This summer, Key West Art & Historical Society brings a new and vital energy to the island while continuing to fulfill its mission of enhancing community involvement around its various programs that educate and entertain visitors and locals about Key West’s art, architecture and history.
Adele Williams will spearhead these efforts as the organization’s new Education Specialist, bringing with her more than two decades of experience as an educator in a multitude of environments.
“I look forward to working with the entire community,” says Williams. “Implementing new programs is exciting and challenging and if you do it right you can have a huge impact on the dissemination and preservation of the Keys history and culture.”
As one of the oldest non-profits in the Florida Keys, The Society works with the local community to provide programs that support diverse groups of all ages. ArtCamp!, the Road Scholar course established by Elderhostel, Community Day, Art!Key West!, Distinguished Speaker Series, Music at Martello, Curator Sessions, Cultural Heritage Series, Exhibition Film Series and Islands of History are just a few of the programs currently offered—programs Williams will advocate for while creating an extensive range of new initiatives.
Her immediate focus will be on offerings for the community’s youth.
Underway are initiatives that include educational programming for schools aligned to state standards and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational initiative spearheaded by the federal government, specific programming for special needs and at-risk children, environmental programs, a “history bee” with a generous scholarship award, school outreach programs that include visiting authors, artists and a traveling “museum box,” and exhibits that are child-oriented.
Born and raised in Australia amid a family of museum enthusiasts, Williams interned at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory while attending college to study science on full scholarship from the museum –a museum she says draws many similarities to KWAHS when considering the maritime culture, mangrove ecology and remoteness of the area. She then moved to the States to work as an Education Specialist for the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge in Yuma, Arizona, and has spent the last decade-plus as a Montessori Directress in Key West.
Williams also has a post-graduate degree in Marine and Coastal Studies from NOVA Southeastern University, where she studied under the tutelage of Dr. Clarice Yentsch, a prominent museum educator and professor who mentored Williams with the Human Dynamic Model—a system that studies learning styles and how this effects educational programming.
“Adele’s background in museums and in traditional and alternative forms of education make her a perfect fit for developing meaningful educational programs that will reach a diverse audience while creating a greater sense of community ownership of the history of the Florida Keys,” says Key West Art & Historical Society Executive Director, Michael Gieda. “Plus, her longevity as a local educator and parent deepen her understanding of the community’s needs.”
Williams is no stranger to building solid foundations when it comes to new programming.
“I am forever grateful to Adele Williams – a talented and spirited educator – who generously shared her gift for developing our newest learning environment this year,” says Montessori Charter School Principal Lynn Barras. “I attribute the successful launch of our tuition-free Montessori primary program to Adele’s vision; her influence is evident on our campus, and offers a solid foundation for the future of our Key West Montessori Charter School.”
Her experience as a Montessori teacher in Key West will serve both KWAHS and the community well. With her knowledge of state standards in the classroom and the overwhelming task at hand for teachers to implement them, she will be able to tailor programs to teacher’s needs while bridging the gap between students and the organization’s three museums: The Custom House, Fort East Martello, and The Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters.
Though all three museums will be included in the new initiatives, the Education Department is starting with plans for focusing on children’s educational programs at Fort East Martello – a Civil War-era fort with sprawling grounds perfect for exploring and experiential learning.
“The Fort is a perfect venue for youth programs,” says Williams. “I would like to incorporate water play, sand play, raised-bed vegetable gardens and oversize building blocks that offer experiential learning and open-ended play for the children.”
Central to this initiative is the organization’s summer ArtCamp!, the county’s oldest camp for children ages 5-12. The camp is a cultural immersion program that ensures the heritage of the Florida Keys is preserved and specifically integrates activities and a curriculum that help camp-goers learn about the island’s historical figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Mario Sanchez, Suzie dePoo and Stanley Papio.
“This is not just any art camp,” says Williams. “The activities range from print-making to stop motion photography to movement to music. At the culmination of the nine-week camp, the children’s work will be celebrated with a one-day celebration at the Fort. ”
KWAHS’s Education Department and children’s programs are generously supported by the Marion Stevens Fund at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, the Knight Foundation’s Knight 2014 People’s Choice Award “text to vote” campaign and by the Helmerich Trust.
“We have chosen to bring up our children on an island archipelago,” says Williams. “This unique environment has drawn some of the most significant authors and artists of our time. Sharing this with the youth is an obligation of the KWAHS and a sure way to preserve the integrity of this incredible culture.”
For more information or to contribute your tax-deductible donation to these youth programs, contact Development Director Christine Nottage at 305-295-6616 ext. 111 or visit www.kwahs.org. Your museums. Your community. It takes an island.