Archive for February, 2010

Interview with Amanda Blake, Manager of Family Experiences and Access Programs

Amanda Blake in the Galleries

Amanda Blake in the Galleries

I recently interviewed Amanda Blake, Manager of Family Experiences and Access Programs, about her position here at the Museum. Amanda has  given insight into Family Programs occurring this spring. I hope you enjoy reading about her job and upcoming events for families.  To keep connected with programs for families at the DMA, visit We Art Family! The DMA Family Blog.

Name and Title: Amanda Blake, Manager of Family Experiences and Access Programs

 Years Employed at the Dallas Museum of Art: 3

 Describe your job here at the Museum:

I create programming to help families learn about art together, explore their own creativity, and have fun together. Some of these programs include weekend activities like Studio Creations, Collection Connections, and Sketching in the Galleries for Kids. We have Family Celebrations, which are fun days for families at the Museum and are often focused on special exhibitions. Another exciting program that I get to be a part of is Late Night programming for families.  I manage the summer art camps, spring break programming, and the newly added monthly class for homeschool families. Recently, I have begun to create programs for visitors with special needs.

What is your favorite part of your job?

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to be in the galleries with children talking about works of art. I also love to see all of the creative things that kids create during summer art camp. I led a monthly program with a group of adults from the Arc of Dallas; they are definitely one of my favorite groups to work with – the group is so joyful and always full of great ideas and inspiring thoughts. The people I work with also make my job enjoyable; we have so much fun together.

Tell me about a memorable experience you had with someone participating in a Family Programs event.

October is the Art Beyond Sight Awareness month and Art Education for the Blind encourages institutions all over the world to participate by highlighting visual awareness. Last October, I invited John Bramblitt, a blind painter from Denton, to lead workshops for both blind and sighted visitors. John brought his paintings to share with the public and then taught a workshop challenging sighted people to paint blindfolded. John and his wife prepared four different paint colors by mixing them with different textures mixed in and brought paper with their own designs that they had created with puffy paint. Visitors could feel the puff-paint line designs and then feel the paint to determine the colors that they wanted to use. Families with children who had vision impairment attend the event and talked about how it was the first time that they could “see” to paint. While working with John, I discovered what an amazing person he is and am planning to work with him more this summer! 

 What are some highlights for Family Programs this spring?

We have several Family Celebrations this spring and are busy preparing for our full summer of programming.

Some highlights include:

Young Masters: Advanced Placement Student Art Competition
February 27 – April 18, 2010, Concourse
This annual juried exhibition is funded by the O’Donnell Foundation. The exhibition showcases the talent of local high school students in the Advanced Placement art classes.

Autism Awareness Day Family Celebration
April 3, 2010, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
April is National Autism Awareness Month, and the Dallas Museum of Art is having  a special free Family Celebration designed just for children on the Autism Spectrum and their families. Visit the Museum’s Center for Creative Connections and participate in special programming before the Museum opens to the public.
Pre-registration is required, space is limited. For more information or to register for the event, please email your name, phone number, and the number of people in your family who will attend to: or call 214.922.1251.

 Amy Wolf
Teaching Programs Coordinator

Community Connection: Art in Motion

Last week, I had the chance to speak with Nancy Schaeffer, Education Director at the Dallas Children’s Theater.  She generously set aside time for our interview; as you will see, this is one busy lady.

Tell us about your work at the Dallas Children’s Theater.

Nancy Schaeffer, Education Director at the Dallas Children's Theater

My primary responsibility is overseeing our academy.  We serve children ages 3 ½ to 18 with acting classes and our teen conservatory. During the school year, as many as 300 children come to single programs during a week, and close to 1,000 children attend programs per week during the summer.  We also have mini-sessions where students have multiple experiences over four weeks.  It is my job to hire teachers, oversee curriculum and performances, and talk to parents.  I also oversee a residency program in schools during the school day.   In the summer we have musical theater, video classes, improv classes for teens, and storytelling for the little ones. All of our programs end with a production of some sort.

I also read scripts and sit on a committee that puts together the season for the year.  I sit on various committees for outreach, and we work closely with the nearby Vickery Meadow neighborhood.

How did you come to be Education Director at the Dallas Children’s Theater?

