CMA Stories

CIVICKIDS with the Knoxville Museum of Art’s Community Schools Program

Colleen Thornbrugh is a teaching artist for the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA)’s community schools outreach program. In Knoxville, many area schools make use of school buildings after hours to provide services, training, and resources to families in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Teaching artists from KMA, like Colleen, travel to these community schools to share art-making opportunities with children in these communities. Over the past few months Colleen and other KMA teaching artists have been using CMA’s CIVICKIDS projects as a part of their regular lessons. “It’s so great to incorporate these CIVICKIDS projects as a part of what we do in these schools,” says Colleen. “Our goal is always to create hands-on art activities that serve multiple purposes. One purpose is simply to engage in making art, and that’s easy. But another purpose is to use art-making as a way to help our students explore who they are, and what their role is in their neighborhood and community. The CIVICKIDS lessons are really helping us achieve that goal.” 

In October at Pond Gap Elementary School Colleen partnered with the Pond Gap Community Garden for the Unusual Upcycled Planters project. Students in the after-school program at Pond Gap created planters using recycled produce containers. After creating the planters, students learned how to plant seeds from Community Garden Educator Andrew Linville. “Some of the kids were legitimately surprised they could grow plants at home. Most of them had learned about growing food in the Community Garden, but did not realize they could replicate the process at home,” says Colleen. “Andrew did an awesome job helping the kids plant seeds in their new planters, and the project was a great opportunity for us to partner with the Community Garden at Pond Gap.” 

November’s CIVICKIDS project the Drawing Game was implemented at several community schools, and Colleen found that many students struggled with the concept at first. “One of the schools I visit is Beaumont Magnet Academy, which is an arts magnet school. The students there are doing art all the time, but the idea of making room for someone else to add to their own drawing really threw them off,” says Colleen. “For that reason, it was an awesome exercise. Initially the kids were concerned that the drawings wouldn’t turn out the way they wanted. After playing the game one time, those concerns totally melted away. They asked to play over and over again, and I think they were genuinely delighted every time they got their drawings back and saw what the other students had added. We had a lot of fun with The Drawing Game project.”  

“Everybody at the Knoxville Museum of Art is so glad to be a part of CMA’s CIVICKIDS movement, and can’t wait to see what is next! Thanks to CMA for putting this together. It’s great to be a part of a community that is excited about kids making art!” 

The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, presents new art and new ideas, educates and serves a diverse community, enhances Knoxville’s quality of life, and operates ethically, responsibly, and transparently as a public trust. Learn more at

This program is supported, in part, by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. CIVICKIDS is sponsored by Google.



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