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

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

Community Connection: Dallas and Beyond

I look forward to spring for several reasons: warmer weather, hints of green and color coming out on trees and plants, and the National Art Educators Association Convention.  Held in a different city each year, the Convention provides opportunities for us to meet museum and classroom educators from all over the United States, as well as other countries, and to learn what our colleagues are doing and thinking about in their respective cities.  On the flip-side, DMA educators often lead conference sessions and share about the new and exciting programs that consume our daily lives.

The most recent Convention took place in Seattle during Spring Break.  I took part in a session with Elizabeth Gerber and Sofia Gutierrez, educators from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  We all work closely with afterschool programs, and evaluation and reflective practice are essential to the development and refinement of our programs.  We led a session that not only described our programs but also encouraged our audience to share their practices.  Meet our most distant Community Connections to date below:

Briefly describe your position at LACMA.

Elizabeth:  In a nutshell, I aim to connect the art at LACMA with the lives of students and teachers throughout Los Angeles County.  This includes working with multi-visit school programs where kindergarteners through high school students visit the museum multiple times; programs that take place in schools, libraries, and community centers; and professional development opportunities for classroom teachers.  These programs occur during school, after school, in the evenings, and on the weekends.  LACMA even creates an exhibition at a local elementary school each year!

Elizabeth Gerber

Sofia:  I coordinate the out-of-school afterschool component for the Art Programs with the Community: LACMA On-Site program. We have a partnership with the Los Angeles Public Library, the YMCA, and the Los Angeles Unified School District. The majority of the workshops happen at the seventeen partner libraries, where we hold weekly sixty- to ninety-minute hands-on art programs focused on developing critical thinking skills, creativity, and personal connections. I work closely with our teaching artists by mentoring, looking over lesson plans, collaborating on professional development, team teaching, and further developing best strategies for equal voicing opportunities for our participants, many who are English Language Learners. Each workshop has learning and social goals that were developed from our two-year participatory evaluation modeled after the Theory of Change.  I also work closely with the librarians and other community partners and coordinators in our programs to ensure we are meeting the educational and life-long learning needs of their community, and to extend the hospitality of LACMA as part of their community.

Sofia Gutierrez

What was your favorite part of your Seattle NAEA experience?

Elizabeth:  This year I really enjoyed the opportunity to think “big” about museums and the ways they connect with audiences and communities.  This work encompasses everything from collaborating with living artists, to evaluating the work of museums, to articulating the ways museums have an impact on their visitors and program participants.

Sofia:  I especially enjoyed hearing about all the inspiring work that is being done in the field of Museum Education and the nation’s libraries, and the call to action from our profession to ensure that the nation is aware of the crucial role and value of these public institutions, and that museums along with libraries, not just the sciences, are leading the way in developing 21st Century Skills.

If you could take any work of art from the LACMA collection home with you, what would you choose?  (I know I ask this question of all our museum colleagues, but this is a great way to learn about the treasures of their collections!)

Elizabeth:  It is tough to pick just one!  Although my background is in contemporary art, I’d love to live with Copenhagen: Roofs Under the Snow by Peter-Severin Krøyer.

Sofia:  I would choose Veiled Christ, a small 18th century Italian terracotta sculpture of Christ entombed with a shroud covering his body.  And if that wasn’t available, I would take The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, c. 1638-1640, by Georges de La Tour.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of  Teaching in the Community

Mastering the Competition

We were thrilled to celebrate with the O’Donnell Foundation the opening of the thirteenth annual Young Masters: Advanced Placement Student Art Competition exhibition in our Concourse Gallery. Recently, some of the artists discussed their works at our Family First Day with WFAA’s Shelly Slater. In this video, Kathy Tran of Richardson High School talks about her approach to a self-portrait for her digital photograph Getting Out of Bed Is a Choice:

Over 480 submissions were considered, including 366 works by Studio Art students, 100 essays by Art History students, and 15 compositions by Music Theory students. The “Final 48” represent 13 schools.

This year, you can also experience Young Masters in a whole new way at Use your own smartphone or borrow an iPod Touch from the Museum to hear music compositions and art history readings by students featured in Young Masters.

And last but not least, check the We Art Family blog after April 8 to see which work earned the “People’s Choice Award.”

