Break Bread, Break Borders: A Recipe and Reflection

We reached out to Break Bread, Break Borders, one of our community partners for the My|gration exhibition, and invited them to share a favorite recipe from their kitchen, as well as provide some background on their organization. Follow these steps to learn how to make a Syrian-style chicken kabsa dish, and find out more about this local nonprofit that “caters with a cause” in their message below.

Chicken Kabsa: Syrian Style (feeds 4 people)

Syrian Style Chicken Kabsa

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups basmati rice
  2. 1 whole chicken cut into pieces or 4 thighs
  3. 1 medium size onion
  4. 5 pieces of minced garlic
  5. 1 green pepper
  6. 2 green chili peppers
  7. 1 cup grated carrots
  8. 1 cup tomato sauce
  9. Handful of raisins (can skip)
  10. Nuts (almonds) for decoration (can skip)

Spices and herbs:

  1. Salt
  2. Black pepper
  3. Juice of 1 lime
  4. 2 cinnamon sticks
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 3 cloves
  7. 5 cardamom pods
  8. 1 teaspoon of “7 Spices” mix
  9. 1 teaspoon kabsa spice mix
  10. 1 teaspoon ground ginger powder
  11. Parsley for garnish (optional)
BBBB Community Cooks Khuloud Sultan (image left), and Rania Alahmad (image right)

Preparation:

  1. Chop onions and pepper finely
  2. Add oil in pot
  3. Add onions first; when it turns a bit brown, add garlic
  4. Add the rest of the veggies and mix
  5. Add tomato sauce
  6. Add salt and all spices
  7. Lower heat and let it cook for about 5 minutes
  8. Add washed chicken pieces to the mix
  9. Mix for a little bit and then add water until chicken is covered
  10. Let it cook and boil until chicken is fully cooked
  11. Wash rice very well
  12. Put rice in a pot; add the chicken stock to the rice (for every cup of rice, add a cup and a half of the chicken stock)
  13. Let it boil and then lower heat under it
  14. Add some raisins to the rice 7-10 min before it’s fully cooked
  15. Don’t mix the raisins, only cover the rice and let it cook
  16. Bake chicken in the oven at 275 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
  17. Roast nuts in pan until golden brown
  18. Before serving the rice, mix it lightly with a bit of ghee
  19. Serve rice in serving tray and add the chicken, nuts and minced parsley on top
  20. Enjoy!

BBBB Community Cook Rania Alahmad, serving her father’s recipe of Chicken Kabsa

June was first declared World Refugee Awareness Month in 2001. Since then, June has been a time to acknowledge the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees who live around the globe. By definition, a refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters. These are the heroic journeys that inspired the show My|gration at the DMA, and our organization, Break Bread, Break Borders, is honored to be a participant in this community project.

Based in Dallas, Texas, Break Bread, Break Borders (BBBB) is a “catering with a cause” social enterprise, economically empowering women from war-torn countries by teaching them how to earn a living by honing their cooking and entrepreneurial skills. Professional chefs, restaurants, caterers, and culinary consultants mentor refugee women apprentices, who earn food service industry licenses and certifications. BBBB’s women also learn to share their powerful stories with diners, creating a unique cultural exchange.

Jin-Ya Huang founded Break Bread, Break Borders in 2017 to honor the legacy of her late mother—chef, restaurateur, and community leader Margaret Huang. Through food, culture, and powerful storytelling, we break bread with the community, breaking down borders at the same time.

BBBB has served more than 10,000 people, catering events for clients including the City of Dallas, Texas Women’s Foundation, George W. Bush Institute, Texas Lyceum, Toyota of North America, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Social Venture Partners-Dallas, and many more. We have been named among Dallas’s Top 50 Most Innovative Social Enterprises by Dallas Innovates. BBBB is part of a cohort of social enterprises at The Hunt Institute at Southern Methodist University. Airbnb International has featured BBBB as a social impact experience partner. Our founder Jin-Ya Huang was selected as a 2019 Food Leader of the Year by Slow Food USA. In 2020 Huang was selected for the prestigious Presidential Leadership Scholars Program, allowing her the chance to work with former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on community projects to create lasting social change.

