Archive for April, 2011

20/20 at the DMA

We have reached 20,000 fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter! To thank every one of you we are offering 20% off adult general admission and 20% off new memberships*  from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, 2011. Just tell the Visitor Services Desk, or visit the Membership desk on Level 1, that you follow the DMA on Facebook or Twitter to get your 20% discount.

* not available with any other offer

First grade's smartest artists

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Last month, four volunteers and I piled into the Go van Gogh van and drove south of downtown to Rosemont Primary, a DISD PK-2 school in Oak Cliff.

While Rosemont Primary is just one of the many campuses we visit with the Go van Gogh outreach program, we have a special relationship with their first grade teachers.  Each year, we visit the first grade at Rosemont, presenting multiple programs in all eight classrooms and getting to know the students during our many visits.  Through the years, the first graders at Rosemont have played a larger role in the Go van Gogh program than they might realize; Go van Gogh staff often takes newly-developed curricula into their classrooms.  We test questions, gauge response during activities, and (most importantly) make sure that we’ve packaged an experience that’s fun, engaging, and relevant for the students.  Go van Gogh staff is grateful to our first grade friends at Rosemont for the smart observations, unexpected answers, and funny moments that have helped us refine curricula, ensuring that our programs are solid.

Needless to say, we were pretty excited to return to Rosemont last month with the Me & My World programMe & My World introduces first graders to people and places in art through stories and clues.  The program features four artworks, and our conversations range from talking about families while looking at Mary Cassatt’s Sleepy Baby to thinking about heroes while looking at our Greek Gold Wreath.  Students create an art activity inspired by another artwork in the program, Fernand Leger’s The Divers, drawing a picture on transparency film with a Sharpie, and layering it on top of a bright collage of shapes.

Photos from our fun morning at Rosemont, featuring the little artists and their creations, are above.


Amy Copeland
Coordinator of Go van Gogh Outreach

Seldom Scene: Readying the Show

Uncrated went behind the scenes in our Chilton Galleries last week to capture the installation of our newest exhibition, Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection, which opens this weekend.

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

Riding That Train

'Afternoon Train' (1944) by Doris Lee, a print in the DMA collection.

While famous songs about trains by Gladys Knight, the Grateful Dead, or Bob Marley* might not exactly bring to mind Dallas’s DART system, a quick, easy, and scenic trip to the Museum by light rail or trolley does offer much to sing about.  The DMA is a short walk from DART’s St. Paul Station, and the McKinney Avenue Trolley lets off visitors right at our front door.

Every day, more than 220,000 passengers ride trains, light rail, and buses to move across our city. Whether they’re on their way to the DMA and the Arts District or to another destination, everyone who rides DART encounters works of art. Through the Station Art & Design Program, local artists are commissioned to envision the design concept and theme for every DART station and to lead teams consisting of architects, engineers, designers, and contractors to create unique installations and environments at each stop. In addition to site-specific works of art—including mosaics, sculpture, and photography—the artists also design structural and functional elements like columns, pavers, and windscreens unique to each station.

Hatcher Station. Artist: Vicki Meek. Image: Courtesy DART

Lovers Lane Station. Design Artist: Pamela Nelson. Photo: Courtesy DART

Southwestern Medical District/Parkland Station. Artist: Susan Kae Grant. Image: Courtesy DART

If you travel through one of DART’s fifty-five stations, look for the work of some well-known members of Dallas’s artistic community, such as Benito Huerta, Vicki Meek, Susan Kae Grant, and Pamela Nelson, among many others. You might also encounter works by artists who are represented in the DMA’s collections. Tom Orr and Frances Bagley, for example, were individually commissioned by DART for several stations. Orr was the station artist at DART’s Bush Turnpike Station, which is surrounded by both a large freeway as well as open, green space. To respond to the location of the station, he designed large steel and wire columns that were planted with vines to create large-scale topiaries.

Tom Orr's Installation at the Bush Turnpike Station. Image: Courtesy DART

Frances Bagley served as the station artist for Union Station, Convention Center Station, and Cedars Station (all along the Blue and Red DART lines); on each project, Bagley collaborated with other artists to create installations that reflect the particular site of each station.

