ACCESS began September 1996. A luncheon meeting was initiated by AISD, Department of Curriculum with 20 personnel from Austin museums and cultural sites. Subsequent meetings followed at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum in January 1997 and at the Texas Governor’s Mansion in May. At the year-end meeting, attendees received first editions of A Directory of Austin Museum and Historic Sites and a newsletter. The first year of the collaborative ended with a half-day retreat during the summer of 1997 at which time ACCESS (Austin Collaborative of Cultural and Educational Sites and Schools) was created.
The 1997 to 1998 year signaled a time for growth for the collaborative. The organization met at the Texas State Capitol in October to approve the collaboration’s name, mission statement, and four committees: Communications, Meetings, Membership, and Programming. Meetings in January at the Wild Basin Preserve and May at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center presented members opportunities to: vote upon an organizational structure with the approval of the by-laws and receive a second edition of A Directory of Austin Museums and Historic Sites.
The primary activity of ACCESS for the 1998 to 1999 school year was to co-sponsor a two-day Smithsonian Regional Workshop at Stephen F. Austin High School attended by 200 school and museum/educational site personnel from throughout the state in January 1999. In May of 1999, the first ACCESS Summer Institute was held at UT’s Texas Memorial Museum. General meetings were held in September 1998 and in February 1999 at the Austin Nature and Science Center, and in May, at UT’s Center for American History. ACCESS also offered the first graduate student internship this year. The intern, Wendy Wolf, a UT art museum education master’s degree candidate, worked directly with the Smithsonian Regional Workshop and created A Cultural Mosaic: A Resource Directory for Austin Educators which was distributed to all ACCESS members in May.
The 1999 to 2000 school year format for meetings included: A Beginning of the School Year Meeting in September (at the Capitol Complex Visitors Center), a Mid-Year Meeting in January (at the Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farm) and an End of School Year Meeting in May (at Mendez Middle School). A special event in February was a joint meeting of the Austin Museum Partnership (AMP) and ACCESS to welcome the new AISD superintendent at the Lieutenant Governor’s Reception Room in the Texas State Capitol. The second ACCESS Summer Institute was held at UT, co-sponsored by the College of Education. A graduate student internship was offered for the second year to another UT art museum education master’s degree candidate. Amie King, our intern, created a ACCESS PowerPoint Program and a new museum and school membership directory for the Austin area.
The 2000 to 2001 school year was a period of restructuring. A new position was created to oversee the ACCESS Steering Committee. The September meeting was held at the German-Texas Heritage Society, The February dinner meeting was held at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the End of School meeting was held in April at O.Henry Middle School. A February Weekend Retreat at Winedale, near Round Top, Texas, provided rich opportunities for the Steering Committee to plan and set future goals for ACCESS. The third ACCESS Summer Institute, ACCESS to Learning, was jointly sponsored by: the UT’s College of Education, The Austin Nature and Science Center, The Blanton Museum of Art, and the Texas State History Museum. An AISD ACCESS Website was the yearlong project of the third ACCESS intern, Amy Robertson, UT Informal Science Education doctoral candidate.
The 2001 to 2002 school year began with a September meeting featuring a presentation by Yvonne Kolander, who worked to create the Spindletop curriculum through Region 5 for 7th grade Texas History. The meeting was held at O.Henry Middle School. The midyear barbecue lunch meeting was held at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, featuring singing cowboy, Freddie Fuller. The steering committee meeting retreat was held in February at Winedale, Round Top, Texas. The spring meeting was held at Small Middle School Library with displays of the projects created by AISD teachers who were part of the AISD/Smithsonian Institution Program. The fourth annual summer institute was held in June.