Standing on the side of freedom, Break Bread, Break Borders proudly educates on the ideas of equity, anti-racism, and eradication of xenophobia. One bite at a time, we will continue to share the taste of hope, compassion, and transformation to the world. Enclosed here is a recipe from one of our BBBB Community Cooks, Rania Alahmad. Please enjoy her Chicken Kabsa Syrian Style with your families, neighbors, and loved ones. Happy cooking, y’all!

Jin-Ya Huang is the founder of Break Bread, Break Borders, a social enterprise developing a culinary training program to help refugee women from war-torn countries find food service job opportunities by sharing their storytelling through food and culture. She is a member of Orchid Giving Circle and a fellow of the 2020/21 Presidential Leadership Scholars Program.

Unnecessary Embarrassment: Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Letters

Among the treasures in the DMA Archives are four letters exchanged in the summer of 1941 between artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi and the Director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Richard Foster Howard. For more than 40 years, these letters were the only works by Kuniyoshi housed in the DMA. Since 1988, Museum visitors have become acquainted with him through Bather with Cigarette. This star of the American art collection is currently on view in My|gration in the Center for Creative Connections.

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Bather with Cigarette, 1924, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase Fund, Deaccession Funds/City of Dallas (by exchange) in honor of Dr. Steven A. Nash, 1988.22, © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Displayed alongside works by artists and designers including Hans Hoffman, Peter Muller-Munk, and An-My Lê, Kuniyoshi’s painting represents one of the 14 immigration stories shared in the exhibition’s “Arrivals” section. The 1941 correspondence between the 51-year-old artist and the DMFA director sheds light on the challenges and discrimination Kuniyoshi experienced in the US.

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, from the Archives of American Art, photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son

Kuniyoshi arrived alone in Spokane, Washington, as a teenager in 1906. Although he initially planned to stay only a few years, by 1910 his artistic talents had led him to New York City. There he enrolled in a series of schools and entered the circle of leading figures in American art.

Bather with Cigarette was completed in 1924—the same year Congress effectively banned immigration from Asian countries. Kuniyoshi had already witnessed the government’s discriminatory policies. His marriage to fellow artist Katherine Schmidt in 1919 caused her to lose her citizenship. In 1922 the Supreme Court ruled that Japanese people were not the same as “free white persons” and thus did not have the same rights to naturalization. 

Fast forward to the summer of 1941. Headlines about naval attacks and international conflict fueled racism and xenophobia in the US. Kuniyoshi, like many American artists, wanted to travel the country in search of new inspiration. Unlike most of his peers, he could not embark on a trip without being hyper-aware that his appearance and national origins could be perceived as threatening. To mitigate the risk of police detention, he asked regional arts leaders to provide letters verifying his profession. The DMA Archives holds Kuniyoshi’s initial request to Howard (May 22, 1941), the director’s two-part response (here and here, May 26, 1941), and the artist’s thank you (mailed mid-journey from Colorado Springs, July 9, 1941).

Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s original letter to Richard Foster Howard.
Click HERE to expand.

In December 1941, Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the US declared war. Kuniyoshi was not among the 120,000 people of Japanese heritage who were forcibly moved to internment camps in early 1942. He was, however, declared an “enemy alien.” Federal authorities impounded his bank account and confiscated his binoculars and camera as potential spy equipment. Despite this maltreatment, he spent the war years working for the federal government as a graphic artist and radio broadcaster (valued for his fluency in Japanese). Following WWII, Kuniyoshi became the first living artist to be honored with a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1948. Although he had identified as an American and lived in the US for over 40 years, immigration laws prevented him from becoming an American citizen before his death in 1953.

Emily Schiller is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.

Pride of Place: Dallas Artists Respond

It’s always fascinating to see which objects in the DMA’s collection artists are drawn to because it can be a window into what is on their mind and how they think about their own work. For the last three years, the DMA has partnered with the local arts nonprofit Arttitude to celebrate the work of LGBTQ+ visual and performing artists in Dallas through programs like State of the Arts and our annual Pride Block Party. Since we are unable to tour the galleries with local artists for Pride Month this year, we reached out to two artists who exhibited in Arttitude’s recent MariconX show and invited them to find and respond to an object in the DMA’s collection that resonates with their own work. Here is what they had to say: 

Armando Sebastián is a Dallas-based painter whose work draws on Mexican folk art and his own life experiences to explore themes of gender and identity. Sebastián describes his style as akin to magical realism, and he is particularly interested in referencing the traditional Mexican folk art genre of ex voto paintings depicting divine interventions into human misfortunes.