In 2009 Bagley and Orr collaborated on a gallery-scaled installation that was included in the DMA’s special exhibition Performance/Art. The piece was based on the pair’s design for the Dallas Opera’s 2006 production of Verdi’s Nabucco. The installation recalled the setting for the opera’s biblical story and portrayed the artists’ interpretation of the Euphrates riverbank, the idol of Baal, and the Hanging Garden of Babylon.

Mural Detail from Union Station. Image: courtesy DART

Tom Orr and Frances Bagley's Installation in the DMA's "Performance/Art" exhibition.

Take advantage of this great spring weather and DART to the art . . . but don’t forget to explore the works of art along the way. Use DART’s guides to learn more.

* Take a look at this list of one writer’s Top Ten Train Songs.

Lisa Kays is Manager of Adult Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art

Friday Videos: Nightlife at the DMA

Did you know that the Dallas Museum of Art is an exciting place to spend your Thursday nights?  Thursday evenings at the Museum are filled with live jazz music in the cafe and artist encounteers in the Center for Creative Connections.  Teachers and students receive free admission from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. each Thursday with a valid school I.D.  Did you also know that the DMA has its own YouTube channel featuring a brand new video all about Thursday Night Live at the Museum? 

A second video has just been released all about Late Nights at the DMA.  On the third Friday of each month, the Museum stays open until midnight.  In my opinion, this is the best time to be at the Museum–the whole building pulses with energy and excitement!  From live performances to lectures to art-making activities, there are experiences that everyone will enjoy.  In fact, tonight is the April Late Night, so watch the video below and then head down to the DMA for a night of art and fun!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Revealing Spirits: The Art of Indonesia

My colleague Amy Copeland and I recently led a teaching session focused on a few works of art in the Dallas Museum of Art’s amazing Indonesian collections. Our session in the galleries highlighted an expressive ancestral couple and a beautifully carved door with mythical creatures, emphasizing ways to look closely as well as explore geography and belief systems through objects from Indonesia.

Spirits abound in Indonesia.  A mysterious energy animates the entire universe. Human beings and animals, trees and plants, the ancestral dead, stones, man-made objects, even traditional houses — all share in this vital force.  Man has been inspired to give many of these spirits tangible form, to make the unseen visible.

Dallas Museum of Art wall text

Female ancestor figure, Toba Batak people, Sumatra, Indonesia, 19th century or earlier, wood, Dallas Museum of Art, the Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Male ancestor figure, Toba Batak people, Sumatra, Indonesia, 19th century or earlier, wood, Dallas Museum of Art, the Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

This male and female pair represents an ancestral couple from the Toba Batak peoples on the island of Sumatra.  The two objects were originally bound together with a third object and kept out of sight in the uppermost region of the house inhabited by the Batak lineage founder.  This region of the house was a space the Batak associated with the upperworld, where gods and ancestors reside.  Only a privileged few were ever allowed to view or touch these powerful ancestors who both protected as well as carried the potential to inflict harm. What I love about this couple are their expressive qualities.  Look closely at their faces — the eyes, the noses, and the mouths.  Next, notice their posture. Both have knees bent slightly and their backs held in a certain way.  Viewing these in the galleries is best so that you can walk all the way around them. Finally, perhaps what attracts our eye most are the large hands of the female. The male once had separately carved hands as well.  You can see the rectangular slots on either side where his hands were once attached.  The hands on the female are up, with palms turned inward.  This gesture expresses the Batak greeting of “Horas”, or hello.

Door with protective symbols, Kayan people, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, c. 1850-1900, wood, brass, and shell, Dallas Museum of Art, the Roberta Coke Camp Fund

The Kayan people of East Kalimantan in Indonesia live in longhouses, which can be very large structures that rise from the ground on stilts.  The longhouse is a series of contiguous, individual spaces connected by a common verandah.  The organization of the spaces in the longhouse is similar to the American concept of apartment structures.  Each space houses a family, so a longhouse is the residence for many people.  This wooden door was either as the main door to the longhouse or as the door to the individual space of the chief. The animal symbols carved on the door protected inhabitants from evil spirits and intruders.  Look closely for animal forms on the door.  The white, shell circles contrast sharply with the dark wood.    These circles are the eyes of the protective, mythical creature called the aso, a form resembling both a dog and a dragon.

