Step Into Art, Inc. was founded in January of 2005 by Abby Rischin, a Yale Ph.D. and an award-winning teacher. Abby continues to lead the organization, designing and teaching Step Into Art programs in collaboration with a talented team of educators. Since 2005, Step Into Art programs have reached over 5,000 children.
The Step Into Art mission is to provide dynamic, content-rich art education programs that actively engage children with great works of art from Boston-area museums. Each Step Into Art program takes place in partnership with a Boston school. Combining art-viewing, art-making, and imaginative writing, our multidimensional programs offer students diverse entry points for learning and self-expression as well as inspiration for future paths.
Beginning in Newton
The concept for Step Into Art emerged from a two-part program featuring art from the MFA, Boston (including a classroom “pre-visit” workshop and a subsequent museum visit) that Abby designed and piloted at the John Ward Elementary School in Newton in 2003 and 2004. In February of 2005, Abby launched the first Step Into Art public programs in partnership with the Newton Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs.
Step Into Art programming in Newton quickly took hold. From 2005-2010, our school vacation and weekend enrichment programs introduced hundreds of elementary school children to art from the MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as well as the Fogg Museum and the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard. During the organization’s first several years, Step Into Art also offered programs with a range of other community partners, including the Harvard Business School Alumni Association and the Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester.
School Partnerships in Boston
Gradually introducing Step Into Art programs into Boston schools, Abby and her teaching team established a sixth-grade partnership program with Epiphany School in 2007 and with Mother Caroline Academy in 2008, both tuition-free schools in Dorchester for economically disadvantaged Boston children. With learning focused on portraits from the Harvard Art Museums, we expanded our program scope by initiating a collaboration between Step Into Art educators and each school’s art and English teachers. To our foundational art-viewing experiences in the classroom and museum settings, we added a long-term, individualized studio art project led by each school’s art teacher. We subsequently added a creative writing component led by novelist Vineeta Vijayaraghavan and carried forward by each school’s English teachers. These programs culminate in exhibitions of student artwork and writing at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard’s Center for Government and International Studies.
In 2009, Step Into Art programs expanded to the Boston Public Schools as well. We developed a third-grade partnership program with the Murphy School in Dorchester, collaborating with award-winning Boston Public Schools teacher Caitlin Hollister. Building on one of our two-part Newton programs featuring art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (and including drama activities, music, and self-portrait-making), we added a poetry-writing curriculum focused on describing art using figurative language and multiple senses. Over the years, we have replicated this program at seven other Boston Public Schools: the Mason Pilot Elementary School in Roxbury, the Dever-McCormack K-8 School in Dorchester, the Guild Elementary School in East Boston, the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain, the Warren-Prescott K-8 School in Charlestown, the Haley Pilot School in Roslindale, and the Lee Academy Pilot School in Dorchester. Each program concludes with a joyful celebration of student artwork and poetry.
Since 2010, Step Into Art has made school partnership programs in Boston the organization’s singular focus, and our programs have become a tradition in schools all across the city. We currently partner with eight schools, concentrating our efforts on programs for children in grades three and six.
Building a Team
Building a team of educators to help develop and deliver Step Into Art programs, Abby drew on the talents of student interns from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Many of these young educators not only served as enthusiastic Step Into Art teachers but also made a deep and lasting impact on the organization. Anne Kindseth, who interned with Step Into Art from 2006-2007, made innovative and enduring contributions to curriculum development. Libby Pokel created a Step Into Art family podcast on the theme of the artist’s studio. Susan Foster Jones, an outstanding teacher who first joined Step Into Art as an intern from 2007-2008, went on to play a vital role in the organization from that time forward, and became Step Into Art senior educator in 2014.
Others have contributed their special talents to help expand Step Into Art programs as well. Acclaimed novelist Vineeta Vijayaraghavanjoined the Step Into Art teaching team in 2007, adding a new writing dimension to our sixth-grade programs. Artist-educator Lindsey Kocur became part of our team in 2013, enabling us to pursue the continuing expansion of our third-grade programs to reach many more children all over Boston.