Our vision is to create a dynamic environment where museums provide authentic, meaningful and engaging experiences to immigrant communities and where learning, enjoyment and civic engagement support the development of the individual’s voice.

Our mission is to serve as a national model and catalyst for the empowerment of immigrant English language and their families through the development of collaborations amongst museums, institutions of formal education and literacy organizations. To support systemic change that transforms museums into powerful learning spaces for immigrants and their families. To be a vehicle to strengthen the immigrant’s voice by encouraging the development of their academic, social, cultural and civic capital. The foundations of CALTA21 are the Professional Development Institute and the curriculum “Identity, Portraiture and Photography.”

Guiding Principles:

CALTA21’s guiding principles are reflected across the curriculum and support every unit.

Principle One:

Every person has the right to equal access to aesthetic encounters with art and to museums in a meaningful and independent way and institutions have a responsibility to engage all community members. The curriculum empowers participants to embrace art and museums as resources for learning, enjoyment and global understanding.

Principle Two:

There is inherent value to all points of view and backgrounds. Participants’ personal stories as imimigrants are at the core of the curriculum and are used as the springboard for acquiring new knowledge. The curriculum encourages students to access prior knowledge and experiences and see them as an asset and not a deficit.

Principle Three:

Teaching and learning should be a dialogue based on shared authority. Every participant in CALTA21 (students, teachers and museum educators) has an expertise and has an opportunity to share it with their fellow participants and learn from each other’s knowledge.

Principle Four:

Art and culture are powerful catalysts for developing literacy skills. Art addresses complex issues. Adult participants access higher order thinking skills using their senses (perception), emotions and cognition (often thinking in their native language) to look at and find meaning in art. The curriculum offers them the opportunity to collectivelly explore complex ideas and to think in abstract, to speculate and to infer while they build lower order thinking skills in their acquired language, such as vocabulary and sentence construction.

Principle Five:

Situated and contextualized learning fosters transformative experiences. The curriculum prepares students to become teachers and facilitators for their families and friends in a public environment, such as a museum. Visual literacy and art anchor the learning experience and the practice of literacy and critical thinking skills is set in a real life environment.

Principle Six:

Museums must embrace their new expanded roles – inclusion, access to knowledge, civic engagement and democratic practice. The curriculum encourages the strengthening of the immigrant voice and full civic participation. Participants shape their cultural identities while they recover their personal immigrant narratives and engage in relevant art discussions in a space of public value. CALTA21 provides museums with an opportunity to include an underrepresented audience in a meaningful and sustainable way.


The CALTA21 IMLS National Leadership Grant Period 2011-2014

CALTA21 was founded as an intervention model initiative to build professional capacity to empower adult immigrant English language learners (ELLs). The intent of this initiative, led by Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), was to build the capacity of museum-community college partnerships, and to empower adult immigrant English language learners (ELL) while strengthening their literacy and critical thinking skills through visual literacy, while simultaneously assisting them in enriching their social and cultural capital.

The foundations of CALTA21 are the Professional Development Institute and the curriculum “Identity, Portraiture and Photography.” Evaluation demonstrates that participating ELLs have improved their language skills and taken ownership of museum experiences in the curriculum’s 30-hour process of transformative learning, which culminates in students curating successful museum visits for families and friends. Through CALTA21, literacy instructors have the opportunity to gain new understanding of the value of authentic, art-based discussions and strengthen teaching practices when hearing students’ immigrant narratives in spaces of public value. CALTA21 encourages museum educators and docents to embrace the philosophy of shared meaning-making. It builds communities of global learning and civic engagement, while strengthening the immigrant voice and helping museums to maintain their relevance and cultural roles.

Institute of Museum and Library Services

CALTA21 was originally funded through a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Under the leadership of Patricia Lannes, Project Director and QCC’s two Principal Investigators, Professor Kitty Bateman and Dr. Margot Edlin, CALTA21 was implemented with its four partnering museums: El Museo del Barrio, the Rubin Museum of Art, The Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College and the Katonah Museum of Art.

During this grant period (2011-2014), CALTA21’s development and implementation process included:

  1. A continual cycle of testing, revision and redesign of the two project cornerstones: our professional development institute and the curriculum
  2. The creation of a manual to serve as resource guide for museums and community college literacy programs when launching a partnership
  3. The design and implementation of a dissemination plan that focuses on national implementation opportunities and includes this website where all materials will be available free of charge
  4. A culminating symposium will gather participants to share their experiences and evaluators to share their findings for future replication of the model

IMLS selected CALTA21 and nine other projects for funding through its National Leadership Grant program. The projects selected for funding were identified through a peer-review process, with reviewers seeking projects that would have a national impact in the museum field and serve as models to museums across the nation. A complete list of projects funded through this program can be found at www.imls.gov.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.

Who does CALTA21 serve?

The project’s target audiences are:

  1. Adult English Speakers 0f Other Languages (ESOL) seeking to develop their English literacy skills and their families
  2. Museum professionals and volunteers
  3. Faculty from community college literacy programs and staff of community based organizations

What does CALTA21 do?

