Archive for February, 2012

Educator Resources: Video Visions

Ever since it killed the radio star, video has been thriving.  Let’s take a look at three valuable resources with great videos featuring art, art history, artists, and curators.  Educators in and out of the classroom just might want to add these to their “toolboxes,” if you haven’t already.

1. Smarthistory – Started as a blog in 2005, this oh-so-smart, multimedia resource makes art history come alive on the web.  No more expensive, heavy textbooks to tote around!  Smarthistory includes over 360 videos and continues to grow through a recent merger with Khan Academy, which allows founders Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker to focus full-time on expanding content.  In addition to the videos, which are easily sorted via thirteen categories ranging from art historical periods to materials, the website includes images and information for over 440 artworks, as well as sample syllabi and strategies for teaching art history online.

2. Artists Documentation Program – This is a new favorite of mine, discovered while surfing the Art 21 blog last year.  The Artists Documentation Program (ADP) features twenty-nine interviews with contemporary artists and their close associates discussing the materials and techniques of the artists’ works.  Jasper Johns, Mel Chin, Cy Twombly, Ann Hamilton, and Sarah Sze are just a few of the artists interviewed.  Conducted by conservators, the videos are intended primarily as research documents to aid in preservation and care of the art.  Some of the footage goes back to the early 1990s when the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a grant to the Menil Collection in Houston.  Following this initial grant, the project continued and expanded under the leadership of former Menil conservator Carol Mancusi-Ungaro.  The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Center for the Study of Modern Art at Harvard are key collaborators.   Note: while viewing of the videos is free, the ADP requires users to register before granting access to video interviews.  This acknowledges and supports appropriate use of the videos.

3. DMA.Mobi – Available via mobile devices and the web, this home-grown, Dallas Museum of Art resource showcases artworks in the Museum’s collection and current exhibitions.  Piloted in summer 2009, the smARTphone tours re-launched this month with a new design and fifty new artwork stops.  Videos featuring DMA curators discussing works in the collection are a key component.  Cultural information, contextual images, and audio clips provide additional information about the artworks.

DMA smARTphone tour screen

Anne Bromberg, the Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art, discusses a Roman mosaic in the DMA's collection

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Installing the American Twenties

Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties opens this Sunday after an inaugural presentation at the Brooklyn Museum. Preparation for the exhibition began in January, and below are a few images of the installation process.

Adam Gingrich is the Administrative Assistant for Marketing and Communications at the DMA.

Friday Photos: The Best Thank You Notes Ever

Every once in a while, we are fortunate to receive thank you letters from students after their docent-guided tours and Go van Gogh classroom visits.  Below are some of our favorites:

Inspired by a Japanese bronze sculpture, pictured below

Takenouchi no Sukune Meets the Dragon King of the Sea, 1875-1879, Japan, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The John R. Young Collection, gift of M. Frances and John R. Young

Inspired by the Egyptian collection

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

Art-filled Memories

Have you ever stopped to think about that moment when you decided to make art an important part of your life? I bet for some people the spark was ignited by a single educator, or perhaps a single project that they created in their young lives. My fellow bloggers and I sat down and thought about what art related experiences we remember from our past. I wanted to post them here as nice reminder to all educators that the experiences you are creating are not only influential to your students now, but will likely become a memorable project that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives!

One of my most memorable projects was making a miniature haunted house in fouth grade art class. We partnered up and used whatever materials we could find (within the art room, of course). I remember that half the fun was creating a “script” in our minds of what would happen to the person once they set foot into our shoebox-sized house. Once we were finished making bloody walls and cobwebbed hallways, the storytelling element really kicked in. Describing the “horrors” to our fellow classmates was one of the best Halloween art activities that I can remember!

