Archive for March, 2011

Growing Pains

Since our art storage area is not available to the general public, we thought we’d give you a behind-the-sceneslook at our new and improved space.

In 2008, the Museum was awarded an important grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through the grant, the DMA has increased the square footage of several art storage spaces, expanded storage capacity, and modernized the spaces with new lighting, HVAC, and furniture fixtures. Each storage space was renovated to the highest preservation and green-building standards in coordination with the architecture firm Solomon & Bauer of Watertown, Ma., the City of Dallas, and contractors.

The building of the new Works on Paper (WOP) facilities was the final building stage of this multi-year project.  Three new rooms were constructed within the museum’s existing storage space to specifically hold the museum’s roughly 6,000 works. With the construction complete and the new cabinets installed, we have started the process of moving art from our old storage to the new.

Space was one of the biggest concerns in our previous WOP storage. This was especially true for our storage of framed works, where our cabinets were full the point of overflow. We often needed to remove five or six pieces in order to access the one object we needed. Since the goal is to move the work as little as possible, the “overflow” constituted a threat to the care of our objects.

Speaking in strictly numbers, we previously had 18 cabinets with a total of 126 bins, each bin being 10 inches wide and 42 inches deep. As you can see in the picture below, the height of each bin was set. While this created an aesthetically pleasing consistency, it left significant gaps and wasted precious space.

In our new space, conversely, we have 142 bins, each 11 inch wide by 42 inches deep. Not only do we have a greater number of overall bins, our new cabinets are completely modular.  Depending upon the need of the collection, we can add or subtract shelves.  The photo below shows the new cabinets in process of being loaded with objects.  Already you can see the increased functionality of this style unit.

The new framed work storage units are attached to rolling racks, which allows us to maximize our space by removing the need for aisles. While the use of rolling racks has been relatively common in library stacks for years, it is only now becoming the standard in collections care. With the addition of the rolling racks in the area, we have now updated all of our storage spaces to these compacting racks.  The photo below shows the new flat storage units on a rolling rack.

Always a problem in our old space, we specifically designed an area of the new storage space to view works on paper. Shelves built in to the slanted wooden backing fold out to support objects without having to bother with hanging.  The shelves are large enough to support almost any framed work in the collection, but are also designed in such a way where many smaller pieces could also be shown all at once.  The flexibility of the unit is vital to curators as they arrange and rearrange objects in preparation for gallery installations.  The overall size of the viewing space is an extra plus as we can now accommodate more students or scholars visiting on research trips.

The changes in how we store our works on paper will greatly improve the overall level of care we are able to maintain.  Thanks to the NEH and the Hoblitzelle Foundation, these improvements, along with the updates to our library and archives, the collections file storage space, and small objects—shown in last fall’s  Small Objects Collection is Movin’ on Up!—have made a profound impact on the way the collections staff cares for our museum’s collection.

Anne Lenhart is an Assistant Registrar at the Dallas Museum of Art

Form/Unformed: Goldilocks and the Chairs

This past December, the Tower Gallery on the fourth floor of the Museum became home to Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present.  This exhibition showcases over thirty works drawn largely from the Museum’s collections and reveals the ever-evolving formal aesthetics and ideas that have influenced design of the last fifty years.  Featuring everything from room dividers to candlesticks, the space pays homage to design powerhouses such as Verner Panton, Frank Gehry, Donald Judd, and Louise Campbell.  Though a broad array of objects appear in the exhibition, one cannot help but notice an overwhelming number of chairs

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Like Goldilocks entering the three bears’ home, we are presented with a selection of chairs ranging across all shapes and sizes.  As our exhibitions currently have a heavy empahsis on design, with Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement and Line and Form: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Wasmuth Portfolio, the Education staff began brainstorming how our society describes furniture and what appeals to us about various pieces.  In an effort to find the chair that is JUST RIGHT for you, here are some of the descriptors that may appear on any one of our wish lists for the perfect chair: organic, innovative, angular, minimal, sturdy, plush, colorful, weird, comfy, casual, simple, unique, futuristic, traditional, embellished, symmetrical, asymmetrical, functional, imaginative, elegant, versatile, compact, playful, practical, nostalgic, modern….As you can see, there are as many different ways to describe a chair as opinions on what qualities make the perfect chair!

What words describe your ideal chair?  Share with us in the comments section!

Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present will run through January of 2012 and is free with general admission to the Museum.

Ashley Bruckbauer
McDermott Intern for Programs and Resources for Teachers

Two Debuts

Our exhibition, Concentrations 54: Matt Connors and Fergus Feehily, opens soon (Sunday, April 3 to be exact). I’ve been lucky enough to work on this show from start to finish with Jeffrey Grove, The Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. Each artist has their own dedicated space in the Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Galleries. The first museum exhibition for both artists, we worked closely with them to decide the works presented as well as the logistics of each installation. Berlin-based Irish artist Fergus Feehily is integrating three objects from the DMA’s collection into his installation: a bead, a dressing cabinet, and an Indian miniature. New York artist Matt Connors, on the other hand, is installing 10 completely new paintings (finished very recently, as a matter of fact) and also a work of his that we acquired in last year Soul Error (Vertical), 2010.

We’re really excited to have both artists in town for the installation and opening events. See for yourself…

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On March 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm, Jeffrey will join both artists for a discussion of their work. Hope to see you there!

Erin Murphy is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant for Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art

Educator Resources: Sneak a Peek at New Online Teaching Materials

Egungun costume; 1920 - 1950; Yoruba peoples, Nigeria; cotton, silk, and wool fabric, metal, leather, mirrors, cotton, and wood; Dallas Museum of Art, Textile Purchase Fund, 1995.35.

