The Indianapolis Museum of Art says it will offer what it calls the first encyclopedic art museum preschool in the country. The 180-day program, which launches in August, will be operated through a partnership with St. Mary's Child Center.

April 28, 2015

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. — Through a partnership with St. Mary's Child Center, the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) will expand its academic programming by offering a preschool for 3-to 5-year-olds. The program will be the first encyclopedic art museum preschool in the country. It is also the first museum preschool with a goal of supporting half of the students with full scholarships subsidized through grants and/or voucher support. The IMA is currently seeking philanthropic support to reach the goal of 8 scholarships in the first year.

St. Mary’s Child Center, well known for providing the highest quality early childhood education available in our community, will provide program oversight and administration, teaching staff, and a curriculum following the Reggio Emilia approach, which uses art-focused experiences and emphasizes collaboration, critical learning, expression, and immersive experiences.

As the host institution, the IMA will offer classroom space and access to the entire campus, including the Museum and its vast collections; featured exhibitions; The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres; historic buildings, such as the Lilly House and Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse; and the gardens, along with assisting with fundraising efforts. The IMA will also provide free memberships to students and their families for one year, allowing them to extend their educational experience outside of classroom hours.

“This partnership stems from the IMA's mission to provide exceptional experiences through engagement with art and nature to enrich lives,” said Dr. Charles L. Venable, the IMA's Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO. “We're excited to offer a unique educational opportunity for neighborhood families, and to utilize our 152-acre campus as a classroom for discovery, innovation, learning and play.”

Connie Sherman, St. Mary's Child Center's executive director, stated, “St. Mary's Child Center is delighted to partner with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It is so important that children have the experiences made possible by the IMA because the arts are a symbolic language that allows the child to express his/her understandings. The IMA's gift of memberships and access to the grounds and buildings of the IMA engages the whole family!”

Facts about the new program:

–The program launches Aug. 3 and will follow the same schedule as Indianapolis Public Schools

–The 180-day program will operate five days a week from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m.

–There will be room for 16 students in the pilot program for the 2015-2016 school year

–Yearly tuition is $5,170 per student

–Three teachers provide a student to adult ratio of 6-to-1

–The IMA location is St. Mary's fourth location and 10th classroom. Other classrooms are located at the Thompson Building, Gilliatte Building, and the IPS/Butler Lab School at IPS School 60.

–To be eligible for this program, children must be 3 before Aug. 3, 2015 or turn 5 after Aug. 1, 2015.

The new preschool is a welcome addition to many other school-age group experiences at the IMA, including: Viewfinders, a school program that offers teachers training and support in using Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) in their classrooms; IMA: After School, an on-site after-school program that provides interdisciplinary experiences for students grades K-12 that develop their creative problem solving skills and help encourage expression through visual art; and Toddler Art Group, a program with partnering preschools in which youth ages 3 to 5 visit the Museum monthly to explore art through storytelling, dramatic play, music, art making, and art hunts in the galleries. Toddler Art Group is supported by a grant from the PNC Foundation.

“We are extremely excited to be partnering with St. Mary's Child Center to offer a preschool at the IMA starting this fall,” said Heidi Davis-Soylu, manager of academic engagement and learning research at the IMA. “The embedded nature of the preschool classroom within the Museum will offer a unique opportunity for 16 early learners to experience the largest visual arts institution in the state as their classroom. This program is a great way for the IMA to build our in-depth programming where we can reach students on a really significant level.”

Learn more about the new preschool initiative by contacting Heidi Davis-Soylu at More information about St. Mary's Child Center is available at

About St. Mary's Child Center

St. Mary's Child Center, founded in 1961, is a not-for-profit agency that offers two early childhood initiatives to positively impact the futures of young children: The Preschool Program and the Educational Outreach Program. Funding for the program is received from United Way, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, donations from individuals, corporate and endowment/foundation grants, program fees and special events. All revenue directly supports the children in the Preschool Program and the efforts of the Educational Outreach Program.

About the Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) is located on a 152-acre campus of lush gardens, historic homes, outdoor sculptures, inspiring performance and gallery spaces. Founded in 1883, the IMA is among the 10 oldest and 10 largest encyclopedic art museums in the United States and features significant collections of African, American, Asian, European, contemporary art and design arts that spans 5,000 years of history. With innovative programming to engage guests of all ages, the IMA offers a variety of interactive experiences inside the galleries, throughout the campus and within the local community. From gardening demos in the Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse to outdoor film screenings in the IMA Amphitheater to community celebrations in The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, guests are invited to engage with art and nature in exciting new ways at the IMA. Along with the Indianapolis campus, the IMA also owns Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Ind., one of the nation's most highly regarded examples of mid-century Modernist residences. For more information visit

Source: Indianapolis Museum of Art

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