Here are some childhood memories from the Teaching Programs staff:

“The best art teacher I ever had was my high school ceramics teacher Mr. Block.  Mr. Block was a huge inspiration to me and one of the main reasons I studied art in college.  The most memorable project was when our class participated in the Dallas Empty Bowls Event.  Empty Bowls is a program designed to help end hunger by bringing local artists and restaurants together.  When you go to an event, you buy a hand-made bowl, and then you get all the food you want!  The best part is that all the proceeds go to the North Texas Food Bank.  Our entire class made bowls for this event, and I still have the bowl that I purchased over ten years ago.  This project showed me that creating art can be fun and expressive, but it can also be for a good cause.” – Loryn

“The childhood art activity that stands out to me the most is an upside-down painting a la Georg Baselitz. I was probably in second or third grade and attending art camp at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (in the Museum’s old building), and we had explored/discussed Baselitz’s Elke (1976).  I used to place all my stuffed animals on their heads because I thought they looked better that way, so I was thrilled when I my art camp assignment was to paint my dog upside down! I remember how proud I was of my finished product and of my new knowledge of the artist Baselitz.” – Andrea

Elke, Georg Bazelitz, 1976, Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Museum purchase, The Friends of Art Endowment Fund

“My favorite kind of activities in school didn’t have too many directions. I always had the most fun when I got to use my imagination and make it up as I go. My most memorable project was in elementary school, when we were given clay tiles to decorate however we wanted. I decided to paint myself yelling to my mom what I thought at the time was a sassy yet sweet sentiment, “Wake up, I love you!” (imagine ‘wake up’ being said like hellooo or duh). I had some pretty sweet shoes back in the day, and on that particular day I just happened to be wearing my platform sneakers. The six-inch rubber heels were carved with flower designs that I decided to press along the edges of the tile, printing the pattern onto the clay. I remember feeling really proud of coming up with an unconventional idea for decorating my tile.” – Hannah

“In the fourth grade, I had to make a large display for one of the fifty states.  My state was Hawaii, and my greatest artistic achievement was making a diorama of Waikiki Beach using sand (from my backyard sandbox) and Dep hair gel.  The gel was electric blue (it was 1989), and it was the perfect color for the waves of Waikiki.” – Shannon

Shannon's creation (note the surfer catching a serious hair gel wave!)

“One of my favorite art projects was a papier mâché penguin I made in high school.  I loved the process of creating the form with wadded up newspaper, tape, and cardboard.  I also loved the messiness of applying the wet papier mâché strips to create the exterior of the sculpture.  As I finished with several coats of paints, I decided to give my penguin green eyes, disregarding the possibility (and fact) that penguins do not actually have green eyes.  I eventually gave the penguin sculpture to my older sister; it now lives in her garage.” – Melissa

A great BIG thank you to all of the hard-working educators out there for helping us construct our creative memories!

Jessica Kennedy
McDermott Intern for Gallery Teaching

Au Revoir Monsieur Gaultier

Last week we bid adieu to The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier after three months of hosting the internationally touring exhibition at the DMA. Before the exhibition travels to its final U.S. museum, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: de Young, here are a few stats from the DMA’s presentation:

  • 114,986 visitors over three months
  • 16,044 postcards purchased
  • 1,020 catalogues sold
  • 142 ensembles
  • 73 works on paper
  • 49 wigs designed by Odile Gilbert
  • 30 animated mannequins
  • 13 weeks on view
  • 6 galleries of works
  • 2 custom cowboy-inspired greeters
  • 1 incredible fashion designer

See the exhibition from arrival to departure and everything in between.

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Kimberly Daniell is the PR Specialist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Intern Project: Artworks for Me & My World

Last month, Jessica and I introduced you to Me & My World, a program specifically designed for first grade students. There are two versions of the program, one created for tours in the museum and another developed for classroom visits. Although Jessica and I will be doing a lot of collaborating, she will be primarily focusing on the docent-led tour, while I will be working on the Go van Gogh classroom experience.

Our first step in the Me & My World revision process was to select new works of art for each program. Go van Gogh is a sixty-minute program that is broken up into two equal parts of looking at works of art and then making works of art. With half an hour to look closely and discuss the art, there is just enough time to have quality experiences with four artworks. With thousands to choose from within the collection, picking just four is no easy task. When teaching in the classroom, we bring reproductions of artworks to be projected onto a screen; as a result, visibility can become an issue. For example, paintings that are really dark usually won’t project well, and sculptures with a lot of detail or incising can be washed out and difficult to see. Besides keeping all of these basic logistical challenges in mind, it was also really important to find works specifically ideal for engaging first-graders.

We started by seeking the advice of volunteers, docents, and education staff for their insights from past experiences. This resulted in a lot of great ideas, almost too many! To further narrow down our selections, we developed two main criteria to focus on: themes and teaching opportunities. In an effort to make the programs well-rounded with a variety of diverse topics, we categorized the artworks by themes, such as family or sports. These themes are meant to be easy for first-graders to relate to, so they can develop personal connections with the works. Then, by using the DISD curriculum for first grade, we created a general list of possible teaching opportunities that could be addressed through looking at art. Finally, we chose works that clearly matched some of those teaching goals and also fit into one of the themes.

