William King Museum of Art, located just outside of Abingdon’s famed historic district, is a must-visit destination for any classroom instructor looking for a way to apply art to any area of study. The Museum, housed in a 100+-year-old former high school, is the only nationally-accredited museum in Virginia west of Roanoke and is a partner of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
WKMA houses five gallery spaces, including the oft-changing Student and Panoramic Galleries and three main galleries which mount two to three major exhibitions each year. The World Fine Art Gallery hosts exhibits of artwork from different time periods, artistic movements, and cultures from all around the world. The Cultural Heritage Gallery focuses on educating visitors about the craftsmanship of those who made their homes in Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, and surrounding areas prior to 1940 through exhibitions of material culture. And, the Contemporary Regional Gallery is dedicated to showcasing the talent of contemporary artists who call the Southern Appalachian Highlands their home.
The Museum also features artist studios, which offer visitors a chance to interact with working artists and chat with them about their process, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden, a perfect setting for a picnic lunch or an outdoor stroll.
To help students and teachers explore William King Museum of Art and all it has to offer, several tour options are available. The most popular is the Tour Plus, a two-hour program that features an hour-long, curator-lead gallery tour and an hour-long art project. The project can focus on an aspect of what the students learn about in one of the galleries, can incorporate a prepared lesson on Greece and Rome, Mali, or Famous Americans, or can be tailored to suit the needs of the teacher—an ocean-themed project for a group studying the sea, for example.
For those who may not have two hours to spend at the Museum, the Exhibit Explorers option might be a better fit. This hour-long program focuses on having students in the galleries look closely and interact with the art. Using games, writing, storytelling, and other methods, the Museum’s curatorial and education staff help students engage with the art and encourage them to think creatively.
WKMA also offers Art Shops for older students who are very artistic. These four hour workshops (which include a lunch break) have students work intensively with a teaching artist and learn about a particular medium and method. By the end of the session, not only will participants have a finished piece of artwork, but they will also come away with a better comprehension and mastery of a particular type of art-making.
Whatever type of experience you’re looking for, William King Museum of Art is eager, ready, and willing to help create a visit that is at once educational, exciting, creative, and, most importantly, memorable.