The 2002 to 2003 school year began in September and our first meeting was held at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum with an emphasis on interdisciplinary curriculum. Two local bamboo artists presented their works. Joe Ramirez, AISD social student curriculum specialist, made curricular connections between the works of art and social studies curriculum. The midyear meeting in January was held at the LBJ Library and Museum in conjunction with the USS Constitution Museum, “Old Ironsides” (Boston Massachusetts). The steering committee retreat was held at Bamburger Ranch, Johnson City, Texas. The spring meeting was held at the Austin Nature and Science Center, featuring the newly created Dino Pit. Dr. Ed Theriot, Director of UT’s Texas Memorial Museum, conducted a tour of this new facility. This spring ACCESS received two UT art museum education master’s degree candidates as interns, April Garner and Sharon Kaplan. April was in charge of the fifth annual summer institute and Sharon created a public relations brochure for the Susanna Dickinson House, a renovation project of the O.Henry Museum. An initiative begun this year was the “Talks Around Town”, a Speakers Series done in collaboration with the Austin Museum Partnership.
The 2003 to 2004 school year began with a September meeting at the Neill-Cochran House Museum featuring “An Evening with Granny Van” (re-enactor Donnie Rinn), grandmother of George Sessions Perry, and a Texas author. The midyear meeting was held at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in collaboration with the Friends of the O.Henry Museum. Student essay winners read their works and three Texas authors: James Haley, H.W. Brands, and Stephen Harrigan participated in a panel discussion moderated by Elizabeth Crook. A continuation of the Speakers Series included: Life in Argentina, Bamberger Ranch, New Deal Buildings in Zilker Park, ALCOA, and Art in Public Places. The steering committee retreat was held at Bamberger Ranch, Johnson City, Texas. The spring meeting was held at UT’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center featuring Steve Hardin, and historical advisor for the film “Alamo.” The sixth annual summer institute was entitled: East Meets West. This year the ACCESS membership has grown to over 60 individual and institutional members. A special event for ACCESS in January was to be invited to attend a White House ceremony to honor the USS Constitution Museum’s national award given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and presented by the first Lady, Laura Bush.
The 2004 to 2005 school year began with an announcement at the October meeting at the Bob Bullock State History Museum, by Amie King (who guided the entire process) that ACCESS to Learning is now ACCESS to Learning, Inc., a 501c (3), a nonprofit organization. The October meeting entitled, The Power of Objects, featured Dr. Paul Bolin, UT Professor of Visual Arts and Dan Johnson, Social Studies Teacher at Bedichek Middle School. The two educators spoke about theoretical and practical approaches to teaching about objects. For the next two years, AISD’s SHIPS (Scholars of History Integrating Primary Sources), designated as part of a National Education Grant, were members of ACCESS at a membership discount of $10. ACCESS member and AISD employee, Dr. Donna Vliet, attended an invitation only Institute of Museum and Library Services Conference in Washington DC, August 30th-31st. Lucy May, Cowan Elementary School Teacher, Lucile Harmon, Education Chair at the Neill-Cochran House Museum, presented the museum’s curriculum guide at the Texas Council for the Texas Social Studies Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas, October 1st-3rd. AISD has distributed 74 copies to all elementary school libraries. This year’s exhibit traveling through school libraries was: Voces Americas/American Voices: Celebration of Latino Literature. Our mid-year meeting was held at the Texas State Cemetery featuring Karen Riles, of the Austin History Center. Ms. Riles spoke about African American History in Central Texas. The steering committee retreat was held at The Crossings, Volente, Texas in February. The 3-Day Summer Institute was entitled: Print Over Time. Our sixth intern, Christina White, a UT Master’s Degree Candidate in Special Education. Christina worked n a special needs project for the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum as well as assisting ACCESS with a concept paper for funding purposes. Christina will be a doctoral candidate at Harvard’s School of Education, beginning the fall of 2005.
