Archive for September, 2014

London Calling!

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Baby Explorers at the Manchester Museum, used with permission

Some people go to London for Big Ben, or to see the Queen, or to attend a Shakespearean play. I went to London for the babies! Thanks to a generous grant from the Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation, I was able to take a research trip to the United Kingdom a few weeks ago to investigate what museums there are doing for children ages 0-2.

More than a year ago, I stumbled across the CultureBabies blog, which highlighted the great work focused on babies happening in museums in Manchester and London. While many museums in the US offer a variety of programs and classes for toddlers and preschoolers, classes actually focused on babies seem to be harder to come by. I knew I had to see what was happening in the UK in person. (And let’s face it, I’d never refuse a trip across the pond!)

I started off in Manchester, where I visited both the Manchester Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery. These two institutions, along with the Whitworth Art Gallery (which is temporarily closed for renovation), have created a suite of programs that focus solely on babies who haven’t started walking. So we’re talking about really young children—the children that most people probably think don’t get much out of a visit to the museum. But what a mistake to think that!

Both the Manchester Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery focus on sensory play as a way for caregivers to interact with their babies, and for babies to explore their world. Educators at each institution were inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, an educational approach which champions the value of allowing children to direct their own learning, to learn through their senses, and to learn with one another. The Reggio Emilia approach also puts an emphasis on the importance of environment, and calls for early childhood classrooms to be filled with natural light, beautiful real-world materials, and to have open community spaces where children interact with one another.

Baby Explorers at the Manchester Museum, used with permission

Baby Explorers at the Manchester Museum, used with permission

The Manchester museums have translated Reggio Emilia principles into a museum setting by transforming exhibit and studio spaces into beautiful, engaging environments filled with things babies can touch, smell, taste, see, and hear. At the art gallery, an artist takes inspiration from an exhibition on display, and then creates a temporary installation for the babies in the studio. The sessions I observed focused on the work of artist Ryan Gander, and the Baby Art Club session was an exploration of traditional childhood play like making forts, playing peek-a-boo, building with blocks, and playing in the kitchen. Babies were knocking over cardboard boxes, burrowing into mounds of fabric, playing in a bowl of flour, and clanging metal spoons together. There were shrieks of delight, lots of happy babbling, and adults and children giving themselves completely over to enjoying play.

At the Manchester Museum, the Baby Explorers session begins with an interactive story-song time in which caregivers cuddle, sing to and bounce their babies as a teaching artist introduces the theme of the class and the gallery connection. I observed a class focused on ancient cultures, so the singing time included songs about a mummy and a camel. Babies and adults then had time to explore sensory “islands” that educators had set up in the children’s exhibit area—a sound station with musical instruments, a texture area with lots of natural materials, a metal area with shiny objects, and a light box with sparkly, translucent materials. Images of objects in the Museum’s collection or actual objects in protective boxes were scattered throughout the entire area, allowing babies to investigate ancient cultures in an age-appropriate way.

Baby Explorers at the Manchester Museum, used with permission

Baby Explorers at the Manchester Museum, used with permission

I was struck in both sessions by how ordinary objects became things of beauty. In the metal sensory play area at the Manchester Museum, metal bowls, spoons, whisks, and kitchen containers were transformed from utilitarian utensils into light, reflection, and shine. I observed one mother shining a flashlight through a metal object, and watched as her baby focused on the light and reached for the object as the light reflected around her. The next minute, the baby was waving a whisk through the air, experimenting with its weight and feel.

I saw tremendous value in both programs for adults and babies. For the adults, these classes seem to give them permission to leave behind all the usual tasks that build up in a day, and allow them to simply enjoy being with their babies. The adult-child interactions I observed as an on-looker were definitely sweet, but even more importantly, were contributing to positive social-emotional growth and language development for the children. Caregivers also leave these sessions with ideas for how to use everyday materials at home as playthings, learning that items as simple as a wooden spoon and a bowl of flour can provide endless entertainment and valuable open-ended learning opportunities for babies.

