In the News + Media

Break the Ice Media – Podcast – July 25th, 2018

Patricia Lannes

______________________________________________________ – November 2nd, 2017
“VACNJ Visual Arts Center Expanding Services for English Language Learners”

“Art has long been touted as a useful tool in developing literacy skills, especially for those learning a new language. Children and adults alike can benefit from the opportunity art provides to collectively explore complex ideas, and to engage in abstract thinking…”


la diaria – September 10th, 2014

“Una mañana en el museo” 

Download (PDF, 1.62MB)


Urban Ecologies and Cultural Exchange Panel – May 5, 2014 at the Detroit Institute of Arts (VIDEO)

______________________________________________________ – Connect art and adult literacy at CALTA21 online symposium

Get ready to participate in a free, online symposium to empower adult English speakers of other languages (ESOL) on June 3, 2–5 p.m., hosted by Cultures and Literacies Through Art for the 21st Century (CALTA21).

CALTA21 is a national leadership grant, IMLS-funded initiative that is holding the online symposium “to disseminate the piloted model, which is designed to build institutional capacity of museums and institutions of higher education.” Patricia Lannes is the founder and project director of CALTA21. Its goal is to “strengthen adult ESOL immigrants’ literacy and critical-thinking skills” and “expand their social and cultural capital”…

View full article here!


Syracuse University, The College of Arts and Sciences News

“SU Professor organizes ‘visual literacy’ institute to strengthen immigrant voice”

“Using art to develop language and literacy was the theme of a recent two-day institute at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. Among the organizers was Amanda Brown, assistant professor of linguistics in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The program was part of a new initiative called Cultures and Literacies Through Art for the 21st Century (CALTA21), funded by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

 Invited speakers were Patricia Lannes, co-founder and director of CALTA21; and Kitty Bateman, associate professor of basic education skills and director of literacy at The City University of New York’s Queensborough Community College, who has spearheaded much of the curriculum’s implementation…”


The Incluseum: Museums and Social Inclusion

“CALTA21: A Model for Bridging Museums and Immigrant English Learners”

“Engaging with immigrant communities is on many museums’ minds. Over the last few months, we’ve highlighted different programs (e.g. at the Buffalo History Museum  and CelebrARTE at the DAM) and frameworks (e.g. Intercultural Dialogue) museum professionals are using both nationally and internationally. Today, we wish to bring attention to CALTA21 (Cultures and Literacies through Art for the 21st Century), an initiative aimed at bridging Immigrant English-Learners and museums…”

For full text, visit:


Salute to Scholars – A Publication of the City University of New York, Winter 2013

Hortencia Marmanillo spent a few days this summer in a museum, but she didn’t just look at art — she improved her language skills.

Marmanillo, who came to the United States from Peru in 2009 speaking very little English, took part in an innovative literacy program, Cultures & Literacies Through Arts for the 21st Century, or CALTA21.  She wants to become a nurse, but before she can enroll at CUNY she has to improve her English skills so she can pass an assessment test.

The program is unique because of museum trips where adult students, for whom English is a foreign language, are encouraged to describe the works of art they see, engage in conversation with other students and explain what they like or dislike about the art.

Incorporating visual art into teaching literacy works wonders in the classroom, says Patricia Lannes, CALTA21 co-founder and project director.  With their diverse backgrounds, the students include their cultural and life experiences in interpreting art and become curious about cultures they haven’t yet explored.

“It’s very innovative,” says Lannes. “Its innovation and uniqueness lies on the use of images and students’ prior knowledge and rich experiences as immigrants as a springboard to acquire new skills and knowledge in a museum setting.  When “reading” a work of art they incorporate their personal experiences, learn from their classmates’ comments and have meaningful conversations in an art museum. They also learn how to navigate a museum and what kind of resources a museum can offer them.” The museum discussions help students build their English vocabularies, practice conversation, articulate interpretations and develop critical-thinking and conversational skills.

Queensborough Community College is the lead institution for CALTA21. Several New York City museums, including the Rubin Museum of Art, the Katonah Museum of Art, El Museo del Barrio, and the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College are partners. VUE/ Visual Thinking Strategies, the Literacy Assistance Center and CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP) are part of the effort.