The 2005 to 2006 school year began with a meeting held in October at UT’s Performing Arts Center for a performance of Ben Franklin Unplugged. AISD’s SHIPS (Scholars of History Integrating Primary Sources) teachers were the primary audience. A question and answer session/reception was held after the performance with the actor performing Ben Franklin. In November ACCESS sponsored a visit to UT’s Harry Ransom Center for the Ansel Adams Exhibition for the Texas Art Education Association. In January a Museum Roundtable was held at Region 13 focusing on information brought by museums to share with teachers. The February Retreat was held at the Crossings, Volente, Texas. Alan Towler, AISD Grants Specialist, spoke about creating concept papers as preparation to seek funding. With laptop computers, we spent the day creating concept papers. In April, at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower National Research Center, we announced our first ACCESS to Learning, Inc. Board Members: Lynn Bell, Don Cook, Guadalupe Gomez, Amjad Khan, Dr. Rosemary Morrrow, and Dr. Donna Vliet. Our 3-Day Summer Retreat: Austin: Wild, Weird and Wired, was located at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center with various visits to Austin sites and presentations at the Center.
The 2006 to 2007 school year began with an announcement by the chair that had we had been accepted as part of the 3-Year Marcus Digital Education Project for Texas Art Museums. ACCESS received a Dell Computer to create projects through training provided by The New Media Consortium. We created a project entitled: Learning in a Museum. Our annual membership program in January was held in collaboration with the Friends of the O.Henry Museum, Inc. and the Dickinson Museum at the Texas State Capitol Visitors Center. Kyle Schlafer, presented information about O.Henry’s Short Stories and Lucretia Connell Coke, pastel artist, discuss The Art of Frank Reaugh. The traveling exhibits: Mexico: Splendors of 30 Centuries and Way Things Were: Texas Architecture, traveled through school libraries from February through April. Prior to the taveling of the exhibits, Dr. Paul Bolin presented information about the exhibits at Arthouse at Jones Center, for teachers who planned to have exhibits at their schools. A Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Grant was received to cover the cost of the presenter and the exhibit rental. The summer institute, Out There, was held in June at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. The two presenters were: Lynne Adelle, discussing self-taught artists, and Michael Garcia, found object sculpture. A Texas Commission for the Arts Grant provided funding for one of the presenters. This year ACCESS paid a web designer to improve and update the ACCESS website. Five newsletters, beginning January 2007, were e-mailed to members and put on the website this year.
The 2007 to 2008 Board and Steering Committee Meetings were held at the UT Center for American History and the Austin History Center. The first meeting of the year was held in November at UT’s Texas Memorial Museum. Austin Energy and The Texas Solar Energy Society presented, focusing on Renewable Energy Resources. Austin Independent School District provided lesson plans for teachers. The Traveling Exhibits Program, funded in part by Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, began with a workshop in January with Dr. Paul Bolin, Professor of Visual Arts at UT, discussing ways to use the exhibits in the classroom. This year the exhibits traveling through school libraries were: Life on the Nile and Africa in the America. Dr. Bolin’s workshop was held at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. The last event of the year was a collaborative summer institute/mini-conference with the Texas Art Education Association, held on Sunday afternoon, June 8th at UT’s Blanton Museum of Art and the Mexico-Arte Museum, in downtown Austin. Monday, June 9th there were all-day workshops at UT’s Art Department. Three newsletters were e-mailed to members this year. Continuous updates were made to the ACCESS website.