Baby Explorers at the Manchester Museum, used with permission

Baby Explorers at the Manchester Museum, used with permission

But perhaps the greatest outcome of these baby classes from a museum educator point of view, is that the families create strong relationships with the museums and see them as valuable partners in the journey of raising a child. At the Manchester Museum, one little girl has been attending the Baby Explorers class for the past few months with her foster mother. This month, she attended for the first time with her new adoptive parents. It was truly beautiful to see this little girl so confident in her surroundings, sure of herself as she crawled from one space to another, even as she adjusts to a new family and home life. The adoptive parents too were warmly welcomed into the museum family and appreciated the observations museum educators were able to share about their new daughter.

Art Babies at the DMA

Art Babies at the DMA

I came back to the DMA inspired and ready to try new ways of playing and learning with babies in our own galleries. We launched the Art Babies class for children under 2 years old here at the Museum in January, and the class has been a fun educational journey for me personally as we experiment with how to best serve our very youngest visitors. Over the coming months, I hope to incorporate some of the ideas and strategies I gathered from our colleagues across the way. Stay tuned for our own version of the British (baby) invasion!

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning Programs

ARTifacts: Go for the Corndogs, Stay for the Art

It’s that time of year again: the annual pilgrimage to visit Big Tex, ride the Texas Star, see some livestock, watch a show, and, perhaps most importantly, eat plenty of unique fried foods. Yes, it is time for the State Fair of Texas.

If you were attending the State Fair in the 1950s and early 60s, when the DMA was still located in Fair Park, you would also have been able to see Dallas artists showcasing their craft in the Museum’s center court. The demonstrations were in conjunction with the annual exhibitions of Texas art and artists held during the State Fair.

H. O. Kelly, 1959

H. O. Kelly, 1959

Evaline Sellors and Octavio Medellin, 1950s

Evaline Sellors and Octavio Medellin, 1950s

Shirley Lege Carpenter (jeweler) and Stella La Mond (weaver), 1961

Shirley Lege Carpenter (jeweler) and Stella La Mond (weaver), 1961

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Fall Transition

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Transition in the Center for Creative Connections is always a bittersweet time. While we’re excited by the infusion of new art in our gallery because it brings new experiences for our visitors, this week we had to say good-bye to some favorites:  The Visitors by Jacob Lawrence, Frank Smith watering his horse, Cross-B Ranch, Crosby County, Texas by Erwin Smith, and Soul Three by Romare Bearden. Now we’re welcoming Ram Mask with Feather Cape by the Kom people in Cameroon, two films by Isa Genzken, and The Mother Load Project, an interactive installation by local artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio. Here’s a little more about our newest installations:

Helmet mask with feather costume, Kom peoples, North West Province, Cameroon, Africa, Early to mid-20th century, wood, fibers, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund

Helmet mask with feather costume, Cameroon, North West Province, Kom peoples, early to mid-20th century, wood, fibers, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund

This mask depicts a ram, an animal that is sacrificed in religious rituals. While the face of the animal is carved naturalistically, the horns are designed as two stylized spherical knobs composed of concentric rings. When the mask is worn, it fits snugly on top of the dancer’s head and the dancer’s face is concealed under a fitted hood. The dancer also wears a costume of chicken feathers. masks_of_mbuoshu_book_scan_descreenWhile we are interested in visitors being able to explore the sensory elements of this piece, including the texture of the materials, the weight of the mask, the sounds of a masquerade, and the sight of the feathers in motion, this month we will focus activities in the C3 on mask making. If you were to create a mask symbolic of yourself or an event in your life, what animal would you choose as a symbol, and why?

Additional works from our African collection have recently been installed in the African Galleries on Level 3, including the new acquisition of a sword ornament in the form of a spider.

genzken-chicagodrive
In conjunction with the current exhibition Isa Genzken: Retrospective, on view through January 4, 2015, the Center for Creative Connections is showing two films by Genzken in the C3 Theater. On weekdays you can see Chicago Drive, a 16mm film made in 1992 while Genzken was in Chicago preparing for her Renaissance Society exhibition. It reveals her fascination with local architecture, both the famous and the mundane, and also includes intermittent blues music on the soundtrack. On the weekends, My Grandparents in the Bavarian Forest will be on view. This 63-minute film has English subtitles and is a personal account of Genzken’s grandparents’ home in southern Germany. Through the recording of seemingly banal conversations and her grandparents’ quotidian rituals, Genzken draws a moving portrait of the complexity of family dynamics, and the difficulty of coming to terms with the survivors of the World War II generation.

