The Johnson has always been a vibrant social space on campus. The Museum Club was founded in 1996, bringing together students of any major who share an interest in art to promote campus awareness of our collection, exhibitions, and resources. Two decades later, our connections with students have significantly increased through “For Students Only” evening events and a thriving program of Student Educators. The Museum’s role as a place for all students to learn and have fun has established the Johnson as a destination far beyond our inclusion on the famous “161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do” list!  

Over the last four years, attendance at Museum events designed by and for students has nearly tripled, attracting more than 3,200 each year. Our surveys show that 25% of the students at these events were visiting the Museum for the first time, and nearly 50% came from the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Engineering.

“For Students Only” events feature a wide variety of cultural, music, and dance performances by campus groups, plus studio art projects and scavenger hunts in the galleries. Student Educators engage with their peers using special “art carts” customized to explain art history and technical processes. Each event features a unique theme chosen by the Club, from Mardi Gras masquerades to celebrations of the roaring ’20s and mod ’60s—each highlighting art from the collection relating back to the theme. Under the guidance of Kari O’Mara, the Museum’s Mellon Coordinator of Student Engagement, students apply for grant funding to support their programs. The Museum Club receives frequent support from the Cornell Council for the Arts, the Student Activities Finance Commission, and CUTonight, creating unique ways for students to experience all the Johnson has to offer every semester. 

“A perfect example of a fantastic Museum Club collaboration was ‘Prints, Piano, and Poems,’ held last March,” said O’Mara. “Students in the Museum’s Mellon course ‘Embodying the Object’ read their new poems, and students from the Cornell Piano Society performed their favorite pieces.” Our annual installation of student artwork was also part of this event, highlighting prints on the theme of the environment and sustainability created by students in Professor Greg Page’s Spring 2016 courses “Introduction to Print Media” and “The Hybrid Print.” 

The Museum’s docents are volunteer educators, including students, who play an important role in our work. Since 2011, we’ve worked with students to find new ways to enhance their docent training and provide more opportunities to put what they learn into action. 

Beginning this semester, as “Student Educators: Art & The Museum” (SEAM), students can train to work with their choice of groups: campus peers, K–12 students, or residents in assisted living and rehabilitation centers. SEAM members will connect the Museum, campus, and community through tours, outreach, and support of our current programming—and new ideas!  

Students can contact Kari O’Mara at or 607 254-4657 with questions about student opportunities at the Johnson. 

Join the Museum Club 

New members are always welcome! Meetings are held every Tuesday beginning August 30 from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m. in the Museum’s Appel Lobby.

Student Educators: Art & the Museum 

Mandatory weekly training sessions for new members will be held on Thursdays, September 22 to October 13, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with a refresher course for prior student docents on September 1, 5:30–7:00 p.m. SEAM meetings will be held on the last Wednesday of the month (August–November) in the Appel Lobby from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m.