Here are a few recent paintings from Armando Sebastián. You can see more of his work on his website and on Instagram

Images: Armando Sebastián, Los Amados / Live in Harmony, 2020; I know who I am, 2020; The Dreamers, 2019

Sebastián chose the 18th-century painting Christ as Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi), reflecting:

Unknown artist, Christ as Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi), late 18th century, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Cleofas and Celia de la Garza Collection, gift of Mary de la Garza-Hanna and Virginia de la Garza and an anonymous donor, 1994.37.1

“The angels above are conspiring to the master plan on earth. The trinity holds flaming hearts, perhaps the interpretation of humankind. On the ground you see the depiction of evil, a beast eating a fruit. The ladder to the heavens is full of obstacles that makes it impossible for anyone to climb. I personally appreciate narrative in art, the possibility to convey complex ideas and hidden meanings through your work.” 

Olivia Peregrino is a Dallas-based photographer working in portraiture and documentary photography. She began her career as a photojournalist, and her work has expanded to include uplifting portraits of women and Latinx LGBTQ+ communities, event photography, and documentary filmmaking.

Here are a few recent photographs by Olivia Peregrino. To see more of her work, follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

This slideshow contains nudity.

Images: Olivia Peregrino, Omar, El Salvador, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Rafael, Colombia, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Wandel, Dominican Republic, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Melissa, Natural Bodies, 2018

Olivia chose Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1981 photograph Ajitto, saying the following:

Robert Mapplethorpe, Ajitto, 1981, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund, © The Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe. Used with permission, 1981.99

“Robert Mapplethorpe is one of my favorite artists for the beauty of his portraits and his mastery of light and composition. Ajitto’s portrait perfectly reflects Mapplethorpe’s recurring obsessions in his photographs. The representation of the human body through the female and male nude is a theme that I, as an artist, also seek to show in my portraits, but from a feminine and contemporary perspective.”

Closed but Still Caring for Our Collection

The DMA’s doors may be temporarily closed, but our dedicated Art Care Team is still working hard to make sure all the Museum’s treasures stay in good condition! Take a look behind the scenes at what goes on during a typical “art check” by our team of essential staff members from our Conservation, Collections, and Security & Operations departments, and how they are keeping the galleries, the storage areas, and the rest of the building safe.

Pest traps must be set out to ensure we don’t have any small but destructive critters taking up residence in our art areas!
Building Manager John Claire helps collect pest traps in the Reves Galleries.
Paintings Conservator Laura Hartman inspects the pest traps in an art storage area.
Senior Preparator and IPM Coordinator Mary Nicolett uses a microscope to closely inspect the pest traps.
Building Assistant Luke Peterson conducts a temperature and humidity check in an art storage area.
Security Manager Shalamar Jackson and Associate Registrar Katie Cooper examine the painting racks in art storage.
Assistant Objects Conservator Elena Torok performs a modified air exchange in a case with a degrading early plastic⁠—Naum Gabo’s Constructed Head No. 2.
No horsing around here! Associate Registrar Katie Cooper conducts thorough gallery rounds.

All Bow Before the Bow

Interim Chief Conservator Fran Baas with Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse’s L’Alsace

As the checklist was being developed for the recent reinstallation of the European Art Galleries, curator Dr. Nicole Myers consulted with the Objects Conservation Team about the DMA’s terracotta bust L’Alsace by French sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. This mid-19th-century sculpture had not been featured in our permanent collection galleries in over 10 years, and the re-envisioned gallery design, featuring recent bequests and a more in-depth narrative of European art history, was just the opportunity to review some of our holdings. When we assessed the sculpture’s condition, we agreed on a few issues that needed to be addressed prior to display. Though structurally sound, this sculpture needed some attention to increase the aesthetic legibility. The curatorial-conservation collaboration is an insightful joint investigation as both subject matter experts work together to best present a work of art to the public.

Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, L’Alsace, before 1883, terracotta, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Edmund Pillsbury, Fort Worth, in honor of the opening of the new Dallas Museum of Art, 1983.153

This captivating terracotta sculpture is a symbolic representation of an idealized young woman of the Alsace region—a politically charged cultural and historic area because governance passed back and forth between France and Germany from the Thirty Years’ War to World War II. Though it is unclear exactly when in the 19th century this bust was created, the Alsatian culture is a unique mix of French and German influences.