This Egungun costume from Nigeria is one of sixty-five artworks in the Dallas Museum of Art’s collection that will be part of new online teaching materials to be launched in Fall 2011. Education staff, working in close collaboration with curators, designers, and web developers, have been hard at work for over one year designing a new model for creating online resources for teachers that are easy-to-access and provide the following:

  • more and better-organized information
  • video and audio clips related to the artworks and cultures
  • contextual images and multiple views of the artworks
  • teaching ideas that could be customized by classroom educators

The project is officially called Connect: Teachers, Technology, and Art, and it is supported through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. When we started our project work in November 2009, we went straight to the audience we serve: TEACHERS.  The dialogue and partnership that developed with ten teachers who were selected to represent the minds, wishes, and needs of classroom educators everywhere has been crucial, as it led to a pivotal decision about the presentation of information and ideas about the sixty-five works of art.

These teachers helped us test current teaching materials to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and they showed us how they might use objects like the Egungun costume in a classroom experience with their students. Together, we analyzed and re-imagined what great teaching materials for DMA artworks could be and we are excited to reveal this sneak peek.

I reveal to you the new template for online teaching materials and the future of online resources for teachers and students at the Dallas Museum of Art.  Each work of art will have its own set of information, clearly organized according to tabs.  The “First Glance” tab provides introductory information about the object, similar to the information found on a label in the galleries.  It may serve as the hook to pull you further into an exploration of the artwork.  The “Extended Information” tab provides paragraphs of topical information that reveal more about the object.  For example, the Egungun costume information includes paragraphs about Death and Religion, Materials, and African Masquerades.  This text has been culled from new curatorial scholarship and existing interpretive resources.  A teacher will also find contextual images in this section.

The third tab, “Teaching Ideas,” is a section presenting questions, comparisons, and activities that any teacher could use to get started teaching a lesson using this artwork.  These ideas are a mix of resources generated by DMA education staff and K-12 teachers.  Finally, the “Media/Resources” tab provides extra resources in the form of books, audio and video clips, and additional web sites.  We are also working to provide as many pronunciations as possible for less familiar words, easy print capabilities, opportunities to view the images in larger sizes, and access to detail images of the art.

In April, we will begin testing this new model with a new group of ten teachers. Will they agree with the first ten in terms of needs and wishes?  That is exactly what we hope to find out. Each of the new teachers will design and implement a lesson using the teaching material template above, and we will ask them to tell us what works and what needs to be changed or added.  We look forward to this second round of crucial work because it will only make the online resources stronger.  What are your initial thoughts about this new look and presentation?

At the completion of the Connect project, we plan to have a wonderful new model, but we will only have converted sixty-five objects to the new teaching materials.  We have hundreds to convert!  A redesigned home page and teacher resources site will help us streamline the presentation of resources as we remain in transition mode and continue converting the existing resources to the new format.  I will be anxious to share the new site with you later this year and welcome your comments.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Seldom Scene: A Pocket Full of Posies

Even though our galleries had “the day off,” today the Museum hosted Art in Bloom, the Dallas Museum of Art League’s annual symposium and luncheon. The springtime event provides generous support for the League’s Floral Endowment and the Museum’s exhibitions and educational programs.


Photography by Adam Gingrich, Marketing Assistant at the Dallas Museum of Art

Lost in Space: Experience Art In a New Way

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What do you think is inside this 3-D work by Lee Bontecou? Feel inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s plywood side chair? At the Space Bar in the Center for Creative Connections, we challenge you to really experience art and take what you see in our exhibition to make your very own work.

As the Coordinator of C3, I continually save creations left by Museum visitors. So do my DMA colleagues. Some we hold onto because of their extraordinary use of materials and some we save simply because we like them. Many works end up on the desks of C3 staff and the walls of the Center’s Director. However, we mostly save them to document the every-day happenings in the Center. During the Center’s first exhibition, Materials & Meanings, we filled several file cabinet drawers full of works of art visitors left on the Materials Bar shelf. For our current exhibition, Encountering Space, the C3 staff worked closely with DMA designer Jessica Harden to allow more display room specifically for the Space Bar. Now the Bar has nine shelves that extend to the ceiling providing Museum visitors with plenty of room to leave their work and become part of the exhibition.

One of my all-time favorite creations was made by a visitor on a Late Night this past fall. She made a dragon out of a cardboard box, tape, and pipe cleaners. The cardboard box was completely transformed till it was unrecognizable.  “Visual conversation” is how another visitor described the ability to leave your work of art at the Bar.  From dragons to drum kits, houses to fully composed songs in visual form, art left at the Space Bar provides you an opportunity to get involved in your museum: create, respond, express, and say something.

You too can contribute to the Encountering Space exhibition by creating a response to a work of art or literally making up your own. Every other month the supplies and art-making materials change allowing the artist-in-you to surface each time you visit the Museum. We encourage you to unleash your creativity to transform and manipulate unexpected materials like color-coated wire, pipe cleaners, masking tape, cardboard boxes, and aluminum foil. The Space Bar is open during regular Museum hours and there is no need to reserve a spot. Your creations might just be featured on Facebook or a future blog post!

Hadly Clark is the C3 Specialist at the Dallas Museum of Art



Friday Photos: NAEA in Seattle

Last week, Nicole, Jenny, Melissa, and I spent Spring Break attending the National Art Education Association convention in Seattle.  This was my first time attending NAEA, and I returned to Dallas energized, excited, and filled with new ideas for the teaching we do in our galleries. 

Although we all attended a lot of sessions at the convention, we also found time to get out and explore Seattle.  I especially enjoyed Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum (their African galleries are amazing).  Below are just a few of the photos from my week at NAEA! 

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Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching


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