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This week artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio have been on hand in the Center for Creative Connections installing The Mother Load project, an interactive work that hopes to start a dialogue with visitors about the balance of nurturing in one’s life. The collaborative project began as a way to engage with women who lead the creative life of an artist while also being a mother. Through the project, Robertson and Macellaio are collecting fingerprints from artists and their children, recording experiences through written word and audio interviews, and documenting the ongoing project through their interactive website (themotherload.org). In the interactive component of the installation, visitors are asked to respond to this question: “In your life right now, what are you nurturing, and why?” Look for an upcoming post where we interview Robertson and Macellaio about The Mother Load.

Jessica Fuentes is the C3 Gallery Coordinator at the DMA.

Calligrams & Concrete Poetry

A calligram is a word or phrase in which the design of the text is arranged to create a visual image that expresses the meaning of the words. For example, the below piece on the right (by Low-Commitment Projects) integrates words that describe a flamingo (leg, long neck, pink) into a recognizable shape that mimics the bird.

 

Similarly, concrete poetry, an experimental literary style that gained prominence in the 1950s, also heavily relies on the aesthetics and visual design of the words used in a piece of writing to impart overall meaning to the work. In this respect, language is image, and the physical material from which the poem or text is made is just as vital to the meaning of the work as the words that are chosen. The poem becomes an object, and the poet an artist.

During their first DMA visit of the new school year, our Booker T. Washington Learning Lab students investigated the concepts of calligrams and concrete poetry. As senior visual art students, they are understandably comfortable expressing themselves through purely visual means. But with this exercise, we wanted to challenge the students to expand their avenues of communication, and explore this hybrid visual/literary method as an alternative way to express themselves and provide insight into their personal and artistic interests.

The calligrams the students created were quiet varied, taking the shapes of animals, pop culture icons, people, and even geometric and natural forms. Getting to know the students through this unique introduction helped us as educators gain insight into their artistic and personal modes of expression, and (we hope) provided them with useful self-reflection as well. We’ll be working with these students all year long as part of our Learning Lab class partnership, so stay tuned for more exciting things to come from this group of creatives!

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

Most Likely to Succeed

Left to right: Fabian Leyva-Barragan, Jennifer Sheppard, Taylor Jeromos, Laura Sevelis, Liz Bola, Elisabeth Seyerl, Samantha Robinson, Eliel Jones

September doesn’t usually mean cooler weather in Texas, but here at the Museum it does mean we get to welcome some cool new faces—our McDermott Interns!

This year’s class is full of enthusiasm, which you can surely see as they posed in our American  Galleries. They each bring their own distinct backgrounds, which include:

Fabian has Protanopia, which means that he is color blind—a fact he did not learn until college.
Jennifer is working on learning French, her fourth language in addition to English, Spanish, and Hebrew.
Taylor was the lead in a production of Annie while in the 5th grade in Ohio.
Laura taxidermied animals while working at the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum.
Liz fell out of a window when she was 7 years old, but walked away unscathed.
Elisabeth studied Royal Javanese Dance at a royal palace in Java, Indonesia.
Samantha studied Nahuatl, a language spoken in central Mexico by those of Aztec descent.
Eliel spent the past summer working at a salmon fishery on a remote arctic fjord in northern Norway.

We look forward to working with this exciting bunch in the months ahead!

P.S. If you’re interested in becoming a McDermott Intern next year, check the DMA website in late January 2015 for details on how to apply!

Sarah Coffey is the Education Coordinator and former McDermott Education Intern for Adult Programming at the DMA.

Friday Photos: The Mother Load

This week artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio have been on hand in C3 installing The Mother Load Project, an interactive piece which hopes to start a dialogue with visitors about the balance of nurturing in one’s life. The collaborative project began as a way to engage with women who lead the creative life of an artist while also being a mother. As part of the project, Robertson and Macellaio are collecting fingerprints from artists and their children, recording experiences via written word and audio interviews, and documenting the ongoing process through their interactive website.

Visit C3 tonight from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm to explore the work and speak with Robertson and Macellaio. Their piece will be on view from September 19, 2014 – March 31, 2015.

