One of the most under-the-radar art collectors in Los Angeles also happens to be the second-largest school district in the country.
Now, a selection of 50 pieces from the collection of more than 50,000 pieces of art and artifacts that the Los Angeles Unified School District has quietly collected over the years is available to view online.
With the new website, Artscape, the district hopes to make the collection accessible to the public and turn it into a resource for teachers and students.
Over the years, alumni and donors have given thousands of artistic works to the school district. The pieces have been stored in a few schools and administrative buildings; many were locked away in vaults.
The online project is a partnership between LAUSD and the Arts Consortium, a nonprofit focused on integrating art into traditional school subjects. The site launched Monday and has two virtual exhibits – one with paintings from early California impressionists and another featuring ancient Greek artifacts and a metal relief sculpture by Salvador Dalí. Organizers hope to add new exhibits two to three times each year.
Daniel Zenka, executive director of the Arts Consortium, says the collection likely goes back to the 1920s or '30s when graduating and alumni classes would donate art. Some pieces in the collection come from individual donations, as well. Many donors have given art to the district for use as teaching material.
"So this is really a terrific way to put them to use, through the arts integration approach," said Zenka.
It’s partly a resource for teachers, complete with lesson plans.
"We want to make [lessons] easier for teachers to imagine," said Shifra Teitelbaum, a consultant with the project. "'I don’t have to be an art teacher, I don’t have to know how to paint, I just have to be willing to think in some different ways about engaging students in their thinking.'"
Teitelbaum developed a lesson plan for upper elementary students centered around ancient Greek artifacts in the collection.
Students can also submit their own artwork to the Artscape student gallery and will also have the chance to enter art-themed essay contests twice a year.
"The value of reaching students through the arts to develop critical thinking and real life skills is priceless," Rory Pullens, head of arts education for LAUSD, said in a statement. "We believe Artscape will be utilized by a broad base of our students and become a popular tool for teachers within LAUSD and across the country."
The site also showcases works of contemporary artists to expose students to the visions of those making a living in the field today. The first guest artist featured on the site is Nathan Sawaya, who is famous for building 3-D sculptures out of LEGOs.