May 3, 2019
MCLA BRAINworks (Berkshire Regional Arts Integration Network) interns, from left to right: Bailey Brissett '19; Kelsey Sherman '20; and Gillian Fournier '20. Over the past year, they've played key roles in all aspects of BRAINworks and its development.
What’s behind the development and coordination of BRAINworks, MCLA’s federally funded grant program connecting Berkshire County educators to opportunities to integrate the arts into their curriculum? Dedicated staffers—and MCLA interns who have served multiple semesters in order to launch the program.
Two of those interns, Gillian Fournier ’20 of Amesbury, Mass., and Bailey Brissett ’19 of North Canaan, Conn., have both put in a full year interning with BRAINworks, doing design and content development, respectively.
“Bailey and Gillian have been instrumental in seeing this project through in its entirety, right from its inception to what it is now growing into today,” says Dana Schildkraut, BRAINworks content coordinator and STEAM educator. (MCLA Arts Management Professor Lisa Donovan and North Adams Public Schools Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Kim Roberts-Morandi co-direct the program.)
“They have played a key role in all aspects of the grant, from the more banal tasks to complex problem-solving activities, where their skills and talents really shine. I am grateful that they've been patient with the process to help the project grow, through thick and thin.” Schildkraut said.
As they work together, attending regular meetings, creating design elements and managing web copy (among other tasks), Fournier and Brissett are naturally learning more about arts and culture in the Berkshires, and how local teachers can capitalize on opportunities to meld existing work with their own lesson plans. This year, a new cohort of area teachers will come together for the BRAINworks Summer Institute, which will offer five days of professional development opportunities, including guidance in creating their own arts integrated lesson plan.
“That teachers in Berkshire County are actively working on their own time, on the weekends, to integrate math and science with the arts, is so amazing to me,” says Brissett, who discovered a love of writing and website content strategy though working on the project.
“Coming to the Berkshires, I realized what a special place it is for the arts, and for cultural organizations. To have that at my fingertips is great. Seeing this in practice, I realized arts education doesn’t have to just be arts education. It can be research and content development for a website. I learned that I really wanted to be a part of that,” she said.
Fournier’s view of arts education has also evolved as she’s learned more by working with various arts educators. “Being able to work on this program and being able to work with arts educators from so many backgrounds has set me on a career path I wasn’t expecting,” she said.
At first, the art and arts management major wasn’t particularly interested in arts education because she didn’t want to work in a school setting—but meeting with professional artists working on educational programming at Berkshire institutions like the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge helped her realize that arts education is a broad field. “That was really powerful for me,” she said.
While BRAINworks is mostly focused on arts integration for local schools, the staff and interns are always thinking about the big picture, and about how this work may someday expand.
“It makes sense to me that MCLA students are working on this project,” says Leslie Appleget, project coordinator at BRAINworks. “Arts integration in education doesn’t end in 12th grade. If we didn’t have MCLA students on this project, it would seem remiss.”