Maria Teresa G. Pedroche is Head of Family Experiences & Community Engagement at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Longtime Curator “Travels” DMA’s Silk Road

Following her new installation in the third-floor galleries of objects that reflect transport along Eurasia’s  Silk Road, “seasoned” curator Dr. Anne Bromberg sat down with us to discuss her fascinating career. A lifelong Dallasite—except for her years at Harvard getting her B.A. in anthropology and M.A. and Ph.D. in classical art and archaeology—Dr. Bromberg has been on the staff of the Dallas Museum of Art for more than forty years, first as a lecturer and docent trainer beginning in 1962, then as head of the education department, and currently as The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art. What’s more, she has led an inspired life, traveling extensively to little-known locales, researching and experiencing the cultures within her discipline.

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Q: How would you describe your job at the DMA?

AB: Most curatorial jobs involve trying to acquire art for the museum, organizing exhibitions and/or working on exhibitions that come to us from elsewhere, publishing, lecturing, working with volunteers, [and] cultivating donors. In terms of legwork, it’s going around and seeing dealers and other collections, visiting other museums, going to conferences, and giving lectures outside the museum.

Q: You are in charge of a very diverse area of the Museum’s collections. What is your particular area of expertise?

AB: Classical art, meaning the art of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and all Asian art, but I’m mainly working with South Asian art.

Q: How did you become interested in Asian art?

AB: One of the really outstanding teachers I had taught evolution in her biology courses, including historical geology, and I was really fascinated with historical geology and that got me into reading about archaeology. And I thought, this is what I want to do. A good teacher makes a difference. I’ve actually been interested in Asia for a long, long time. When I was an undergraduate, I was reading books on Zen Buddhism and haiku, the Ramayana, and things like that. Books stimulate your passion to go see these things in reality.

Q: What are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled to?

AB:  I think both my husband, Alan, and I would say the single favorite place we’ve been is Isfahan in Persia. Italy, of all the European countries, is easily the most seductive, and everybody I know who has been to India is dying to get back. We’ve been there so many times, and you feel like you’ve just scratched the surface.”

Q: What is your favorite object within the ancient and Asian collections at the DMA? Within another collection?

AB: The Shiva Nataraja, because that image is the single most important iconic image in Hinduism generally, and many Hindus would agree with that. It is exceptionally beautiful both aesthetically and because it represents the loving quality of the god Shiva. South Indian Hindu poems describe worship as falling in love with the god, and our Shiva Nataraja is the embodiment of that Chola period poetry.

Brancusi’s Beginning of the World. because of my background, I personally have a strong response to pure geometric forms and classical idealism, and I’m certainly not alone in believing that the ancient Greeks would appreciate that classical, pure, and geometric vision of the beginning of the world.

Q: Do you personally collect art? What types of objects are you most drawn to?

AB: Primarily we’ve collected what I would call third-world contemporary art—things that at the time were being made wherever—New Guinea, India, South America, Mexico, etc.

Q: Why do you think it is important for people to study non-Western art?

AB: If you study non-Western art, you’ll learn what human beings create and why. If you stick only to your own civilization, you are much less likely to think about why these things are being made . . . or about a much more serious question to me, why do we call it art?

Q: Describe your current project, an installation of objects from the DMA’s collections focusing on the Silk Road.

AB: The Silk Road installation is something that has interested me for a long time. We do have a lot of artwork that really displays the meaning of the Silk Road, which tied Eurasia together for millennia. So I was delighted when I got a space where I could show the ties between the Mediterranean world and Asia.

The Silk Road is an ancient transcontinental network of trade routes that spread across Eurasia from the Mediterranean to China and Japan. The phenomenon of the Silk Road is constantly studied and has recently been featured in museum exhibitions around the world. The new installation, organized by Dr. Bromberg, addresses six themes related to the Silk Road, including the development of cities and trade, the importance of animals to early societies, and the spread of religions. The installation presents well-known DMA favorites, such as the Javanese Ganesha and the bust of a man from Palmyra, and new works from several local private collections. Opening this weekend, come see the new installation on Level 3 the next time you visit the DMA.

Ashley Bruckbauer is the McDermott Intern for Programs and Resources for Teachers at the Dallas Museum of Art and Madelyn Strubelt is the McDermott Curatorial Intern of Ancient and Asian Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Teaching with Art from the Himalayas and Southeast Asia

Fellow Teaching Programs Intern Ashley Bruckbauer and I, recently led a docent training session that highlighted six objects from the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.  We wanted to familiarize docents with objects from these areas, discuss teaching strategies for works with religious significance, as well as consider overarching themes within the Asian collection that would encourage students to make connections within their own lives.          