I have been with the Theater since its first day.  My husband was the first official full-time employee.  I started as an actress in the first production: Babes in Toyland.  I’m now in my 26th season with the DCT.    There was no education staff in the beginning; I eventually moved into this position over time and created my job.

What is your most memorable moment from your time with the DCT?

Moving into this building seven years ago, on Valentine’s Day.  When we moved in, it was really hard, but it was really exciting. It was hard because the building was not completed when we moved in.  We received a certificate of occupancy at 4:30 in the afternoon and had a show at 7:30 that night.  We also had a site visit that weekend from the National Endowment for the Arts.  And we were doing a show at El Centro that weekend.  We had no heat in most of the building, and all of our stuff from the old building was packed onto a truck that was not unloaded for two weeks.  The whole process was really something to be a part of.

Which production are you most looking forward to, and why?

I direct main stage shows – usually three a year – which is not a part of my responsibilities as Education Director.  It’s a lot of work and a lot of extra time, but I love whatever project I get involved in.  I’m currently directing How I Became a Pirate.  It has huge scenery components, and those are always exciting for the audience but are very challenging for the director.  We do nine shows a week with professional actors, and so far everything has worked out.

One of the shows I’m directing next season is titled Don’t You Love Me?  It is for teens and is about dating violence.  We’ve done this production once before, and we don’t back off when we do a play like this for teens.  We lead discussions afterwards, and I saw the impact this show had on the audience.  I realized how prevalent this problem is and how important it is to do this work. It does take a chunk out of you, but I did enjoy it.

In the past, you’ve led trainings for our docents based on your expertise in movement and performance.  How do you connect your work with looking at works of art?

Theater as an art form uses more than one type of art, with scenery, dance, music, sound, and the visual. The visual is critical in a play. While I’m looking deeply at works of art in the museum, I absorb these wonderful images and feelings and emotions which can’t help but inform my work.  Working with docents, who are so smart and engaged and want to expand, made me want to find ways to connect more visually in my art and my way of working with children. I love doing it, and I feel like I’ve gotten so much out of the trainings.

We are so busy; taking a minute to stop and look, then think and connect and realize what kind of emotions you’re feeling is good for your soul. I have also made such a nice connection over the years with Gail Davitt, the Director of Education at the Dallas Museum of Art, through certain projects and meetings that we both attend.  I’m so glad the Museum is in our community for children to visit and explore and know it’s for them.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Learning Partnerships with the Community

Green Screen Fun

The DMA Tech Lab is not only a great place to learn about works of art in our collection, but it’s also a fun space in which to explore new technology.  Last week, Nicole, Jenny, Melissa, Amy C., Logan, and took photos in front of the new Tech Lab green screen.   I then used Adobe Premiere Elements to place us into some of my favorite works of art in the DMA collection.  Here we are in Isaac Soyer’s Art Beauty Shoppe, with Tom Friedman’s Untitled (big/small figure), jumping on the Gothic Bed, and popping out of David Altmejd’s The Eye.  Click on the photos below for a larger view.

If you would like to experiment with the green screen, visit us during Spring Break week–March 16–21.  Our friends in the Family Experiences department will be offering a variety of programs for families, including tours, storytelling, and green screen technology workshops.  Visit their website for more information.
Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator

The Lens of Impressionism: Programs for Teachers

We are eagerly anticipating the Sunday opening of our big spring exhibition, The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874.  We are pleased to offer three programs for teachers in conjunction with this exhibition:

Evening for Educators
Tuesday, February 23, 2010; 4:00-7:00 p.m 
$16 full price; $12 DMA members 

Travel to the Normandy coast through photographs and paintings on an evening when the exhibition is open exclusively for educators.

Teacher Workshop — The Lens of Impressionism
Saturday, February 27, 2010; 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
3.5 CPE hours; limit 25
$25 full price; $20 DMA members

Explore the dialogue between painters including Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, and Claude Monet and early photographers such as Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and Louis-Alphonse Davanne.

Teacher Workshop — Exploring Photography: The Lens of Impressionism
7 CPE hours; limit 20
$50 full price; $40 DMA members

This workshop stretches over two meetings; please plan to attend both dates.
Saturday, April 24, 2010; 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 1, 2010; 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Examine early photographs in this special exhibition with Dr. Terry Barrett, and explore the creative process in a demonstration of ambrotype photography with photographer and educator Frank Lopez.