Marmanillo took part in CALTA21 while taking English classes this summer through CLIP at Borough of Manhattan Community College. CLIP is designed for CUNY English as Second Language (ESL) students who want intensive instruction in all English skills. Marmanillo took CLIP this summer for 15 weeks, 25 hours of instruction each week. The CALTA21 curriculum was part of CLIP this summer. She says she enjoyed the museum portion of the program because “it’s more realistic than sitting in the classroom.”

“CALTA21 helped me to learn more vocabulary, it taught me to ask questions, to talk about what the artist was trying to say,” says Marmanillo, who visited the Rubin Museum of Art. “It helped me to improve my English, my pronunciation.”

QCC received a National Leadership Grant of $495,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to run the program from October 2011 through September 2014. The goal is to eventually implement CALTA21 in Adult Literacy Programs across the nation.

CALTA21 “is designed to be used in adult literacy programs for intermediate and advanced English language learners in programs run by higher-education and community-based organizations in partnership with art museums,” says professor Kitty Bateman, Principal Investigator at CALTA 21 and director of QCC’s Literacy Program. “It’s an attempt to get more students to be fluent in English.”

“Students are eager to look at art, they ask to look at more art when the class is over,” says Lannes, who came to the U.S. from Uruguay at age 24 with a basic knowledge of English.

After students visited the Museo del Barrio, they returned with family members eager to show them around and act as tour guides.  “That’s a good sign that they want to show their family and friends what they have learned,” says Lannes. “Art takes students into a different world.” It’s also about “using visual skills to develop critical thinking and literacy skills that you can apply to anything, including a college paper,” she adds.

“I feel more confident now going back to the museum,” says Marmanillo,  “because I feel like I know the right questions to ask when I look at a painting. “I can explain to my family and friends what we need to ask … how to look at a picture. When I went before I didn’t ask these questions. Now I appreciate it more.”

So far, the response from students has been positive.  Building a vocabulary at a museum is more engaging that drilling words by repetition at home or in a classroom, they say.  Recently, Marmanillo was eager to share the some of her expanded vocabulary she acquired on a visit to the Rubin:  Extravagant, ambience, complexion, body language and costume are just a few of the new words she learned while describing a painting of a Buddha.

This article is reposted from the Winter 2013 issue of CUNY’s Salute to Scholars publication. 

To view the article on the CUNY Newswire blog, click here.

To view the .pdf of the original issue of Salute to Scholars, see page 6 of the publication found here.


Rubin Museum of Art Blog – “Make Time, Do Everything, Be Surprised”

A discussion on the CALTA21  professional development institute at the Rubin Museum of Art, from their official blog.

“A group of teachers from the same school were there and I thought this was a nice bonding exercise. Afterward, they could share their different experiences and deepen and/or expand what they learned. Usually I think it’s good for teachers to attend different workshops and then return with info to share to kind of “cross-fertilize,” so this presented another view of a school PD strategy.”


Queensborough Community College, Annual Report: January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012
“Immigrants and Social Advocacy” (page 24)

“Educators from across the country gathered for a joint presentation by Queensborough and St. John’s University on the topic of immigrant advocacy during the Imagining America site visit at Queensborough….”


Queensborough Community College, Edge for Success
“Community Giving Powers “Edge for Success” for Students and Faculty
May 22, 2002

“Two recent grants are helping Queensborough achieve its goals.  The Institute of Museum and Library Servicesawarded a National Leadership Grant for $495,000 to demonstrate Culture and Literacy Through Art for the 21stCentury, an initiative designed to engage and empower adult immigrant English language learners and their families. The grant is also supported by matching funds from the College, CUNY, and several prominent collaborating partners.”


The Examiner

“Building Adult ELL’s Visual Literacy Skills”

” ‘Asking adult literacy students “what is going on in this painting (photograph, picture, etc.)?” is not the same as asking “what do you see?’

The nuance is significant, particularly in relation to literacy, communication and critical thinking, and Patricia Lannes expounded this point in Using Images to Build Literacy and Critical Thinking Skills…”

For part 1 of the article, visit:

For part 2 of the article, visit:


The VTS Newsletter

CALTA21: An Initiative that Uses VTS with Adult English Language Learners

“Classes of adult students participating in CALTA21 are composed of individuals from many different cultures, religions, countries of origins, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and literacy levels. Art and VTS gives them the context to engage in intercultural dialogue and discussion…”


News from the NAEA Museum Education Division

“Queensborough Community College has been awarded an IMLS National Leadership Grant to disseminate CALTA21, a model initiative designed to engage and empower adult immigrant audiences and their families…”

To see the full story, visit:


Times Newsweekly

Fed $$$ To Expand Education at Museum to Engage Those Learning English

“The grant also allows the school to create a model curriculum for museums and adult language programs at community colleges that focus on the theme of identity, allowing museum community college partnerships to customize lessons according to their own permanent exhibits and class composition. The museum will also conduct a survey to determine the existence of similar programs and feasibility for replicating CALTA 21 across the country.”