Ashley started the training session talking about the Silk Road Trade Route and how it introduced Buddhism into different regions of Asia. Buddhism originated in India and is based on the teachings of Prince Siddhartha, who became known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. He taught that all life is suffering, but renouncing desires and the self can lead to a state of enlightenment beyond both suffering and existence. Buddhism is no longer as widely practiced in India but has spread to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Far East through missionary activity. Today, it is one of the world’s largest religions.         

We then had docents look at and discuss the six works of art. These objects inspired the two themes for our docent training: Opulent Buddhas and Ferocious Protectors.

 1. Opulent Buddhas
The objects presented under this theme were the Buddha Sakyamuni, Manjusri, and the Buddha Muchalinda. These objects represented three examples of Buddha figures heavily adorned with lavish materials.  What can we learn from these objects, sculpted in opulent materials? Buddhists consider gold the supreme color, which is why many of their images are gilded. Bronze figures are sometimes coated with another metal before gilding. Gem-encrusted, gilded statues would have been created to inspire meditation among the monks in a Buddhist monastery. It also symbolizes the spiritual wealth of the Buddha.

  • The Buddha Sakyamuni is shown standing in his princely clothing. He is wearing a robe or Sanghati, with a jeweled belt, collar and crown. He also has a jeweled inlay urna or third eye, on his forehead as well.  His hand gesture, or mudra, symbolizes protection, meaning “fear not.”
  • Manjusri is the bodhisattva of divine wisdom. He is considered to be the founder of Buddhist culture. He is always shown as a youthful crowned prince. He carries traditional emblems: the Buddhist scriptures on a lotus flower and the sword that cuts ignorance.  His left hand is raised in a gesture of teaching. His sweet and placid character embodies peaceful consolation.
  • The Buddha Muchalinda represents a moment in the Buddha’s enlightenment. The Buddha was sitting under a tree in deep meditation, when rising waters were sent by a demon to drown him. The Naga or serpent king, came from beneath the earth, raised the Buddha above the rising waters on his snake coils and protected him with his seven cobra heads.

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 2. Ferocious Protectors
The second group of objects discussed were the Guardian Snow Lions, Rearing Lion, and the Dharmapala Lhamo.  Ferocious animals and wrathful deities have symbolic significance and are an important decorative element in Buddhist art. Why might it have been necessary for these objects to appear frightening? Fierce sculptures such as these are made to adorn  the Buddha’s throne and protect the Buddhist law and scriptures.

  • These Guardian Snow Lions are shown heavily ornamented with a jeweled crown and decorative chains as well as elaboration of bodily features, such as the curls in the mane, tail and leg fur. Flames of wisdom, which represent light or transformation, flare up from the shoulders and the head. Their ferocity is shown by their large sharp fangs, powerful claws and brawny build. The lions would have guarded entrances of temples and demarcated sacred grounds. They also protect against evil spirits and are depicted in Buddhist art supporting the Buddha’s throne.
  • A figure like the Rearing Lion would have supported the exterior base of temples, lintels, thrones, pedestals or platforms. The details of the face, such as the squared mouth and the treatment of the eyebrows with a relief-design between eyes, are associated with the royal temple of Koh Ker. Koh Ker was the capital of the Khmer Empire during the 10th century. The Khmer Empire is now present-day Cambodia.
  • The Dharmapala Lhamo is one of eight Dharmapalas or Great Protectors of the Buddhist law and scriptures. She is typically illustrated as a bloodthirsty and terrifying character riding a mule or donkey and adorned with a crown of skulls, garland of decapitated heads, and a human skin worn as a cape. She also has flaming hair, bulging eyes and a corpse in her mouth. The goddess rides through a sea of blood accompanied by two hybrid female deities.  She would be used by monks for meditation, helping to transform anger and energy into creative energy needed to achieve enlightenment.

Karen A. Colbert
Teaching Programs Intern

Buddha Sakyamuni, Khmer Empire (Thailand), 13th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Wendover Fund
Manjusri, Nepal or Tibet, 18th century, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Mrs. E.R. Brown
Buddha Muchalinda, Khmer Empire (Cambodia), Dallas Museum of Art, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund
Guardian Snow Lions, Nepal, Kathmandu Valley, 1875, Gift of David T. Owsley via Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation
Rearing Lion, Cambodia: Koh Ker period, 10th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, The Museum League Fund
Dharmapala Lhamo, Tibet, 18th century AD, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley through Alconda-Owsley Foundation


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