With the thoughtful suggestions of our department, volunteers, and docents, as well as the criteria Jessica and I created, I was able to narrow down my search to seven final works of art to begin testing for Go van Gogh. I provided two examples below.

Apple Harvest, Camille Pissarro, 1888, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Theme: Family/Teamwork

Teaching Moments

  • Look at brushstrokes/dots of paint
  • Count the people
  • Name the colors
  • Discuss the weather/seasons

Personal Connections

  • Teamwork – helping family or working with other students at school
  • Fruit/food
  • Outdoor activities

Wild Cattle of South Texas: Ancestors of the Longhorns, Tom Lea, 1945-1946, oil on canvas covered masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Life Magazine

Theme: Natural World/Texas

Teaching Moments

  • Discuss and count longhorns – native to Texas
  • Look at landscape – cactus, stream, plush green trees and grass
  • Talk about weather/seasons

Personal Connections

  • Texas
  • Animals
  • Outdoors

In preparation for testing these artworks with first-graders, I will need to develop guidelines for conversation and activities that incorporate various learning styles. If you have had any memorable experiences with activities or conversation starters related to these themes, please share them in the comments section below!

Hannah Burney
McDermott Education Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Today we celebrate the 280th birthday of our first president, George Washington. A pivotal and iconic figure in our nation’s history, Washington is easily recognizable on the dollar bill and quarter. Here on view at the DMA are a couple more examples of representations of our founding father.

"George Washington", c. 1786, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Painted plaster, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Ronald E. Fritz

The artist Rembrandt Peale saw how the nation was being shaped through art. Using the popular neoclassical style of the time, Peale depicted the president as an idealized, authoritative figure in military garb. In this famed “porthole portrait,” Peale monumentalizes Washington by depicting him gazing pensively out of the painted stone frame.  Peale created over seventy iterations of this portrait in hopes of creating an image as iconic as Gilbert Stuarts’s (which can be found on the quarter and the dollar . . . as well as at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Peale’s painting is also used in the George Washington Portrait Program. You can learn more about this program on Mount Vernon’s website.

"George Washington", Rembrandt Peale, c. 1850, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation

Encouraged by the then French ambassador Thomas Jefferson, the well-known French neoclassical sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon journeyed across the Atlantic from France to Mount Vernon with the goal of creating a life-size sculpture of the president.  Houdon created a life mask of Washington, which later served as a model for the DMA portrait bust and the life-size sculpture now in the State Capitol at Richmond. Again, Houdon idealizes the president and portrays him as an enlightened leader. (Some artists took this “idealized” representation a little too far. See Horatio Greenough’s massive sculpture, dubbed the “Enthroned Washington.”)

Don’t miss these works in the galleries as you celebrate President’s Day weekend!

Fun Facts:
• George Washington was 6 feet, 2 inches.
• Washington owned at least eight sets of dentures, none of them made of wood.
.• At his inauguration in 1789 he had only one tooth left.
• Washington’s presidential inauguration was held in the Federal Hall in New York City, as opposed to Washington, D.C.

Melissa Barry is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA. Lexie Ettinger is the Adult Programing Intern at the DMA.

Friday Photos: Designing Exhibitions Workshop

Last Saturday, a dozen teachers explored exhibition design in a half-day teacher workshop, slipping in and out of the galleries before the crowds waiting for one last look at The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.  We were thrilled to have Jessica Harden, DMA Exhibition Design Coordinator, take us through various galleries she had designed. As we looked at the work, she enlightened us on the effect of design elements on visitor experience. It was especially exciting to hear Jessica explain her creative process for the Gaultier exhibition, which is full of imaginative elements, such as a satin-tufted display case and graffiti-filled walls!

The teachers spent the second part of the day designing mini exhibitions of works in the DMA’s collection. They considered lighting, wall color, interactive components, mood, and object and visitor safety, pinning their layouts and ideas to project boards. The teachers ended the day by sharing how their chosen design elements expressed the focus of their exhibitions. Here’s the breakdown of our Exhibition Re-design Project.

