Kidspace @ MASS MoCA

  • Image from an exhibition at Kidspace


Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA)
North Adams, MA

Kidspace originally began in 2000 as a collaboration between three museums - the Williams College Museum of Art, The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, and the newly founded MASS MoCA - but has been managed exclusively by MASS MoCA since 2012.

For Kidspace's pilot school partnership program, the museum partnered with North Adams' Brayton Elementary School in 2000, to which they offered fully subsidized educational programming for students and teachers. Educators were provided ongoing learning opportunities at semiannual workshops, and students participated in an in-school artist-in-residence program, regular Art Assembly performances, and educational activities associated with the annual Kidspace exhibitions.


Art Assemblies take place 2-3 times a year and are held during the school day at MASS MoCA. They offer students the opportunity to experience performing artists in MASS MoCA’s professional theatre spaces. These performances include live theatre, dance, and music and are geared toward elementary school-age audiences. The Kidspace exhibition, also held at the museum feature artworks that intend to prompt discussion and create a foundation for the year’s curriculum. These are both essential components of MASS MoCA’s museum-school partnership program, which has expanded to work with ten area schools.
In 2012 MASS MoCA created a dedicated education department that included Kidspace this restructuring dissolved the formal partnership with the Williams College Museum of Art and The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute. The education department now oversees all the educational components of the museum including public and private tours, adult programming and curriculum development for exhibitions throughout the museum as well as Kidspace and their school partnership programs. Kidspace uses ArtInSight as its primary pedagogical method. ArtinSight was created by Kidspace in 2011 and is a three-pronged constructivist education model for museum teaching, using the following components.

    1. Conversational tours
    2. Mindfulness-based insight activities
    3. Art-making exercises that help viewers develop critical and visual thinking skills and apply them to both arts-based experiences and to everyday life.

ArtinSight is derived from John Dewey's educational philosophy, laid out in his book Art as Experience (1934):

For to perceive, a beholder must create his own experience ... The artist selected, simplified, clarified, abridged, and condensed according to his interest. The beholder must go through these operations according to his own point of view and interests.

By implementing insight activities into their practice Kidspace can provide students with a deeper, slower and more acute experience with art.1 Activities such as guided visualizations and slow walking tours have been implemented into all of their school programs.

In addition to their long-established partnerships with local elementary schools, MASS MoCA has started an in-depth program with area 7th and 8th graders that explores social issues through the arts. This program, Curating a Culture of Respect, is a collaboration with The Clark Art Institute and Williams College Museum of Art, bringing back together the original founders of Kidspace. MASS MoCA has also organized a 4-year exhibition series called Art 4 Change, which highlights positive habits of mind: empathy, optimism, and courage.2 Each exhibition in the first three years of the series focused on one of these habits; the final year addresses all three habits in an exhibition that utilizes all five senses.

Town Demographics: 3
Population 13,708
92% white
Median income $38,774
Per Capita Income $24,342
18% below the poverty line

MASS MoCA Operating Budget: 4

MASS MoCA Mission Statement:
Through innovative collaborations, MASS MoCA helps artists and their supporters create and show important new work, bringing to our visitors bold visual and performing art in all stages of production, while also creating a stimulating center of creativity and commerce that brings life and economic vibrancy to its hometown.

Kidspace Mission Statement:
Kidspace at MASS MoCA is a child-centered art gallery and hands-on studio that uses art as a vehicle for discussing contemporary social issues and is organized in collaboration with leading artists.

School Partnership Program Statement
The Kidspace school program reaches every teacher and student in the North Adams Public Schools and the North Berkshire School Union through artist residencies, curriculum-based gallery visits, and hands-on workshops. By the time they reach high school, these students have had more than a dozen high-quality, deep, and extended engagement with new art and professional artists.

2000 - Kidspace opens - The first school partnership program is established
2009 - Moved to a larger location within the MASS MoCA Complex - Received the Distinguished Community Arts Collaborative Award
2011 - Implemented ArtinSight pedagogy method
2012 - MASS MoCA established a formal education department
2015 - Started Art 4 Change, a three exhibition program
2020 - 20th Anniversary Celebration

Current Reach:
10 Elementary Schools

Partner Schools - Full partnerships with an in-school residency for 4th graders, 2 museum visits with art-making activities, and three Art Assembly performances.

Brayton Elementary: North Adams, MA
Greylock Elementary: North Adams, MA
Colegrove Park Elementary: North Adams, MA|
Abbott Memorial School: Florida, MA
Emma L. Miller Elementary School: Savoy, MA
Clarksburg Elementary School: Clarksburg, MA

Associate Schools - One museum visit and one Art Assembly performance

Hoosac Valley Elementary School: Adams, MA
Robert T. Capeless Elementary School: Pittsfield, MA
Silvio O. Conte Community School: Pittsfield, MA
Morningside Community School: Pittsfield, MA

Educational Methods
ArtInSight is a three-pronged constructivist education model for use by museums.

"This approach broadens viewers' capacity for sustained observation, particularly with art that is technically or emotionally complex. These techniques nurture a mental space for students to absorb, engage with, and react to the messages of the art and context in which they are viewing it."5

Current Program Format:

  • Artist in Residence with 4th graders
  • Gallery Visits
  • Art-Making Activities
  • Art Assembly
  • Curriculum Guides for in-class connections

Grade Range:
PK - 8th

Teacher Professional Development:
Professional Development is done in collaboration with other educational institutions such as Art21 and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

An Art Teacher Consortium has recently been established to collaborate on planning strategies for the next five years.

Measuring Success and Impact:
Art 4 Change has a four-year evaluative process that looks for evidence of - 

  1. Confidence in habits of mind
  2. Openness to engage in the problem-solving process
  3. Application of problem-solving specifically to social issues using the arts

Evaluation methods include rubrics, video-documented observations, journal activities, and focus groups.

Future Plans:

  • Upcoming Exhibition Still I Rise
  • Establishing a new program Health and Art, a partnership with the Department of Children and Families (DCF)
  • Studying potential High School partnership. 

Main Funding Sources:
Institute of Museum and Library Services
National Endowment for the Arts
Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundation in memory of Sandy and Lynn Laitman
Amelia Peabody Foundation
Feigenbaum Foundation
Massachusetts Cultural Council
Berkshire Bank Foundation - Legacy Region
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

1 Laura Dickstein Thompson and Amanda Tobin, "ArtInSight: A Contemplative Approach to Museum Gallery Teaching and Learning,"  Journal of Museum Education 43 (4): 334“41. (2018):
2 Laura Dickstein Thompson, "Four-Year Kidspace Exhibition and Evaluation Proposal 2015-2019," 2017
3 "United States Census Bureau," accessed April 22, 2019,
4 "GuideStar," accessed April 22, 2019,
5 Thompson, "ArtInSight: A Contemplative Approach to Museum Gallery Teaching and Learning."