As we anticipate the start of the fall season—and the start of the coming school year—we look back a couple of months to the public’s first views of the Museum’s transformed galleries for American art. In a celebratory and historic ribbon-cutting ceremony here at the Metropolitan Museum, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke eloquently to an assembled group, including students from Beacon High School, LaGuardia High School, P.S. 176 in Cambria Heights, Queens, and P.S. 325 in West Harlem. Her words still resonate for all of us and reinforce the Museum’s role in our visitors’ lives. Every year, the Met offers more than 20,000 educational events for visitors of all ages—from talks, lectures, and films for adults to classes, festivals, and other special activities for families and students. And school visits are at the core, so it was especially fitting that the First Lady made a point of emphasizing art’s vital role for all young people.

We hope you will be inspired by her comments to participate as fully as you wish in the life of the Museum and its great holdings. To use Mrs. Obama’s phrase, "this is your place too."

Above: First Lady Michelle Obama cuts the ribbon inaugurating The New American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. From left: Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City; Emily K. Rafferty, President of The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator, The State of New York; Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States; Carolyn B. Maloney, Congresswoman, 14th Congressional District of New York; Charles B. Rangel, Congressman, 15th Congressional District of New York; Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum; and James R. Houghton, Chairman of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. On far left and right are students from the groups of New York City schoolchildren attending from Beacon High School, LaGuardia High School, P.S. 176 in Cambria Heights, Queens, and P.S. 325 in Harlem. Photograph by The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Don Pollard.


First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks to the Importance of the Arts in the Lives of Young People

Here follows an excerpt from the First Lady’s remarks on the occasion of the inauguration of The New American Wing on May 18, 2009:

"I am delighted to be here with you to celebrate American history through the arts. From the beginning of our nation, the inspired works of our artists and artisans have reflected the ingenuity, creativity, independence, and beauty of this nation. It is the painter, the potter, the weaver, the silversmith, the architect, the designer whose work continues to create an identity for America that is respected and recognized around the world as distinctive and new.

"The American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art captures the spirit in presenting a variety of American art forms and providing a link to history for us to learn from, appreciate, and be inspired by. Our future as an innovative country depends on ensuring that everyone has access to the arts and to cultural opportunity. Nearly six million people make their living in the nonprofit arts industry, and arts and cultural activities contribute more than $160 billion to our economy every year. And trust me, I try to do my part to add to that number.

"The President included an additional $50 million in funding to the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] in the stimulus package to preserve jobs in state art agencies and regional art organizations in order to keep them up and running during the economic downturn. But the intersection of creativity and commerce is about more than economic stimulus. It’s also about who we are as people. The President and I want to ensure that all children have access to great works of art at museums like the one here. We want them to have access to great poets and musicians and theaters around the country, to arts education in their schools and community workshops. We want all children who believe in their talent to see a way to create a future for themselves in the arts community, be it as a hobby or as a profession. The arts are not just a nice thing to have or to do if there’s free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion design, and dialogue—they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation…

"I want to applaud The Metropolitan Museum of Art for all of the outreach that you do, for having kids like these here today to be involved in this and to experience this and to share this with us, because this is your place too. So we’re very proud of the Met for the work that they’ve done."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s school tour program is made possible by the generosity of
Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman.

Most educational programs are offered free with Museum admission.

Remember to sign up for automatic weekly calendar reminders based on your interests. Register at My Met Museum—go to "Set My Met Calendar" to request emails about upcoming events.

Images above: The First Lady greets New York City public school students who attended the ceremony. Photographs by The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Don Pollard.



Learn more about The New American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum.

For more information about educational programs, including school group visits, go to Events and Programs.

Watch and listen to First Lady Michelle Obama and Museum Director Thomas P. Campbell as they speak at the opening of The New American Wing.


Programs and Services for Visitors with Disabilities

The Museum is committed to serving all audiences. Contact us for details about programs and services, including Sign Language–interpreted programs, captioned lectures and films, and Verbal Imaging tours and touch tours for people with visual impairments.

For further information, please see Programs for Visitors with Disabilities online, or call Voice 212-650-2010; TTY 212-570-3828.

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