Thousands of Baltimore elementary school students at 100 schools will get a special introduction to art under a $400,000 National Endowment for the Arts matching grant to the Baltimore Museum of Art.
The four-year grant will form the cornerstone of an expanded $1.6 million program called "Close Encounters" that links the appreciation of art with such academic subjects as social studies, history, math and science.
A pilot program has been in place since 1984, involving seven to 10 fourth-grade classes each year, according to Schroeder Cherry, director of education and community with the Baltimore Museum of Art.
The grant will expand that program to 100 classes in the 1991-92 school year and help pay for visual materials for the classroom, teacher training and transportation for trips to the Baltimore museum.
The more-than 3,400 students who will participate in the program -- half of the city's fourth grade enrollment -- will receive an introductory classroom session, four visits to the museum and a final slide presentation in their classroom.
Teachers from various disciplines will be paired with art teachers to help explore the significance of objects in the museum's collection and relate them to classroom subjects.
For example, a social studies teacher might be teaching a unit about African culture. Students could examine the masks contained in the museum's African collection, studying their design structure as well as the role they play in a particular culture.
In addition, the the chemistry of art materials could be linked with science, and the proportions used in furniture pieces could illustrate mathematical principles, said Cherry.
The idea is to make students more aware of the significance of art to everyday life, he said.
"Art is not just a fluff component," said Cherry.
In addition, students in the program will receive membership badges that will let each student bring an adult to the museum free of charge for a year.
The four-year NEA grant will require the museum to raise $1.2 million in matching funds. The grant is part of a $15.6 million NEA challenge-grant program.