Enjoy these photos that capture some of our fun morning. Thanks to all the teachers who joined us on Saturday!

Andrea Severin

Coordinator of Teaching Programs

Traveling with The Mourners

It usually takes a few years to pull together a complicated, large and/or high value exhibition with loans from all over the world. The Mourners is an exhibition with only forty objects, and most from one source. So why did this project take about three years to open at its first venue, and why was it so complex? Well, the little sculptures are fragile, medieval and made out of stone—alabaster. In addition, they are the most treasured objects at the Musee des Beaux—Arts Dijon. The Director of the Museum, Sophie Jugie, had to promise the Mayor that absolutely nothing would happen to the little guys while they toured the United States for 2 ½ years!

After a year of conversation about the project with various parties, the DMA was asked by FRAME (French Regional American Museum Exchange) to organize and manage the exhibition tour.

In 2008 I visited Dijon to meet the staff, begin coordinating the logistics of our agreement, and of course to see the sculptures first hand to have a better idea of requirements for handling, packing, shipping, etc.

Tomb of John the Fearless. Musee des beaux-arts Dijon prior to removal of the sculptures.

In 2009 Preparator—and head mount maker—Russell Sublette visited Dijon to trace the bottoms of the sculptures in preparation for mount design. Over a few months he completed a couple of different designs for the mounts, here is one example.

After the mount decisions were made with Dijon, we had to purchase everything we would need: paint, felt, screwdrivers, drills, lots and lots of brass plate, and different width brass rods. Meanwhile a French packing company was busy building crates.

In January of 2010 we landed in Dijon. It was VERY cold. We immediately drove to the local “home depot” to purchase two heaters since the the Musee des beaux-arts is in the basement—of a stone medieval building. To make very detailed mounts, you need dexterity, your fingers cannot be frozen due to the cold.

I worked with the Dijon staff and Benoit Lafay (France Institute of Conservation of Works of Art) to remove the sculptures from the tomb.

The next three days we spent on high resolution photography of each sculpture, which you can appreciate in detail by going to Leonard Steinbach and Jared Bendis devised and organized the impressive photography equipment to complete the amazing photography. We set up shop in the gallery next to where the tombs are located. They took approximately 350 photographs of each sculpture!

Meanwhile, Russell and DMA colleague John Lendvay worked on making each mount. The first three days they worked in the gallery. And when we left the museum on Friday evening, we walked out and into a raging blizzard—the worst Dijon had seen in something like 80 years! The city looked beautiful, but it was oh so cold.

The mounts are crucial to the safety of the sculptures and travel in their own crate with all the supplies needed to make adjustments, touch up paint, replace padding, etc. They were made to fit each individual sculpture, painted to match the color of the alabaster, and padded with conservation felt.

The first stop in the exhibition tour was The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here we had to complete more of the refinements on the mounts, as the time in Dijon had not been sufficient.

Extensive notes and diagrams are needed to make certain that each sculpture is fitted into the mount correctly.

Russell and John discussed each mount until comfortable with the design. As you can see, some of the sculptures have had repairs over the centuries, some have very small bases, and most have intricate drapery at the bottom. Many details to take into account when deciding where the clips should be placed.

At the end of the installation, a bit of very careful touch up paint might be necessary on the mounts. And they looked spectacular!

After experiencing the blizzard in Dijon, it was fitting that after we finished the installation in New York we barely made it out due to a snow storm in the east. The day the three of us left to return to Dallas, ours was the last flight out before they closed the airport. I think it is the Mourners—they like the cold! And they are wearing those fancy fur lined robes . . .

At each venue, we must complete a very detailed condition examination with the Objects Conservator of the host museum, and a Registrar from Dijon. We keep binders with dozens and dozens of photographs and notes to compare and annotate.

The sculptures travel in individual “inner” boxes and two per crate. Each inner box is configured to fit the sculpture and provide space for hands to lift the sculpture safely. With such a long exhibition tour, we had to build very good travel crates. As you can see, plenty of labels, photos, and numbers to keep things clear.

When the exhibition was in Dallas, Russell and John had the time to complete what we call “seismic mounts.” The exhibition traveled to Los Angeles and San Francisco after Dallas and we had to prepare supplemental mounts which were installed in earthquake zone venues.

Now the little Mourners have been to seven museums in the United States. Each time they are carefully packed and transported to the next museum. Once there, they are carefully unpacked and condition examinations are completed on each sculpture again.

