If you visit the de Young and Legion of Honor this summer, you may be surprised see troupes of young children following teenagers around the galleries. Don’t be alarmed by these lively tours– they are being led by the extremely capable Museum Ambassadors!
The Museum Ambassador Program has been a dynamic fixture in the Fine Arts Museums’ Education department since the program’s founding in 1982. For the past thirty years, we have been employing San Francisco public high school students and training them to become cultural ambassadors to their communities. Led by college-aged interns, the Ambassadors participate in extensive training that prepares them to be art educators. The program was designed with the understanding that high school students have the unique ability to excite, inspire and connect with younger students. Not to mention, in the eyes of the younger students, high schoolers are the pinnacle of cool, which makes the art cool, too! The Ambassadors inject a fresh and lively flavor into both the classroom and the museums.
When they first enter the program, most of the soon-to-be ambassadors have little to no knowledge of art history or studio art, and many of them have never visited the museums. They come from diverse backgrounds with varying levels of work experience and for many, being a Museum Ambassador is their first paid job. As employers, teachers, and mentors, we recognize this unique opportunity to introduce them to important job skills like punctuality, respect, teamwork, and confidence. This training provides them with valuable skillsets necessary to their success both inside and outside the museum setting.
Our program begins with a classroom presentation and activity led by the Ambassadors. Small group activities increase Ambassador-student interaction and encourage learning and creativity through art-making.
The younger students enjoy the opportunity to learn from their high school–aged teachers and in turn, the Ambassadors develop strong public speaking skills and take on leadership roles. Ambassadors conclude each classroom visit with a reflection and evaluation of both individual and team performance.
A week after the classroom visit, the Ambassadors reunite with their students at the museum where together, they tour a specific part of the permanent collection or a special exhibition. The interactive spirit introduced in the classroom carries through to the tour. In the museum, the students are encouraged by the Ambassadors to look closely at art and respond to series of questions, requiring active participation and engagement with works of art.
The Ambassadors then facilitate conversations among the students wherein they explore their perceptions and reactions to different pieces, all the while drawing connections to the information and skills introduced in the classroom activity. These activities inspire creative investigation and confidence in the students as well as critical thinking based on observing, questioning, thinking about, and talking about what they see in the museum.
We Are the Museum Ambassadors
Stay tuned next week when we tag along to experience a day in the life of the Museum Ambassadors!