What is CALTA21?


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.


To serve as a national model and catalyst for the empowerment of adult immigrants and their families through the development of collaborations amongst museums, institutions of higher education and literacy organizations. To support systemic change that transforms museums into powerful learning spaces for adult immigrants. To be a vehicle to strengthen the immigrant’s voice by encouraging the development of their academic, social, cultural and civic capital.

1. CALTA21 is a model initiative developed for and by the immigrant community. It is implemented in institutions of higher education, community based organizations, and art museums. The core of this initiative provides meaningful and relevant experiences by virtue of CALTA21′s Identity, Portraiture and Photography curriculum. It also aims to build resources for professionals who work with immigrant communities and to become a portal for dialogue among the different participants.

2. CALTA21 is designed to promote the development and validation of the immigrant’s voice in order to foster civic engagement and empowerment. This initiative will focus its efforts on promoting the immigrants’ identity and on working with immigrant communities to create a culture of empowerment through the development of English language and critical thinking skills. In addition, this effort will endeavor to build social, cultural and civic capital for these communities.

3. CALTA21 supports the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) goals to diversify museum audiences by transforming museums into welcoming spaces that provide meaningful experiences to diverse communities. CALTA21’s goal is to nurture immigrants’ lifelong engagement with museums.

4. CALTA21’s goals align with the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) goals of access, inclusion and the development of 21st century skills by providing opportunities for meaningful experiences and access to museums, culture and language.

The CALTA21 IMLS National Leadership 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

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.

What are CALTA21’s guiding principles?

  1. Every member of a community has the right to equal and informed access to art, museums and culture
  2. Museum professionals and English language instructors (mostly American born) and adult immigrants (foreign born) serve as facilitators and are all owners of knowledge – Shared authority among educators and adult students
  3. Adult immigrants possess a wealth of knowledge and past experiences that are used as an asset to build new knowledge – the personal immigrant story is the connector between old and new knowledge
  4. Art is used as a catalyst for learning language and strengthening critical thinking skills
  5. Museums are public spaces where adult immigrants and their families find comfort, relevancy and empowerment while developing their voice in a new civic context

How do we do it?

CALTA21 is a research-based 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. Extensive presentations in local, regional, national and international professional conferences by Patricia Lannes and Kitty Bateman

Aligned with IMLS’s goals of creating models that can be implemented nationally, CALTA21 will develop a national network of organizations interested in implementing the model. By virtue of the collaborative implementation of CALTA21, partnerships will form and grow open pathways for some of the country’s newest residents to enhance language skills, develop cultural and social capital, facilitate access to higher education, and support workforce development, while simultaneously helping each institution expand its reach and maintain its relevance in increasingly diverse communities.

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