PULLMAN, Wash. – The Washington State University Museum of Art hopes to bring in hundreds of students with a new program that will bus area school children to the museum, allowing them continued exposure to the world of art.

With an anonymous donation of $3,500, the museum’s educational outreach has a new lease on life, and the museum is bringing in students who, in turn, bring in their parents.

The number of visitors is increasing due in no small part to the exhibitions but also because of the dedicated staff and volunteers who work at the museum, said Anna-Maria Shannon, assistant director of the Museum of Art.

Rob Snyder, director of development for WSU’s Museum of Art, came on board and within his first three months, found an anonymous donor to make a one-time donation to start a busing program for area school children. “When I saw how excited and enthusiastic young children were about coming to the museum to see art and later back in the classroom to make art, I knew I had to find funding to bring school children to the museum,” he said.

The program has received additional donations, including one from Lee and Jody Sahlin of Spokane and one from the Pullman’s Lion Club. “We will continue the program as long as there are resources to pay for the buses,” Snyder said. He calls the program “Buy a Busload of Kids for only $175.” Hopefully, a continual stream of donations will come in and keep this program going, he said.

The program is open to all area schools — preschool through high school – including (but not limited to) Whitman and Latah counties. “We hope that schools from all over eastern Washington and northern Idaho will take advantage of our free busing program and our docent guided tours,” Shannon said.

“Not only do we offer the free busing, but we will come into the classroom with art workshops and slides of the current exhibit. If the kids can’t come to us, we are willing to go to them and work within the curricula of the individual grade levels,” she said.

“Actually coming to the museum and experiencing art first-hand can have a great impact on children. Children who visit museums now will become museum visitors as adults,” said Brenda Congdon-Power, docent coordinator. The Turned Object exhibit brought in children from as far away as Clearwater and as nearby as the Building Blocks Child Care Center in Pullman.

Along with the free bus ride, children were treated to guided tours of the exhibit after watching wood-worker Robert (Ed) Gnaedinger create spinning-tops on a lathe. The demonstration gave groups the opportunity to see what a lathe is and how it works. “The kids got a real charge out of it,” Congdon-Power said.

The next exhibition, Pressure Points, will give children the opportunity to work with printmaking in it simplest form: painting and pressing. From the museum’s free workshops through Pullman Parks and Recreation to those performed by request and the Creation Location in the gallery itself, children will experience printmaking first hand.

With the guidance of workshop coordinator Lina Quock and a team of volunteer docents, going to the museum won’t just be about seeing, it will be about experiencing the creative world of art with their own fingers, Shannon said.

Schools interested in participating in the program can contact WSU’s Museum of Art at (509) 335-1910 or (509) 335-6150. All events at the museum are free and open to the public.

The gallery is wheelchair accessible. Parking permits for weekday visitors can be purchased at the Cougar Depot, 225 N. Grand Ave., or at WSU Parking Services on Wilson Road, located directly uphill from the Fine Arts Center. Parking is available Monday-Friday evenings in the Fine Arts parking structure, off Stadium Way at Grimes Way, for an hourly fee. The Museum of Art will validate parking for those who use the Smith Center’s lot. Weekend parking is free.

Funding for museum exhibitions and programs is provided by WSU, the Friends of the Museum of Art, the WSU Foundation and private donors. Additional support for educational programs is provided by New Garden Restaurant, Pullman Child Welfare, Pullman Heating & Electric, Pullman Kiwanis Club, Pullman Lions Club, Pullman Parks and Recreation, Sims Glass, Windshield Doctor and private donors. The Pressure Points exhibit and related programs are presented with support from The Jordan & Mina Schnitzer Foundation.