Cultures and Literacies Through Art for the 21st Century

CALTA21 Logo

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 immigrants 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 collectively 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.

Grant Period 2011-2014

CALTA21 is a model initiative funded through a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The intent of this initiative, led by Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), is to build the capacity of museum-community college partnerships, to empower adult immigrant English language learners (ELL) while strengthening their literacy and critical thinking skills through visual literacy and simultaneously assisting them in enriching their social and cultural capital.

Under the leadership of Patricia Lannes, Project Director and QCC’s two Principal Investigators, Professor Kitty Bateman and Dr. Margot Edlin, CALTA21 will be 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 includes:

  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

Award Announcement

Queensborough Community College Awarded Prestigious National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

October 11, 2011 (Bayside, NY)—The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded Queensborough Community College, a College of The City University of New York (CUNY), a National Leadership Grant for $495,000 to demonstrate Culture and Literacy through Art for the 21st Century (CALTA21), a model initiative designed to engage and empower adult immigrant English language learners and their families. Queensborough Community College’s award is among ten out of a total of eighty-eight applications in the demonstration category, selected to receive funding. The projects selected were identified as examples that would have a national impact in the museum field and serve as models to museums nationally. This important grant is also supported by matching funds from the college, university and the collaborating partners.

Queensborough Community College—in collaboration with the Rubin Museum of Art; the Katonah Museum of Art; El Museo del Barrio; Queens College’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum; Visual Thinking Strategies©; The Literacy Assistance Center; and CUNY”S Office of Academic Affairs Language and Literacy Department— will build and support museum–community college partnerships to improve the ability to engage and serve adult English language learners and their families. 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..

“We are extremely honored that the IMLS has recognized QCC’s leadership role in offering an innovative approach to literacy for adult immigrants,” said Dr. Diane B. Call, Interim President of Queensborough Community College. “As a community college located in the most diverse county in the nation, we have a unique perspective on the needs of foreign born students of all ages.”

“Thanks to this award, Queensborough Community College will provide its English language learners with visual literacy and other 21st century skills that will assist them in transitioning to the workforce and to post-secondary education,” said Dr. Margot Edlin, Assistant Professor, Faculty Fellow for Academic Affairs.

“This dynamic collaboration between museums, institutions and Queensborough Community College is a terrific partnership, and these critical funds will go a long way towards strengthening the educational role of museums in our area, in a way that can be replicated across the country,” said U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens/L.I.) “Improving curriculums and implementing new programs will expand the educational reach of the college and these facilities, and ensure that museums and the outstanding learning experiences they provide are accessible to all.”

"National Leadership grantees help advance the museums, libraries, and archives field," said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. "We look forward to much exciting work from this round of awards, including projects that will support learning and 21st century skills relevant to a new generation of digital natives, enhanced access and ability to interact with digital content, and providing innovative services for existing and new types of library and museum users. We believe that each of these grants will advance the museum, library, and archive professions through new research and the creation and dissemination of innovative tools, models, and activities that can be shared broadly."

“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 .

Kitty Bateman, Associate Professor of Basic Educational Skills, Director of the QCC Literacy Program and Co-Principal Investigator from QCC, says that, “The heart of Queensborough is the value it places on the art of teaching. Our program has always placed an important emphasis on the relationship between learning and cultural institutions in the New York City area. This opportunity gives us a chance to partner with other institutions nationwide to create immersive, language-rich cultural experiences for the adult immigrant learner and its family.”

Queensborough Community College, established in 1960, is located on a lush 37-acre campus in Bayside, New York. The College offers a rich liberal arts and science curriculum as well as career and pre-professional courses. Comprising one of the most diverse populations of any college in the U.S., nearly 15,000 students pursue Associate degrees or Certificate programs and another 10,000 students of all ages attend continuing education programs. The College boasts Dual/Joint Degree programs in Nursing, Biotechnology, Criminal Justice and Education with its sister CUNY institutions— Hunter College, York College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Queens College, respectively. Over half of the faculty holds doctorates, compared with 21% of faculty in other community colleges nationwide.

In the fall of 2009, Queensborough launched the Freshman Academies for all first-time full-time students. While other colleges have similar programs, Queensborough is the only community college to launch the initiative institution-wide.

Queensborough has the distinction of being awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant in the amount of $500,000 and was recently named one of 12 colleges nationwide to lead the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) project—funded by Met Life—to support and expand effective student success strategies at community colleges. The College’s prized cultural beacons, The Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives; QCC Art Gallery; and Queensborough Performing Arts Center (QPAC) continue to bring renowned world-class exhibits, fine art and performances to the entire community and beyond. Please visit our website at


About the Institute of Museum and Library Services:

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. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

Contact: Alice Doyle 718-646-373-0664 |

IMLS logo
This project was made possible in part by a National Leadership Grant (LG-26-11-03-01-11) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Campus Cultural Centers

Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC)Opens in a new window
Kupferberg Holocaust Center Opens in a new window

Using the lessons of the Holocaust to educate current and future generations about the ramifications of unbridled prejudice, racism and stereotyping.

Queensborough Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window
QPAC: Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window

QPAC is an invaluable entertainment company in this region with a growing national reputation. The arts at QPAC continues to play a vital role in transforming lives and building stronger communities.

Queensborough Art GalleryOpens in a new window
QCC Art GalleryOpens in a new window

The QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York is a vital educational and cultural resource for Queensborough Community College, the Borough of Queens and the surrounding communities.