2008 to 2009 focused on three curriculum areas: Science, Social Studies, and Cultural Arts. In both the fall the spring, high school students at Austin Independent School District’s LBJ Science and Liberal Arts Academy and San Juan Diego Catholic School in South Austin, received two classroom solar energy lessons, presented by Dr. Gary Vliet, Professor Emeritus, UT Austin, Mechanical Engineering Department. Following the lessons, students created solar cars (from kits funded by the Texas Solar Energy Society) and raced them on the school’s tennis court and parking lot. In the spring, the Traveling Exhibits Program funded in part by Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Austin Independent School District’s Social Studies Department, provided two exhibits to travel through schools: The Bill of Rights and The U.S. Constitution. Professional development for teachers was provided by Jim Furgeson, McCallum High School award-winning social studies teacher. This training was held at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. In June, a two-day cultural institute, including tours and a workshop, was held at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. The institute proved an excellent training opportunity for museum and school educators to collaborate to create lessons plans, which will be put on the ACCESS to Learning, Inc. website under Museum/Educational Resources. The institute was funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts and Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
2009 to 2010 continued the emphasis on the curriculum areas: Science, Social Studies, and Cultural Arts. This year we met for our Annual Meeting at the Neill-Cochran House Museum in February to approve our revised bylaws at which time our Steering Committee became Board Members. To impact the Science curriculum, Dr. Gary Vliet presented solar energy classes. Afterwards, students built solar cars and raced them at Maplewood and Gullett Elementary Schools, as well as at the San Juan Diego Catholic Preparatory School High School. A continuation of the Social Studies curriculum area was focused on through the Traveling Exhibits Program. This year’s exhibits were: Invasion Yanqui: The US-Mexican American War, 1846-1848 and Neches Journey’s Land, River, and People. Our summer institute entitled, To Tell The Truth…! The Art of the Story and the Photograph, took us to The University of Texas at Austin Briscoe Center for American History, The LBJ Library and Museum, KEYE Television Station, and the Austin Museum of Art. ACCESS to Learning was supported in part this year by: Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, AISD, the Texas Solar Energy Society, and our membership.
2010 to 2011 began by combining the Board and Steering Committee. The Traveling Exhibits Program provided the following exhibits: Citizens at last: The Woman’s Suffrage Movement in Texas and The Dust Bowl. AISD Middle and High Schools displayed the exhibits in their libraries. The Solar Energy Program provided students an opportunity to make and run solar cars. Three AISD elementary schools (Gullett, Brentwood, and Brykerwoods) and one private high school in South Austin participated in the program this year. The 2011 Cultural Institute theme was Glass as an Art Medium and was held at a glass art studio where participants made glass objects, and later toured a glass store, to learn about various glass making techniques. The annual meeting was held and cosponsored by Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, featuring Ms. Lucinda Robb, presenting Teaching on Video: How to Speak to an Audience You Can’t See.
2011 to 2012 began at a board meeting at the Texas General Land Office. Buck Cole organized the Traveling Exhibits Program and chose "Rural Texas Women at Work, 1930-1960" and "The Bill of Rights" from the exhibits received through a mini-grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Gary Vliet received funding again this year from the Texas Solar Energy Society to provide solar car making and racing to 200 elementary students. Barbara Keese planned a visit to the newly opened La Grange Quilt Museum, including a presentation by former Kealing Magnet School English teacher, Mary Lee Whipple, to discuss the history of quilting. Lynn Bell, Christiana Hanson, Lucy May, and Dr. Rosemary Morrow collaborated with the Bob Bullock State History Museum for our annual meeting at the museum, with speaker Joan Marshall, Director, presenting: "Reinforcing the Museum's Leadership Role in Education."
In 2012-2013, our 4 Board Meetings were held at the Bob Bullock State History Museum. Martha George Withers, Chair of Traveling Exhibits, wrote and received a mini-grant from Humanities Texas, the State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, for distribution of 2 exhibits: Vaquero and Citizens at Last: The Women's Suffrage Movement in Texas. Dr. Gary Vliet developed a number of kits of 'model solar cars' for use in schools. His completed kits have been distributed to the Houston Renewable Energy Group, North Texas Renewable Energy Group, Baylor University, and one to Austin. Solar lessons were taught to two 4th grade classes at The University of Texas, Longhorn Elementary School. Our Cultural Event this year took place at Women and Their Work Gallery, for the opening reception of "Look to the Left" by Artist, Wendy Wolf. The Annual Meeting was held at The University of Texas, Blanton Museum of Art and Ray Williams, Director of Education and Academic Affairs made a presentation. In March, ACCESS participated in the Amplify Austin Fundraiser (which doubled our budget), attended SXSWedu, and last, was invited to attend a May meeting announcing the City of Austin becoming a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. This year, Dr. Beth Johnson, EMJ Associates, conducted a professional survey of ACCESS.
