Archive for May, 2012

Staff Spotlight: Gail Davitt

Tomorrow will be an emotional day for Education Staff at the DMA. Our Chair of Learning Initiatives and Director of Education, Gail Davitt, is retiring after twenty-six years of service to the Museum. Throughout her tenure serving in a variety of staff roles, her main focus has never changed: creating connections between art and people. We sat down for a discussion about her amazing work with us and her plans for the future.

What originally brought you to the DMA?

In 1986, as a PhD student in Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas, I participated in several independent study courses, some of which involved working with curatorial and exhibitions staff at the DMA.  Part of my coursework included a proposal for an exhibition titled “The Real Self,” focusing on contemporary artists like Cindy Sherman and Jonathan Borofsky. As part of another course, I had also interviewed Anne Bromberg, then Director of Education, who opened my eyes to the possibility of a museum education career—something I had never known existed. Although my exhibition never came to fruition, that fall I applied and was selected for a graduate education internship with Anne. The following year, in the summer of 1987, I was hired in a full time position, working initially with teachers and docents.

Gail Davitt in the American Galleries during her internship in 1986

How has your time at the DMA shaped who you are as an art educator?

Before I came to the DMA I knew very little about the type of education that can occur in museums. I had taught English and studied Art History, but didn’t feel that traditional teaching was my calling. Once I began my position with the Museum, I gained many colleagues and mentors who encouraged me to spend time with art museum education colleagues in New York and Minneapolis. Soon after, I became involved with the National Art Education Association and have been active ever since.

In addition to these colleagues, I was also given the opportunity to work with colleagues involved in evaluation and visitor studies, like Beverly Serrell and Randi Korn. Through this work, I have learned the value of setting goals and outcomes and the importance of measurement to informal learning.

There have also been times when I was on my own, able to try out and experiment with new ideas, something that has proven valuable as well. The opportunity to learn and share with colleagues and then apply what I have learned at the DMA has truly provided me with a rich environment for my own understanding of art museum education, which I hope has allowed me to encourage meaningful visitor experiences with art.

What will you miss most about the DMA?

I truly will miss all the people. I have formed such close relationships with fellow staff that it will be difficult to no longer see everyone on a daily basis.

The other big thing I will miss is hard to put into words. What I love about my job is the chance to constantly dig in deep with a project, to really research and wrestle and grapple to figure out the solutions and create something meaningful. There is always an opportunity for this sort of problem-solving process at the Museum, and I will miss being involved with those opportunities. Now my challenge will be trying to find them in other areas of my life.

Gail with DMA curators Sue Canterbury, Heather MacDonald, Roslyn Walker and Kevin Tucker.

What are you most looking forward to come June 2 and beyond?

One main thing I am looking forward to is Sunday evenings without a knot in my stomach—that sort of anxiety that comes when you know you haven’t accomplished the work you were hoping to get a head start on over the weekend.

I am also really looking forward to devoting more time to my family and friends. While I have loved my job, it has taken so much attention that my other relationships have at times come second. I also love to cook and am looking forward to nurturing my relationships through food by cooking for friends. Travel is also high on my list and now I will be able to spend more time really researching the places I’d like to visit. Currently, I am planning for a long trip to Brussels.

What is one fun fact that people don’t know about you?

I played intramural volleyball in college and was pretty good. It also provided a convenient way for me to travel from Bucknell to Penn State to visit my then boyfriend (now husband), Jim.

Gail and Jim at a dinner celebrating the DMA’s centennial in 2003.

Gail has been an inspiration to all of us in the Education Division. We will greatly miss seeing her each day, but look forward to finding new ways to continue our work with her in the future.

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives

South Dallas Cultural Center in the C3 House

If you have stopped by the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections recently, you might have noticed our fourth Community Partner Response Installation near the Space Bar. The South Dallas Cultural Center (SDCC) created Free Association, a 12-foot-tall multimedia, interactive installation that includes a music composition station and a choreography instructional video. You can experience the installation through October.

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Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas

Even if you have never heard of the German Expressionist George Grosz, many of his paintings may be very familiar to you. The Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas exhibition highlights a range of Grosz’s work over a lifetime, with graphic works, paintings, and contextual photographs. Recently opened at the DMA, this special exhibition features twenty paintings Grosz created of our very own home: Dallas, Texas.

Born and raised in Germany, Grosz gained fame and notoriety in the 1920s with his satirical drawings of life in Berlin. His open and ever-increasing dissatisfaction with German government ultimately led to his move to America in 1933. As a child, he fantasized about America as a perfect place where everyone’s dreams could come true. He loved reading books about American life, especially the Wild West, and he dreamed of one day going to Texas to see it for himself. His childhood dream came true when he was commissioned to paint a series about Dallas. In 1952, Leon Harris, Jr., the young vice president of the department store A. Harris & Company, commissioned the series as a part of the celebrations for the store’s 65th anniversary.

At fifty-nine years old, Grosz arrived in Dallas to discover that it wasn’t quite as wild as he imagined. Dallas of the 1950s was a bustling, prosperous metropolis undergoing continuous change and growth. Primarily execeuted in watercolor, Grosz’s series illustrates the modernity of the new city, but also seems to capture the dreamlike quality of his imagination.

In celebration of Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas, the museum has created a variety of fun programs throughout the summer for all ages.

Hope to see you all there,

Hannah Burney
McDermott Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Artworks shown:

Self Portrait, George Grosz, 1936, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. Harris and Company in memory of Leon A. Harris, Sr.