Visit the Web site for complete details.  To register, send an email to with your name, school name, email address, phone number, and the name of the program you would like to attend.

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs

Vocal Colors: A Brilliant Night at the DMA

On February 9th artistic director Ryan Taylor and the ensemble cast of Vocal Colors put on a great show at the Dallas Museum of Art.  This unique event put the arts on stage as singers, actors, dancers, and musicians from all over the country offered performances responding to artworks in the museum’s collection.  Researched months in advance, each artist’s contribution animated their chosen artwork, providing a fresh, sonic viewpoint.  The music was both moving and playful, reverent and funny—ear and eye-awakening.  Abraham Walkowitz’s Isadora Duncan Dancing was an artistic lynchpin for the night, but the works of art chosen for response ranged from ancient Chinese art, with Figure of a Court Lady and “Mo Li Hua” (a traditional Chinese folksong) to modern radio, with Nocturne Radio and “Moon Over Miami.”  The high point of the night, however, was a moving and brilliant selection from a secretive Vatican mass titled “Miserere Mei,” accompanying the DMA’s ambient and terrifying new acquisition of David Altmejd’s The Eye (to hear “Miserere Mei,” click here).  A playful moment was provided by soprano Ava Pine, and her choice of William Bolcom’s “Amor” to accompany Erte’s Aphrodite.  Erte’s work shows a real femme fatale, beautiful and lethal, parasol in hand.   Aphrodite came to life on the DMA stage, and she (or was it Ms. Pine?) had everyone shouting “Amor, Amor, Amor, Amor!”  Keep an eye out for other great offerings from Arts and Letters Live, including the upcoming performance of Texas Bound: Texas Short Series I, at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater (to purchase tickets, call 214.922.1818).  The show will also feature visual responses from students at Booker T. Washington, not to be missed!

Justin Greenlee

McDermott Intern, Learning Partnerships Department

Aphrodite, by Erte

The Eye, by David Altmejd

Finding Inspiration

When I am in need of inspiration, I often wander through the Museum galleries and look at works of art.   Admittedly, I am most drawn to artworks and spaces that focus on nature, have brilliant colors, or encourage moments of self reflection.   Below are a few of my favorite galleries.  

Southeast Asian Art Gallery

19th Century European Art Gallery

Sculpture Garden

Decorative Arts Gallery



Continue reading ‘Finding Inspiration’

Jacob Lawrence, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Connections to the DMA Collection

Last Saturday, Logan Acton and I led a teacher workshop focused on making connections between the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture and other works of art in the DMA’s collection.  We began by looking closely at the fifteen prints in the exhibition–each teacher focused her attention on one screenprint.  It was fascinating to hear the teachers’ observations about the prints.  I tend to emphasize context and the “big picture,” and the teachers focused my attention on aspects like line, shape, and color.  As one of the teachers put it–“We see history through all of the images.  We see the art elements when we look at just one print.” 

The prints in this exhibition were created between 1986 and 1997 and are based on a series of 41 paintings made in 1938.  We compared and contrasted images of the original paintings with two of the prints in the exhibition.  Lawrence made significant changes in these prints, such as including a wound on the chest of a man that is not present in the 1938 painting.  We discussed why Lawrence may have made these changes and how they might alter our interpretation of the prints.

We couldn’t discuss General Toussaint L’Ouverture without also looking at Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of George Washington.  Both men are shown in uniform, and both led revolutions that were happening around the same time, resulting in their respective countries gaining independence.

We also spent time making connections between Jacob Lawrence and artists like Renee Stout, and Romare Bearden.    Bearden and Lawrence were contemporaries, and both were very interested in showing scenes from African American life and history in their artworks.   Renee Stout is a contemporary artist who is inspired by African works of art, such as nkisi, and creates her own power figures. 

 If you would like to learn more about Jacob Lawrence and Toussaint L’Ouverture, I hope you’ll attend the Arts and Letters Live program on March 4th at 7:30 p.m., featuring Samella Lewis and Madison Smartt Bell.  I will lead a program for teachers in the exhibition beginning at 6:30 p.m. that evening.  We’ll explore the exhibition together before joining the program in the Horchow Auditorium.  I hope to see you on March 4th! 

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator

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