The subject’s elaborate hairstyle (crimped bangs and two long braids, also called “plaits” in the 19th century), a section of an embroidered traditional dirndl apron dress, and bunches of flowers at her chest and in her hair are all visual cues to amplify the allegory of femininity and nationality. In the mid-19th century, the societal fashion across the European countries celebrated elaborate and rather complicated hair, and even for a time, these crimped bangs. A woman’s crowning glory was her hair. Keep in mind, hairstyle codes for women differed with age and even marital status. And, in this sculpture, we also get a snapshot of the region.

Charles Spindler, cover of Léon Boll’s “Wines and Coteaux d’Alsace” brochure, 1900

To both increase the legibility of and focus the viewer on the sculpture’s attributes (both in subject matter and material appreciation), the goals were to give it a general cleaning and to minimize stains and discolored old repairs. The minor oily grime discolorations seen around the high-touch areas, such as the underarm area, were reduced mechanically with vinyl erasers. The deep interstices in the terracotta had accumulated layers of dust, darkening the recesses even further. Dust and some minor spots of mold were carefully removed with a selection of tools (soft brushes, swabs, and a HEPA vacuum with micro-attachments).

Notice the minor oily grime discoloration around high-touch areas, such as this underarm area, before conservation.
Before and after reducing discolorations mechanically with vinyl erasers

Unifying the appearance of a previous restoration (a large patched hole on the back of the sculpture) with the surrounding areas was the most time-consuming part of the treatment. This old restoration was still structurally stable but drew unnecessary attention because the old fill materials used did not match the terracotta. So, the areas were toned back with reversible conservation paints.

The old restoration fills did not match the original terracotta.
Fran Baas treating the sculpture
Before and after treatment

She is now on view, under an acrylic case for protection from dust and grimy hands, with each side visible and offering something interesting for the viewer. Please find this work in our virtual gallery and spend time appreciating its craftsmanship and how the terracotta clay was manipulated by the artist before firing. You can see the artist’s fingerprints in the flower petals at her chest, revealing the creative spontaneity during the working process. Notice her exquisite outfit depicting her regional identity but especially appreciate that large bow. She’s gorgeous—even more so now that she’s been cleaned and restored!

Notice the details in the flowers, including the artist’s fingerprints in the flower petals.

Fran Baas is the Interim Chief Conservator at the DMA.

Collecting and Reflecting

The DMA houses art collections from far and wide, and from many different collectors. But collecting isn’t just for artworks to be exhibited in a museum! Many of us are our very own curators of art or objects that hold personal significance and memories. We asked DMA staff members what they collect, and here’s what they shared:

Melissa Brito
Teaching Specialist for Family and Access Programs
One of my current collecting habits consists of gathering disposed remnants of memories, specifically color-positive slide film. I’m drawn to these personal, forgotten-about moments that can be monumental, intimate, or mundane.

Cynthia Calabrese
Chief Development Officer
Exactly 30 years ago, I was given a “condiment fork” as a wedding gift and I was told, “may this be the first unique thing you collect in your married life.” Since then, I’ve added to it and collected everything from cocktail shakers, to large soup spoons, to dessert plates.

Katie Cooper
Associate Registrar for the Permanent Collection
Our small collection is an accumulation of our travels and passions. From this Murakami print found at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth to a Frank Lloyd Wright woodcut from his Chicago Robie House, our collection is a warm reminder of memories past. 

Chloë Courtney
McDermott Graduate Intern for Contemporary Art
My mother has an ever-changing collection of natural materials and found objects. It includes Roseville ceramics, seeds, bones, and playful elements such as tiny cows. Both whimsical and morbid, it operates as a memento mori in our home.

Lizz DeLera
Creative Director
Keith Haring—a personal connection. My design degree is from the university in his hometown of Kutztown, PA, and we both lived in NYC. The poster is from the F train on the subway, and he gave me a few of the others.

Heather Ecker
Marguerite S. Hoffman & Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic & Medieval Art
I love this print—a colorized version of a woodcut by Antoine Valérie Bertrand based upon a drawing by illustrator Gustave Doré (1832-83) that was published as part of the weekly travel journal Le Tour du Monde (Around the World) sold in French railway stations—because it is so operatic and perfectly renders 19th-century French stereotypes of Spain.

KC Hurst
Director of Marketing and Communications
Hypebeast sneakerheads won’t be impressed, but this humble collection of 41 pairs is my personal ode to sneaker culture. No sacred, unworn kicks over here—I’m just a girl who loves a good pair of high-tops. 