In addition to looking at objects in the galleries, Amy and I shared some general information about Indonesia during the session that help us begin to know and connect with this far away location.

  • Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world!  It consists of thousands of islands.
  • According to Google Maps, it is 9,200 miles between Dallas, Texas and the East Kalimantan in Indonesia.
  • A plane ride to Indonesia would last sixteen to eighteen hours!
  • Many islands in Indonesia have been known throughout history for the spices, such as nutmeg, and natural medicines, such as camphor, found there.
  • Several delicious coffees originate from Indonesia.  Sumatran coffee from the island of Sumatra is one of my favorites.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Art and Amps: Getting Media Works Up and Running

Uncrated tracked down DMA staffer Lance Lander to talk about his job at the Museum, which often involves climbing in and out of holes in the sheetrock of our gallery ceilings and walls.

Describe your job in fifty words or less.

I am the Collections Media Technician and an Assistant Preparator. I design, install, manage, and maintain all of the technology hardware used within the galleries. Additionally, I provide support to the preparators in all facets of art handling.

What might an average day entail?

For me there is no average day. One day I am hanging paintings in a gallery and the next day I am running cables through the ceiling. There are days that I work in the Carpentry Shop building crates, and then there are days that I spend programming computers.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?

The best part of my job is the team of people I work with directly (Martha, Elia, Mary, Vince, Brian, Doug, John, Mike, and Russell). Everyone is extremely talented and supportive of one another. Each person has his or her own niche or skill set and together as a group we are very strong. We all work well together and have a lot of fun at the same time.

The biggest challenges are dealing with so many forms of technology and keeping the equipment running. I deal with technology ranging from the 1960s to the present day. Some of the works in our collections rely on the equipment they were created with. We can’t just upgrade and “digitize” a work of art. We must maintain the integrity and aesthetic of the work. Technology changes at such a fast rate that it is hard to balance between our needs today and our needs for the future. We have started adding high-definition videos to our collections, so the equipment we use on current works won’t accommodate these new ones. The Museum is open fifty-two hours a week and sometimes more, so I need industrial equipment and creative ways to automate everything.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?

Growing up I always wanted to be a recording engineer and producer. That’s what got me interested in technology. I loved recording music on jam boxes and then four-track cassette recorders. I would spend hours experimenting with sounds and recording techniques. I would take apart electronics just to have a peek inside. I studied music and engineering, and I worked in several studios and made some really nice-sounding records. I was lured to the DMA as a live sound engineer when they began the Late Night program.

What is your favorite work in the Museum’s collections?

That would be Ave, by Mark Di Suvero. It is powerful, poetic, simple, and elegant. The sculpture was made the year I was born and I have a strong affection for it. Last year someone cable locked his bicycle to it and I was the one who cut the lock!

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?

Fast Forward was the exhibition that made the Exhibitions and Collections departments realize the importance of having a Media Technician. I was working in the Audio Visual Department and gallery installations were just a side part of that job. The media installations were just thrown together with little or no concern for aesthetic or function. Fast Forward was my chance to show everyone that media installations could be better. I always strive to show an artist’s work as best I can because I know it will enhance the visitor’s experience. But for me, personally, the world won’t listen by Phil Collins was the most rewarding installation. There were many challenges and problems to solve, and right at the end everything came together. It was a beautiful installation and people really loved it. It will probably be awhile before we take on such a large-scale video installation. As far as future installations, I would like to see the Museum install Bill Viola’s The Crossing. I installed it a few years ago in Palm Springs, and when everything is set and you play it for the first time it is a chilling experience. I remember coming to the DMA in 1998, when the work debuted, but at that point in time I never knew I would work here or be responsible for such a magnificent work of art. I believe it is the strongest video in the DMA’s collections and I hope to install it soon.

Teen Docents: It's a Family Affair

This summer, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the DMA Teen Docent program!  Over the course of the last ten years, we have noticed that a lot of our new applicants have older siblings who were also teen docents.  There are even a few teen docents whose moms are DMA docents during the school year.  I’m going to turn the spotlight on two teen docents who are sisters, and who also happen to be my cousins.  For us, the teen docent program really is a family affair.