To see the full story, visit:


Times Ledger

QCC to Launch Program That Assists Immigrant Families

“The three-year program, known as Culture and Literacy through Arts for the 21st Century, will form a partnership among other community colleges in the CUNY system, Queens College’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum, the Rubin Museum of Art, the Katonah Museum of Art and El Museo del Barrio to improve the ability for these institutions to engage with English-language learners and their families while at the same time expanding their reach into this community.”

To see the full story, visit:


Queensborough Community College Annual Report (January 1, 2011-December 31, 2011)

“An Innovative Approach to Literacy for Adult Immigrant English Language Learners” (page 9)

“The Institute of Museum and Library services (IMLS) awarded Queensborough Community College a National Leadership Grant for $495,000 to demonstrate Culture and Literacy through Art for the 21st Century, a model initiative designed to empower adult immigrant English language learners and their families…”


CUNY Newswire

Queensborough Awarded National Leadership Grant from the INS of Museum and Library Services

“Through the collaborative implementation of CALTA21, these partnerships will open pathways for some of the country’s newest residents to language skills, cultural capital, higher education, and workforce development, while simultaneously helping each institution expand its reach and maintain its relevance in increasingly diverse communities…”

For the full story, visit:


Queensborough Community College

“…Awarded Prestigious National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services”

“It is a great honor to receive a National Leadership Grant award that recognizes CALTA21’s potential to produce systemic change within the museum community. This project will impact museums’ capacities to diversify their audiences by establishing nationwide museum and community college collaborations and  by providing a replicable model initiative to engage and empower adult immigrants and their families in a meaningful and permanent way,” said Patricia Lannes, CALTA21 Project Director…”

To read the full announcement, visit:

______________________________________________________ – July 14, 2010
Groundbreaking Pilot Program Uses Visual Arts to Promote Literacy Among Adults Learning English

“Over the past year, educators at Nassau County Museum of Art (NCMA) and Queensborough Community College (QCC) have been developing strategies that use the visual arts to assist non-English speaking adults achieve English literacy. The result, the CALTA (Culture and Literacy through Art) Institute, was launched at a four-day workshop held at the museum from June 14-17, 2010. The American Association of Museums (AAM) says that this program positions NCMA as “a key player in helping ease the transition of new immigrants into their American communities.” The NCMA/QCC collaboration is one of only a handful of initiatives nationwide cited by AAM…

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Center for the Future of Museums – July 6th, 2010
“Update on Empowering New Immigrants Through Art”

“The CALTA team (NCMA staff and QCC faculty) and a representative from Visual Understanding in Education (VUE) planned the four day pilot institute. Institute participants were selected among NCMA docents, Queensborough Community College (QCC) literacy ESL teachers, professors and professional developers from the City University of New York and other art museums’ teaching artists and students participating in the QCC adult literacy program. This diverse group was meant to represent a sample of the population of all the members that would be directly affected by such an institute. This community of learners came together to share best practices, challenges and future approaches to help develop a model teaching institute that can be replicated nationwide….”


Center for the Future of Museums – June 28th, 2010
“Engaging and Empowering New Immigrants Through Art”

“In partnership with Queensborough Community College’s adult literacy program for English language learners, the museum created the “Culture and Literacy through Art” (CALTA) program, specifically geared to new immigrants. Drawing on her own immigrant experience and the challenges of learning a new language through text-based instruction, Patricia Lannes, NCMA’s director of education, understood that images, as well as written texts, could serve as a powerful tool for developing literacy. Works of art can be “visual texts” readily available for decoding by adult immigrants who have a wealth of experience on which to draw as they build vocabulary, practice conversation and articulate interpretation. The program, drawing on the methodology of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), engages adult immigrants in facilitated discussions of a painting or sculpture in a provocative but non-threatening conversational mode that can accommodate a first-time museum visitor or an experienced art-world patron…”