Thanks to an $18,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiú home will be open for field trips for students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
The newly-created Dorothy C. Radgowski Learning Through Women’s Achievement in the Arts Grant will fund learning experiences involving science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“This project will use an innovative approach to reexamine this well-known and iconic female artist through the broader lens of sensory challenges, as O’Keeffe suffered from sight loss in her later years,” said Valerie Balint, director of Historic Artists Homes and Studio for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“We knew the project would not only pave the way for new engagement with young audiences, but would also open up O’Keeffe’s larger life story, one centered in the power of place that is so evident in this preserved artist’s site.”
While the home, now owned by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, already offers adult tours of the space and its gardens, a youth tour would be specifically geared to that age group, said O’Keeffe curator of historic properties Giustina Renzoni.
As students walk into the garden, they can learn about plant life and horticulture. An engineering component might include the construction of the adobe house.
Aside from her famous flowers, O’Keeffe was known for collecting and painting bones.
“We would have a 3D printed ram’s head skull,” Renzoni said. “Kids want to touch. This could be a way to let kids have these tactile experiences at the house.”
Renzoni also is considering providing an adobe mixture students can take home and fashion in to a brick.
“It’s a way to engage kids that you don’t always see at historic sites,” she said.
She also plans to produce a Spanish/English activity guide and wants to offer cameras so students can photograph the home and gardens.
Renzoni applied for the grant last October. She learned the site had won near the end of December.
“I was so excited,” she said. “I was inspired, actually, because I knew it was going to be a very competitive grant. We have a lot of historic sites dedicated to women artists.”
O’Keeffe was passionate about education, often inviting local children into her garden.
Toward the end of her life, she suffered from macular degeneration.
“So part of our goal is to make sure our site is accessible to children and adults who are blind,” Renzoni said. “It all goes back to O’Keeffe’s values.”
She hopes to begin the tours in the fall.
The 5,000-square-foot compound was in ruins in 1945 when O’Keeffe purchased the home from the Catholic Church. For the next four years, the artist supervised its restoration, which was carried out by her friend, Maria Chabot. O’Keeffe finally made Abiquiú her permanent home in 1949. The home’s oldest rooms were likely built in 1744.