A Dallas Night, George Grosz, 1952, watercolor on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, anonymous gift in memory of Leon A. Harris

Cowboy in Town, George Grosz, 1952, watercolor, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. Harris and Company in memory of Leon A. Harris, Sr.

Cattle, George Grosz, 1952-1953, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. Harris and Company in memory of Leon A. Harris, Sr.

Flower of the Prairie, George Grosz, 1952, watercolor on paper, University Art Collection, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas Gift of Leon A. Harris, Jr.  UAC.1961.10

Pause and Remember

Just in time for Memorial Day, the Dallas Museum of Art has added to its collection David Johnson’s 1870 painting View from Garrison, West Point, New York. This landscape is a fantastic panoramic view of the Hudson River Valley with the United States Military Academy at West Point front and center. As we take time off to celebrate the many sacrifices our veterans have made for our country, consider stopping by the Museum to see this painting, now on view in the American galleries.

David Johnson, "View from Garrison, West Point, New York," 1870, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, gift of Patsy Lacy Griffith by exchange, and General Acquisitions Fund, 2012.6

David Johnson, “View from Garrison, West Point, New York,” 1870, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, gift of Patsy Lacy Griffith by exchange, and General Acquisitions Fund, 2012.6

David Johnson, "View from Garrison, West Point, New York" (detail of United States Military Academy), 1870, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, gift of Patsy Lacy Griffith by exchange, and General Acquisitions Fund, 2012.6

David Johnson, “View from Garrison, West Point, New York” (detail of United States Military Academy), 1870, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, gift of Patsy Lacy Griffith by exchange, and General Acquisitions Fund, 2012.6

Martha MacLeod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant in the European and American Art Department at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Picture This – Part Deux

Over a year ago, the Dallas Museum of Art sent  College of Animals by Cornelis Saftleven (1607-1681) to a conservator for cleaning and minor repair. With the grime removed from the Dutch artist’s enigmatic composition, it was the perfect time to do a bit more. So we replaced the thin, unadorned gilt frame that formerly surrounded the canvas with one more in keeping with the sort preferred by Dutch artists working during Saftleven’s time. Seventeenth-century Netherlandish artists typically favored a waffle or ripple style molding frame. These darkly painted wooden frames that simulated ebony are decorated with several rows carved in a zigzag design, and often have a reverse ogee profile.  A few months ago, the DMA purchased a period Dutch frame that has all of these design elements from a Parisian dealer. Now that Saftleven’s College of Animals is back from the conservator and has an appropriate frame, it is once again on view in the European galleries for everyone to enjoy!

The simple gilt frame that formerly surrounded Cornelis Saftleven’s “College of Animals,” n.d., oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.32

Cornelis Saftleven, College of Animals with its period seventeenth-century waffle-style Dutch frame.

Detail of College of Animals’ new frame

Martha MacLeod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant to the European and American Art departments.

Friday Photos: Peaceful Space

Imagine you are in a peaceful place.  What does that place look like?  Is it a serene hillside, a secluded beach, or even just the comfort of your home?  Images on the Center for Creative Connection’s Monitor Wall explore the idea of peacefulness through photos in the latest installation: Peaceful Space.  To find out more about the Monitor Wall in the Center for Creative Connections or C3, I’ve asked C3 Specialist Jessica Nelson about the project.

The Monitor Wall in the Center for Creative Connections

Who are the artists behind the artwork?

The images on the Monitor Wall fall into three different categories.  We have images submitted by our visitors, images from the DMA’s collection, and images from around the DMA.  Knowing the “artists behind the artwork” can be a little tricky because our visitors submit their entries on our Flickr page.  However, I do know that we have some DMA employees who contribute regularly such as Amanda Blake, Jonathan Toles, and myself.

What was the inspiration for the C3 Monitor Wall?

So, in relation to those three different categories of images, there were a few different things that inspired the creation of the Monitor Wall.  First, we wanted to have the ability to show more works of art from the DMA’s collection, and in doing so create a connection between the C3 theme Encountering Space and the rest of the collection.  Also, we wanted to provide an opportunity for visitors to participate in the content of the exhibition.  We see the Monitor Wall as an opportunity to take the idea of “programming” and move it beyond the museum walls, in the sense that our visitors are participating in the exhibition by contributing their photographs, and this participation happens after they have left the physical space of the museum.

How often do you change the images?

The theme for the Monitor Wall changes every six months.  Previous themes include: Texas Space, Filled Space, and Designed Space.  Throughout those six months, we add images that our visitors submit every month.

Capture your peaceful place and submit your photograph to the Dallas Museum of Art’s Flickr page! 

Wishing you all a peaceful weekend,

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits

Graduation Day

The 2011-2012 McDermott Interns are finishing their final days at the DMA. The year has flown by and we want to thank each intern for their dedication and enthusiasm over the past eight months. Below is a look at what their next steps will be. Congratulations to you all.

  • Andrew Sears will pursue his Ph.D. in medieval art history at UC Berkeley.
  • Vivian Barclay has accepted an adjunct teaching position at Brookhaven College.
  • Hannah Burney will stay at the DMA over the summer to assist with Go van Gogh programs.
  • Mary Jordan will be at the DMA over the summer to assist with summer camps and family programs.
  • Lexie Ettinger plans to return to Houston and use her art history degree and museum background there.
  • Melissa Barry will stay in Dallas and be involved with the arts and contemporary collections.
  • Jessica Kennedy has accepted the position of Public Programs Manager at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth.
  • Wendy Earle has accepted the position of Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Museum of the Southwest in Midland.

Sarah Vitek Coffey is the Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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