Leah is currently a junior, and this will be her third summer as a teen docent. 

Leah, what was your best tour experience from last summer?
My best teen docent experience from last summer was a tour for a group of girls who were in second, third, and fourth grade.  They really got into the tour, and we had a great time talking, sketching, and playing games inspired by works of art in the galleries.

What are the benefits (in your opinion) of being a teen docent?
Being a teen docent, you get service hours in a fun way.  You get to talk with kids, teach them about art, and meet other teens who have the same interests as you. It is also a great way to build up confidence in leadership and public speaking, as there will never be anyone quite as opinionated as a group of 20 little kids…

Abby will be a freshman in the fall, and this will be her first summer as a teen docent.

Abby, why do you want to join the teen docent program?
I was inspired to become a teen docent after going on a tour of the DMA with Shannon.  I also want to serve the community by educating young children about art.  I want to keep art alive in this community.

What are you most looking forward to when you become a teen docent?
I am looking forward to talking with kids about artworks at the DMA. I also look forward to giving tours with my older sister. I enjoy art, so getting to instill the same love for art into young visitors will be very rewarding for me.

Abby, Shannon, and Leah--three Karols with a connection to the teen docent program

This will be my second year leading the teen docent program.  I’m so excited to reconnect with our great volunteers and to welcome a new class of docents to the program.  Teachers, if you have students (grades 9-12) who you think would make great teen docents, we would love for them to apply.  Please email me ( to request an application.

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Seldom Scene: Checks and Balances

Do you have everything ready for Uncle Sam on April 18? We think this work by DMA staff member Robert Ramirez—our accounts payable coordinator—sums up the task. You might have seen it on view during our recent exhibition Insourced: Works by Dallas Museum of Art Staff exhibition.

Robert Ramirez, My Love to Rinna, 2010

Sculpting Space: 299 Chairs by Skyline High School

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The Center for Creative Connections (C3) welcomes the unique perspective of community partners through a series of C3 Community Partner Response Installations (CPRI). Installed in a central gallery for approximately six months, each CPRI is a response to the current exhibition in the Center and offers visitors an opportunity to consider the themes of the exhibition in new ways. CPRI are the products of close, collaborative, and interactive working relationships between community partners and DMA staff.

Sculpting Space: 299 Chairs is the sixth CPRI to be installed. Students and faculty from the Architecture Cluster at Skyline High School in the Dallas Independent School District created this installation of classroom chair assemblages that stretch, hang, fly, and twist throughout a central gallery in C3. For these students, the process of creating Sculpting Space involved the application of classroom ideas and concepts to a real-world scenario and fostered many new connections with the DMA and Dallas-based cunningham architects.

“In order for us to flourish and bloom as students, we must first open ourselves to new ideas.”—Alberto Huerta

“Working with more people, you will hear interesting ideas that you never would have thought of alone.”—Erica Jackson

Several months ago, the students began the project by sketching chairs. Skyline teachers Tom Cox and Peter Goldstein then led students in a variety of exercises including the study of negative and positive space in DMA artworks as well as investigating spatial concepts such as fluent, voluminous, implosion, organic, and rotating through the making of 2D drawings and 3D models. Several workshops with architects Gary Cunningham and Rizi Faruqui and DMA staff focused on how to connect the chairs, what connectors would hold the chair assemblages together, and how to consider the visitors’ experiences in a space sculpted by chairs. Along the way, three DISD elementary schools swapped out their old kindergarten chairs for new ones, thus providing the high school students with chairs full of character and marked with history.

Google Sketch-Up was used to build scale models of the gallery space, providing a blueprint for the final installation of the assemblages. Videos created by Element X Creative accompany the installation, documenting behind-the-scenes aspects of the project and featuring several Skyline students sharing their experiences.

“The one true connection we have made was with the chairs and when we were little kids. They bring back memories of childhood.”—Luis Garcia

“The new connections we make will be with the people that view our work. We will not be there to explain what we made, so we have to try to convey that in shape and form.”—Sandra Benitez

Sculpting Space: 299 Chairs will be on view in the Center for Creative Connections through October.

Nicole Stutzman is Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships.


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