In 2013-2014 our four Board Meetings continued to be conducted at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The highlight of this year was a film of the history of ACCESS to Learning, Inc. from 1996 to 2014 produced by Hector Galan, documentary film producer. Three schools participated in the Traveling Exhibits Program: The University of Texas (UT) Elementary School ("Citizens at Last" and "Alamo Images") and St. Gabriel's Catholic School ("Song of Glory"). The exhibits were produced by Humanities Texas, The State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Humanities Texas also provided a grant, which enabled ACCESS to Learning, Inc. to share these exhibits with the schools. The "Citizens at Last" Exhibit was followed up by a 5th grade class visit to the Elisabet Ney Museum. The Solar Energy Program, with visits to the UT and Ridgetop Elementary School classrooms, showed 86 fourth graders how to make and run a car using solar energy. The Cultural Arts Program collaborated this year with the Austin Independent School District Visual Arts Department and the Bullock Texas State History Museum to create a professional development workshop for teachers. After viewing the Bullock Museum exhibit "Extreme Mammals," the teachers produced many creative artworks, which were generated from the exhibit. In our second year as part of Amplify Austin, we were pleased to receive $1,130.00 from many very generous donors. A board retreat was held in April, in which committees were initiated to further the growth of ACCESS to Learning, Inc.
In 2014-2015 our four Board Meetings continued to be conducted at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Seven schools participated in our Traveleing Exhibits Programs: Lanier High School, Goryzchi Middle School, Lamar Middle School, Small Middle School, St. Andrews Episcopal Middle School, Walnut Creek Elementary, and UT Elementary. A grant was received from Humanities Texas (The State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities) for the following exhibits: The Dust Bowl, Alamo Images: Changing Perceptions of a Texas Experience, The Blessings of Liberty: The U.S. Constitution, Fact, Fiction and the New World: The Role of Books in the Making of America, Shakespeare, Voces Americanos: Latino Literature in the United States, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, and Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy. Fourth graders and fifth graders particpated in the Solar Energy Program from Williams and Cook Elementary Schools, for a total of 180 students. The Professional Development Program, Seals, Signets, and Symbols: The Art of La Belle, was provided for 18 AISD art teachers by the Bullock Texas State History Museum and ACCESS to Learning, Inc. The annual Program in March, Innovative K-12 Programming from the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), offered another professional development opportunity for the 37 attendees. This collaborative program included the Bullock Texas State History Museum, MHS, and ACCESS to Learning, Inc. Our third year to fundraise through Amplify Austin raised over $1,000.
In 2015-2016 ACCESS continued to have four board meetings held at the Bullock State History Museum. Three exhibits were provided to Austin-area schools through a generous grant from Humanities Texas (the State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities): "Rural Texas Women at Work, 1930-1960", "Vaqueros", and "Dust Bowl." Dawson Elementary School fifth graders received solar classroom lessons at their February Science Fair, and in May, Casis Elementary School fifth graders also learned about solar energy by making a solar car and racing outside in teams! The Annual ACCESS Program this year was held at the George Washington Carver Museum and Genealogy Center. Author Cynthia Levinson, presented her recent book, "We've Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March" and a tour was conducted of the Carver's newly created sculptures. ACCESS memberships, contributions through Amplify Austin, anonymous donors, and our sponsors have all contributed to continuing our efforts to collaborate with schools and museum/cultural and educational sites for our: Field Trip Scholarship Program, Annual Program, Traveling Exhibits Program, and Solar Energy Program. Because of the support, this year is the first year in which ACCESS has offered FIVE $200 FIELD TRIP SCHOLARSHIPS! Teachers took their students to the following museum/cultural and educational sites: The Alamo, Bullock Texas State History Museum, George Washington Carver Museum, Natural Bridge Caverns, and The Thinkery.