials, processes, or ideas

The Ridgefield Public School district was identified as an area of the community where engagement was lacking. While The Aldrich was located in town, it was not included in the schools’ field trip itineraries; instead, schools went over the New York border to the Katonah Museum of Art. The Aldrich reached out to the school district to find out how they could better serve the public school system and, through these discussions, developed a museum-partnership program.

The partnership program started with three towns, including Ridgefield, with the goal to develop programming collaboratively that would serve students in grades K-12. In 2015 The Aldrich focused on 8th graders at Scotts Ridge Middle School in Ridgefield as well as 6th and 7th-grade students in the other partner schools. After the first year of this format, the Aldrich decided that this was not sustainable and looked to scale back the program. The program developed into two separate models for 2016, with one school participating in a program that brought teaching artists from the current exhibition to the school to lead art-making workshops over the course of five days and the other school participating in a sister program that consisted of three days at the museum, which featured tours, discussions, and art-making activities. These programs did not serve the schools equally, so The Aldrich created a hybrid format that included an in-school artist residency, as well as time spent at the museum. This format change resulted in another pilot year with Scotts Ridge Middle School and expanded the following spring to serve 8th graders at East Ridge. Now, the program, entitled Common Ground, is an assured experience for 8th-grade students across both Ridgefield middle schools.

The program, Common Ground works directly with teachers in Math, Science, English, and Social Studies, to develop programming that aligns with the school's curriculum. Beyond these core subjects, the program also focuses on 21st Century Skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving, as well as open-ended questions to get students to think creatively.

As Common Ground became established at Scotts Ridge and East Ridge Middle Schools The Aldrich and the Ridgefield Public School district began discussing additional museum-school partnerships. Focusing this time on third graders in the Ridgefield Public School District, The Aldrich launched IDEA (Innovative Design Explorations in Art) in 2018, in collaboration with the district’s elementary art teachers. Like Common Ground, the program includes an in-school component along with a visit to The Aldrich.

Common Ground is funded through a cost-share with The Aldrich and the school district with Ridgefield covering about 40% of the expenses through a per-student fee. IDEA is currently funded by The Aldrich as well as generous funding from the Ridgefield Education Foundation and the Ridgefield Thrift Shop.

The Aldrich has also created a broader School Membership program that would give member schools unlimited museum visits, an in-school visit, educator museum membership, and teacher professional development.

Town Demographics:1
Population 24,638
93% white
Median income $151,399
Per Capita Income $78,363
2% below the poverty line

Aldrich Operating Budget:2

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum Mission:
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum advances creative thinking by connecting today’s artists with individuals and communities in unexpected and stimulating ways.

School Partnership Program Statement:
A nationally recognized initiative of The Aldrich, Common Ground, and IDEA are collaboratively developed programs between the Museum, exhibiting artists, and partnering schools. Artists, viewed by The Aldrich as inspirational creative thinkers with a noteworthy ability to see the world through broad-reaching and cross-disciplinary perspectives, work directly with students in a week-long classroom residency to explore ideas, work as a team to make art, and take ownership of their learning experiences.

These programs target the requirements of the Common Core State Standards and district goals. The Museum’s artists- and educators-in-residence also work with teachers, administrators, and Museum educators on innovative curriculum development and hands-on learning opportunities across subjects.


2014- Partner Development
2015 - 1st Common Ground with Scotts Ridge Middle School
2016 - 2nd Common Ground with Scotts Ridge Middle School and East Ridge Middle School
2017 - 3rd Common Ground with Scotts Ridge Middle School and East Ridge Middle School
2018 - 4th Common Ground with Scotts Ridge Middle School and East Ridge Middle School
1st Pilot Program for IDEA
2019 - 5th Common Ground with Scotts Ridge Middle School and East Ridge Middle School

Current Reach:

Common Ground - 427
Scotts Ridge Middle School
East Ridge Middle School

IDEA - 361
Barlow Mountain Elementary School
Branchville Elementary School
Farmingville Elementary School
Ridgebury Elementary School
Scotland Elementary School
Veterans Park Elementary School


Educational Methods:

  • Inquiry-based education
  • 21st Century Skills
  • Mirrors district’s mission - Vision of the Graduate 3
Vision of the Graduate

Graduates who are collaborative contribute cooperatively and responsibly to a team when they are looking for solutions to rigorous and complex problems.
Graduates who are innovative find creative solutions to authentic problems. They think flexibly and critically while gathering information to synthesize and apply what they have learned.
Graduates who are mindful embrace empathy and advocate respect for themselves and others. Through self-reflection and awareness, they understand diverse cultures and perspectives. They model the conviction that ethics, leadership, and service to others are critical elements of responsible citizenship.
Graduates who are communicative strategically navigate, construct, and articulate specific messages. They utilize their communication skills in an effective, clear and precise manner across multiple forms of media literacy.
Graduates who are knowledgeable are independent learners who draw upon a wide range of skills for different purposes. They seek, gather and critique information from a variety of sources.
Graduates who are resilient are adaptable and persistent in their journey toward growth on rigorous and complex problems. They embrace failure and are intellectual risk-takers. They are self-motivated, thoughtful and independent decision-makers who value lifelong learning.

Current Program Format:
In School Artist Residences
Museum Visits
Curriculum Guides for in-class connections

Grade Range:
8th Grade - Common Ground
3rd Grade - IDEA

Teacher Professional Development:
Workshops offered throughout the calendar year.

2018/2019 Workshops

Art, Empathy, Honesty, and Mindfulness Inquiry-Based Teaching
Art Across Disciplines at The Aldrich
Art, Empathy, And Honesty in The Classroom at The Aldrich
Creativity Under Constraints 

Measuring Success and Impact:
Students complete written evaluations at the beginning, middle, and end of the program asking them to self-assess their understanding of and comfort with collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Future Plans:
The official launch of the IDEA program during the 2019/2020 academic year as well as an expansion into the 5th grade.

Main Funding Sources:
Connecticut Office of the Arts
Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Leir Charitable Foundations
National Endowment for the Arts
Liz and Steven Goldstone
Anita and Nick Donofrio
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation
The Cowles Charitable Trust
The Gage Fund; Fairfield County Bank
The Wadsworth Lewis Trust
The Ruth Krauss Foundation

1 "United States Census Bureau," accessed April 22, 2019,
2 "GuideStar" accessed April 22, 2019,
3 "Ridgefield Public Schools" accessed April 22, 2019,