Then, they are slowly and carefully installed once again. Mount placement is marked once the curator makes a decision as to where he wants the sculpture, we use templates to then mark the position of the seismic mounts, holes are drilled, and mounts are screwed in place. Then ever so carefully, the sculpture is “dialed” into place. Each sculpture has a unique way of fitting into the mount. Some are a little trickier to install than others. Below John is using a mirror to see behind the sculpture because the space is narrow. Very creative!

If you missed the exhibition here in Dallas, you still have an opportunity to see it at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond through April 15th.

As a Registrar, I have been doing exhibitions for over 28 years and this is one of my top five favorite projects of my career. Each time we de-install them and each time we unpack them, I marvel at the beauty of each piece and find yet another detail in the carving that amazes me. Even after 14 times—that has to be the hallmark of a real treasure.

The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy at the Dallas Museum of Art, October, 2010.

Gabriela Truly is the Director of Collections Management at the DMA

Touring Totes Tutorial

Last month, Melissa and I made touring tote bags for Hannah and Jessica to thank them for all of their hard work thus far as our interns.  I also made a bag for Loryn, who probably spends more time than anyone touring in the galleries.  Melissa and I both sew, so we set aside an evening to whip up the tote bags for everyone.  Of course, after we saw the finished products, we wanted to make them for ourselves, too!

Below is a tutorial to make your own DMA Teaching Programs touring tote bag.  I have included photographs for many of the steps — sometimes it’s easier to follow the photos than the words on a sewing tutorial.

Materials needed:

  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the bag exterior
  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the lining
  • 1 yard of fusible interfacing
  • 1 1/2 yards of webbing (for the straps)
  • Basic sewing supplies (sewing machine, thread, pins, and a hand-stitching needle)

Step One: Cut two rectangles measuring 22 inches by 17 inches from your exterior fabric AND from your lining fabric.  You’ll also need to cut two 22 x 17 rectangles from your fusible interfacing.

Step Two: Iron the fusible interfacing to the wrong side of your lining fabric.  This will give your tote bag some stability and make it sturdy for carrying paper, pencils, books, etc.

Step Three: With the right sides facing each other, pin your two exterior panels together along the side seams and along the bottom.  You’ll leave the top open.  Stitch together using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Step Four: Repeat step three with your lining fabric.  However, you will need to leave a five or six inch gap in the middle of your lining — this will allow you to turn your bag right-side-out at the end.  (I like to use red pins on either side of my gap as a visual reminder to stop my sewing and leave a space.)

Step Five: On your bag exterior, measure and mark a line on each side seam three inches from the bottom of the bag; this will help you square the corners of the tote.  Put your hand inside the bag and pull the corner out, turning it into a triangle.  Stitch a horizontal line across the triangle where you made your pen mark.  After you’re done, cut the triangle off to eliminate any bulk from your corners (be sure not to cut too close to the seam).  You’ll follow this step on each of the bottom corners of the exterior and lining of your bag.

This is how the bottom of your bag will look once you box the corners

Step Six: It’s time to attach your straps to the bag.  Take your 1 1/2 yards of webbing and cut it in half, leaving your 3/4 yard for each strap.  Find the center point of your exterior bag.  Mark two lines four inches on either side of that center point and pin your handles in place.  You’ll want to pin the handle to the right side of your lining fabric.

Step Seven:  Make sure your exterior fabric is facing right-side in.  Turn your lining fabric right-side out and insert into the exterior tote pocket.  Be sure that your side seams are matched up.  Pin both pieces together all the way around (make sure you include the handles in your pinning).  Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, stitch all the way around your bag.  I recommend going back and sewing a second time over your handles–this will help reinforce the handles and keep them from pulling out of the tote.

Step Eight: Find the hole that you left in your lining fabric.  This is how you’re going to turn your bag right-side out.  Pull the entire bag, including the handles, through that gap.

Step Nine: Tuck your lining fabric into the exterior of the tote bag.  You’ll want to be sure that your corners are nice and square, too.  Once everything is in place, you might decide that you want to topstitch your tote to give it a finished look.

Step Ten: Use a needle and thread to stitch the hole in the bottom of your tote bag closed.  Once that’s finished, you’re ready to go.

Here we are with our finished touring totes.  They’re sew cute!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching


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