Danielle Lemi
Evaluator
This oil painting was created in 2019 by Sacramento-based artist Carmen Julie Velasco. After submitting grades, a professor enjoys a Sunday afternoon. Reaching a red light, she listens to Barbara Lewis’s 1963 hit Hello Stranger. She exhales and sees a restaurant where she met a former lover. What places hold memories for you?

Stacey Lizotte
DMA League Director of Adult Programs
I started collecting porcelain Disney figurines when I was in elementary school. I would choose characters from my favorite movies, but Disney stopped making these types of figurines in the early 90s. This made the last additions to my collection Ariel, Flounder, and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.

Patrick Pelz
Manager of Membership and Onsite Experience
This is a Saturday morning from January, and shows about a third of our plant collection. After some extremely cold and LONG winters in Chicago, we decided to make sure we were constantly surrounded by green year-round.

Emily Schiller
Head of Interpretation
We pick up a 3-D magnet from any new city we visit. We specifically look for ones that have been poorly painted—bonus points for new shapes and gratuitous gemstones. There are also sub-groupings, like the trio of “scrolls” from Jerusalem, Paris, and Sydney.

Queta Moore Watson
Senior Editor
I have more tote bags than I have shoes! When I travel, I always buy a tote bag. They’re not only useful but also a wonderful reminder of my trip. Here are a few from my collection.

A Sneak Peek of “Dalí’s Divine Comedy”

Whimsical. Unsettling. Surreal. These are a few of the adjectives used to describe the look and feel of the exhibition Dalí’s Divine Comedy, coming soon to the DMA. As the 2019-2020 Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Intern Fellow for European Art, I was given the opportunity to curate an exhibition of works on paper in a space in the European galleries on Level 2, drawing from the Museum’s rich collection of European prints and drawings. Exhibition planning comes several months (if not years for large exhibitions!) in advance before the works even touch the wall. Thus, I arrived at the DMA at the beginning of my tenure in mid-August last year with my sleeves rolled up and ready to work.

Dali’s Divine Comedy brings together works from prominent Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí’s series illustrating The Divine Comedy. Written by Florentine poet Dante Alighieri in 1320, this long narrative poem charts Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in search of salvation.

In 1950 the Italian government commissioned Dalí to illustrate The Divine Comedy in celebration of Dante’s 700th birthday. Although the request was later revoked, Dalí, likely inspired by the poem’s imaginative qualities and its potential for fantastical illustrations, persisted with this project. From 1951 to 1960 he created 100 watercolors representing each canto (or section) of the poem. The watercolors were later transferred to colored wood engravings. This series, containing 100 prints, came into the DMA’s collection in 1996 as a gift from collectors Lois and Howard B. Wolf.

Following the narrative cycle of its original literary source, Dalí’s Divine Comedy opens with a presentation of Dante’s depictions of Hell. Dalí visually reinterprets this realm as a barren, empty landscape crawling with strange amorphous forms as illustrated in the print Hell: Men Who Devour Each Other (Canto 30). His radical articulation of space demonstrates his unique Surrealist spin on the frightful qualities traditionally ascribed to Hell. Instead of depicting Hell as a fiery inferno, Dalí portrays this region as a vast empty space that conjures comparable feelings of terror.

Salvador Dalí, Hell: Men Who Devour Each Other (Canto 30), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.30
Salvador Dalí, Hell: The Blasphemers (Canto 14), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.14

Echoing the liminality, or state of in-betweenness, that characterizes Purgatory, Dalí recycles visual strategies employed in his renderings of Hell and Heaven to illustrate scenes from this region. In Purgatory: Avarice and Prodigality (Canto 20), sharp lines seen in Hell resurface in Purgatory, mediated by dynamic watercolor forms that distinguish Heaven. Dalí also provides up-close portraits of the realm’s inhabitants, providing a psychoanalytic glimpse into the complex nature of repentance.

Salvador Dalí, Purgatory: Avarice and Prodigality (Canto 20), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.14
Salvador Dalí, Purgatory: The Indolent Ones (Canto 3), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.37

Visitors will find Dalí’s seemingly placid though uncanny representations of Heaven in stark contrast to the scenes presented in the previous two realms. Dalí depicts the celestial cosmos with vibrant, warm watercolors as illustrated in Paradise: The Angel (Canto 2). The loose, fluid brushstrokes that compose the painterly form of the angel resonate with the ethereal properties that Dante ascribes to Heaven.