CALTA21 uses art and museums as catalysts for learning. It is based upon the premise that visual literacy skills are transferable to other literacies and that art can be a powerful conduit to finding meaning in text. While looking at art and participating in facilitated discussions and recreating their immigrant stories, adult ELLs build new vocabulary, strengthen critical thinking skills, engage in dialogue, develop intercultural capital, articulate interpretations and develop a voice that draws from their wealth of experiences and background knowledge. CALTA21 builds an intercultural community of global learning and civic engagement.

How do we do it?

CALTA21 is a model initiative, resulting from a continual cycle of design-implementation-evaluation and revision of its two main cornerstones: a professional development institute (PDI) and the curriculum Identity, Portraiture and Photography. 

What are the outcomes of CALTA21?

Measurable outcomes and resources include:

  1. Improved literacy skills and increased social/cultural capital for ELL participants and their families
  2. Capacity building for museum and literacy educators
  3. The  inception of museum-community college partnerships both regionally and across the nation
  4. New practices, materials and resources to support the ongoing implementation of CALTA21, all of which will substantially extend the benefit of IMLS’s National Leadership Grant (NLG) investment and increase museum access and participation for thousands of America’s newest residents

Who supports CALTA21’s implementation and dissemination?

CALTA21’s implementation and dissemination plans are coordinated by:

  1. The project team, Queensborough Community College, CUNY, the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs Language and Literacy Programs under the leadership of Dr. Leslee Oppenheim,
  2. Visual Understanding in Education (VUE), the organization that created and supports VTS
  3. The participating museums during this grant period: El Museo del Barrio, The Rubin Museum of Art, The Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College and The Katonah Museum of Art.
  4. Presentations in local, regional, national and international professional conferences by Patricia Lannes and Kitty Bateman

Project Team

Patricia Lannes, Project Director
Patricia Lannes has worked in the fields of visual literacy and museum education for over 20 years. She is the Founder and Project Director of CALTA21 (Cultures and Literacies through Art for the 21 st Century,) a model initiative funded by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS.) The CALTA21 concept was inspired by her own personal experience as an immigrant and as an English language learner, as well as her museum education practice. As Project Director, she leads the initiative from conception to completion, which includes responsibility for its demonstration and dissemination and achievement of the goals and objectives outlined on the proposal during the 3 year grant. CALTA21 is a model program that builds the capacity of art museums and community based organizations and higher education partnerships to engage and empower adult English language learners by strengthening their academic, social, cultural and civic capital. CALTA21 was identified by the Center for the Future of Museums, a division of the American Association of Museums, as a replicable and self-sustaining model that addresses national demographic trends, can have national impact, and can be used by other institutions for improving services and performance. Through her work with CALTA21, Lannes was nominated to be recognized at the White House as a Champion of Change, an award for Americans with innovative ideas who are making a difference in their communities.

Prior to becoming the Project Director of CALTA21, Lannes was the Director of Education at the Nassau County Museum of Art. While overseeing the Education department, she developed visitor centered programs and materials that provided engaging and authentic experiences sustained by meaningful and relevant exhibition interpretation. Her outreach efforts built lasting relationships with different community constituencies that led to an expansion of the museum’s audience. Lannes frequently addresses issues of visual literacy, outreach, diversity, civic dialogue, immigrant museum audiences, community outreach and institutional partnerships through local, regional and national conferences. As part of her outreach efforts she also leads professional development training sessions for museum professionals, teaching artists, educators k-12 and university professors. A native from Uruguay, she is Chair Elect on the Board of Directors of the Latino Network, a professional interest committee from the American Alliance of Museums.

Kitty Bateman, Co-Principal Investigator
Professor Kitty Bateman is a Professor in the Department of Academic Literacy at Queensborough Community College/CUNY. For sixteen years she has been the Director of the QCC Literacy Program, providing free English language instruction to new immigrants in Queens. Professor Bateman has also been instrumental in funding and administering a family literacy program. She holds an M.A. degree in Educational Psychology and a J.D. degree from The CUNY School of Law.

Margot Edlin, Co-Principal Investigator
Margot Diekmann Edlin, Ed.D. is a Faculty Fellow in the Office of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor in the Department of Academic Literacy at Queensborough Community College – CUNY. A professional educator for the past twenty-two years, Dr. Edlin has experience in teaching the English Language Arts to native speakers and English Language Learners in grades seven through twelve and on the college level. She has published research on motivation and persistence in urban
community college students. She is a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University and specialized in curriculum and teaching, as well as professional development, teacher education and educational leadership.

Valerie Smosna, M.A. joined the CALTA21 team in 2012 as the project coordinator and digital media assistant. She is also  a Program Assistant and Instructor for Queensborough Community College’s Adult Literacy Program. Her background in art history and her focus on the intersection of art, social justice and underrepresented populations, has been instrumental to her work on CALTA21. She received her M.A. in art history from Bryn Mawr College and her B.A. from Haverford College.

For more information on becoming a CALTA21 implementation site, please contact Patricia Lannes, Project Director or phone her at 516-313-1091.