Perhaps the most visually striking element among these prints is Dalí’s persistent use of tiny geometric forms, which he refers to as rhinoceros horns, to make up the bodies of the angels and spirits that Dante encounters in Heaven. Dalí developed a peculiar interest in these forms during the later phase of his career claiming that they served as his sources of “angelic inspirations.”

Salvador Dalí, Paradise: The Angel (Canto 2), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.69
Salvador Dalí, Paradise: The Sixth Sphere of Jupiter (Canto 20), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.87

Dalí employs different visual aesthetics in his depiction of each realm while also guiding the viewer to consider the timeless paragone, or interaction between word and image, through his illustrations. The DMA’s exhibition Dalí’s Divine Comedy presents these varying perspectives, all while encouraging an endless pursuit of fantasy, play, and imagination.

Chasitie Brown is the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Intern Fellow for European Art at the DMA.

The Wonder Moments

What do you love to do? Perhaps it’s a favorite hobby or pastime, or perhaps it’s part of your job. Is there a moment that comes to mind when you think back on how you first became interested in that particular passion? We call these moments the “wonder moments”—moments where sparks of curiosity are first ignited. We asked DMA staff members about the “wonder moments” that led to working in a museum or doing the jobs they do now. Here’s what they had to say:

Georgia O’Keeffe, Red Poppy, 1927, Private Collection, Geneva. Invitation to the 1988 exhibition preview, Dallas Museum of Art Archives

Tamara Wootton Forsyth
The Marcus-Rose Family Deputy Director
The moment I knew when I wanted to work in a museum was actually here at the DMA! My high school art teacher made it a requirement that we go on a field trip to a museum. My field trip was to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition here at the DMA. I was dumbfounded by the exhibition and knew I wanted to stay in the arts forever. This was my favorite painting from the show. I even ended up with a small tattoo of the work!

Jacqueline Allen
The Mildred R. and Frederick M. Mayer Director of Libraries
I’ve always loved a good mystery.  In grade school, I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a novel about two children who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and research an art object.  Two decades later, I visited The Met in New York City and knew then that art and museums would be part of my life.  Fast forward to an Arts & Letters Live event on March 26, 2004, where I met the author E. L. Konigsburg, a dream come true.

Brian MacElhose
Collections Information Manager
I discovered when working at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) that I could merge two of my interests: computers and the fine arts. I had decided to return to nonprofit museum work after working in a for-profit gallery for about three years in New York City. When I was tasked with governing MAD’s art information, I realized that data is my jam!

Bernardo Velez Rico
Manager of Off-Site School ProgramsMy “wonder moment” was as an undergraduate at Stanford University.  The first class I took taught the histories of my communities—ones of resistance and resilience—through art; that taught me we all have stories to tell, and that I could help youth share their own.

Jessica Thompson-Castillo
Manager of Teen Programs
My “a-ha” moment was when I was working alongside teen volunteers in my first museum internship at Thinkery in Austin. Young people taught me what it means to listen and act with empathy—because sometimes that’s hard for adults to remember. Their passion and leadership inspire me to be a positive force for change in my community.

Accessible Art Making

The DMA has been a nationally recognized leader for more than a decade in the development of accessible programming for visitors with disabilities to connect with art. From our Sensory Days for visitors with autism, to our Meaningful Moments program for visitors with dementia, to Art Beyond Sight for visitors with vision impairment, our access programs foster creativity and learning, improve mood, and dramatically enhance quality of life. During this time when we’re all staying in, we asked our Manager of Access Programs, Emily Wiskera, to demonstrate an accessible, sensory-friendly art activity that you can do from home.

Sensory Ice Cube Painting

Materials needed:
Food coloring 
Water 
Ice cube tray 
Paper 

Optional materials:
Popsicle sticks or wooden dowels 
Aluminum foil or plastic wrap 
Newspaper or wax paper 
Old shirt or painting smock to protect clothes from staining 

Art projects are a great way to encourage learning through play. When kids are engaged in art making, they are also developing and practicing fine-motor, visual motor, and sensory motor skills. For some children, their level of engagement and participation improves when there is a sensory component to the activity. Children with autism demonstrate a range of sensory preferences and aversions. The activity of painting with ice cubes engages the senses and can be adapted to your child’s individual needs, whether they are a sensory seeker or sensory avoider. And it’s the perfect skill-building opportunity for a hot summer day! 

Directions:

Add 2 to 8 drops of food coloring to each ice cube cup. Fewer drops will result in lighter colors. Encourage children to explore mixing primary colors together to make secondary colors: Red + Blue = Purple, Red + Yellow = Orange, Yellow + Blue = Green.

Fill each ice cube cup with water, allowing some space for the ice to expand.

For children who dislike getting messy or who avoid tactile stimuli, cover your ice cube tray with a sheet of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Adults can use a knife to pierce a hole over each ice cube cup. Then, insert popsicle sticks through the holes in the foil and place in the freezer. Allow to freeze overnight. 

Remove the ice cube tray from the freezer and allow it to sit on the counter for a few minutes before removing the ice cubes. 

Place newspaper or wax paper over your painting surface, whether that is the kitchen table or outside on the sidewalk. Place the paper your child will paint on top of the protective paper. If taking this activity outside, children will have to paint quickly as ice cubes will melt faster. 

Tips: 

To keep children engaged, challenge them with achievable goals. Can they use all of the different colors? Can they draw three different shapes? Can they cover their entire paper with color? 

For extended learning opportunities, involve your child throughout the process. Ask them to help you gather materials, squeeze the food coloring bottles, count the number of drops of food color squeezed into each cup, mix new colors, or count popsicle sticks. 

Remember that the process of exploring materials and techniques is more important than the final product. If your child tends to feel too much pressure when making art, treat this activity as a science experiment. 

Emily Wiskera is the Manager of Access Programs at the DMA.

Empathy in Museum Design and Interpretation

Wow, what a weird world we are living in!

I want to start by saying how much we miss our visitors. We can’t wait to be able to return to the Museum so that we can continue to create the exhibitions and experiences we’ve all been dreaming about. In the meantime, I want to tell you a little bit about how the Design and Interpretation team at the DMA uses empathy to center our processes and thinking around you, our visitors.

Historically, museum design teams were trained to use an object-centered aesthetic approach, which prioritized object safety and making exhibitions pretty. Over the past 10 to 15 years, however, the way we think about design in a museum has changed. DMA designers place visitors at the center of our thinking and apply an experience- and needs-based approach.

Design and Interpretation is a visitor-centered department that cultivates meaningful communication and compelling experiences. Photo taken from a recent departmental retreat.

The DMA put this idea into practice by creating the department of Design and Interpretation in 2018. The idea was to create a collaborative creative team that places content and the visitor at the center of our processes of creating exhibitions and museum experiences. Our goal is to create rich, dynamic, and engaging experiences that our visitors can explore in deep and meaningful ways. Throughout our planning process, we consider how visitors will use, navigate, and interact with our spaces. Through visitor studies and evaluation, we research and learn about human behavior. We study subjects like environmental psychology, multiple learning types, and how people perceive and process information. We discuss differences in mobility and sensory sensitivity as we strive to be welcoming and accessible for all. We plan for families and groups of various sizes and types. And we have worked very hard toward our goal of providing inclusive experiences for broad audiences, such as creating bilingual and more accessible exhibition content, and working with our education team to expand our offerings that address special needs audiences. A recent example of this is when we provided noise-canceling headphones, “doodle” instructional signage, and braille booklets developed for the exhibition speechless: different by design.

Noise-canceling headphones and braille booklets were offered at the entrance of speechless: different by design.

Now, more than ever, this visitor-centered approach to design and interpretation is extremely important in how we are thinking about upcoming museum experiences. We are researching, learning, and planning for the evolving needs and behaviors of our visitors in the post-pandemic world. We are thinking about how we can address fears and how we can hold a space for complex feelings; we want to ensure that our facilities are prepared and our content remains relevant, relatable, and meaningful.

We understand that humans need ways to express, connect, and process the myriad of emotions elicited by the world in which we find ourselves, and we at the DMA are uniquely equipped to provide our visitors with tools and experiences that can help. Whether it is giving visitors encouragement to express ideas, feelings, and fears through independent activities, or creating experiences that allow our visitors to connect deeply and meaningfully with artists and artwork, we hope to meet the wide range of needs exposed by this global health crisis.

Jessica Harden is the Director of Design and Content Strategy at the DMA.


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