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

I’d Like a Kristall-Weissbier with My Van Gogh, Please

 

Guten tag!  September 20 marks the beginning of Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, held in Munich, Germany. In honor of this annual celebration, we’ve paired German and German-style beers with works of art in the DMA’s collection. The Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law, originated in 1487 and decreed that water, barley, and hops were the only permissible ingredients in German beer. Realizing that this was somewhat limiting, the 1993 Provisional German Beer Law expanded to allow additional components such as yeast, wheat malt, and cane sugar. The pairings below follow the more generous spirit of the later beer law.

Let’s start with Weihenstephaner Original Premium. The Weihenstephan Monastery Brewery, in the Bavarian town of Freising, originated in 1040 as the monastery brewery of Benedictine monks and is the oldest existing brewery in the world. Weihenstephaner Original Premium is a classic German lager, with clean, crisp flavors with a touch of sweetness, like a doughy bread. This beer pairs well with Munich Still Life by William Michael Harnett. Harnett, an American artist born in 1848, studied in Munich from 1881 to 1885. This painting from 1882 shows a collection of everyday objects from his Germany experience (note the beer stein and doughy bread).

Weihenstephaner_Original Pair

Another product of Weihenstephaner is the Kristall-Weissbier. The Weissbier, or “white beer,” is one of five different types of wheat beers. The Kristall-Weissbier is named so because it is a filtered wheat beer, resulting in a crystal-clear quality (kristall is German for “crystal”). We couldn’t talk about a wheat beer without mentioning Vincent van Gogh’s Sheaves of Wheat, of course. In a letter to painter friend Emile Bernard, van Gogh wrote, “I even work in the wheat fields, in the full midday sun, without any protection . . .  I bask in it like the crickets.” Visualize, if you will, van Gogh painting in the middle of this sunny wheat field, surrounded by the yellow color of wheat that we see both in his painting and in the Kristall-Weissbier.

Kristall Pair

For a different type of wheat beer, try the Urweisse from Ayinger Brewery in Aying, Bavaria. The Urweisse is an example of the Dunkelweizen type of wheat beer; it is unfiltered, and a darker malt is used, which creates an amber color. Mellow in flavor, this beer has a banana scent and a mild fruity flavor. Since it is unfiltered, the yeast settles to the bottom; swirl the bottle around just before you pour it to circulate the yeast and flavor throughout each sip. Margaret Lee’s 2013 photograph titled Dots on Top comes to mind, with its fruit centerpiece and floating polka dots. Although it looks like a centerpiece of actual fruit, the artist created the banana, orange, and pear by hand, using plaster, which aptly complements the slightly artificial (in my opinion) banana scent from the Urweisse.

Urweisse Pair

The Aventinus Eisbock by Schneider Weisse brewery in Kelheim, Bavaria, also boasts a unique story. Traditionally, beer barrels were loaded up on carriages overnight for delivery. Legend has it that a barrel fell off a wagon during cold weather and broke, revealing a block of ice. Since alcohol does not freeze, a concentrated version of the beer remained liquid in the center, surrounded by frozen water. The stronger, undiluted beer has a sweet plum, banana, and clove flavor. Another item with a luxurious treat in the center is this ice bowl (with spoon), produced by the Gorham Manufacturing Company in the early 1870s. The ice within the bowl was admired as much as the beautiful silver container, since it had to be imported before the age of refrigeration.

Aventinus Pair

Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof brewery in Leipzig, Germany, is known as the home of the Gose. The Gose is a dormant style of beer; first brewed in the 16th century, it disappeared several times before resurfacing again in the 1980s. The Gose originated in the north German town of Goslar. Just a few hours from the Baltic Sea, the salt and mineral quality of the water lends a saltiness to the flavor of the beer. Sipping a Gose transports you immediately to a beach with salt in the water and whipped into the air by frothy waves, as seen in Sea by German artist Gerhard Richter.

Gose Pair

Many American breweries produce German-style beers as well. Hans Pils, brewed by Real Ale Brewing Company in Blanco, Texas, is inspired by pilsner beers of northern Germany. Much like German pilsners, the Hans Pils is a drier, crisp beer. The Hans Pils takes an American interpretation by incorporating a hop finish in the flavor. Hops are also integral to the design of this silver beer pitcher by Bailey and Company, creating a decorative detail for the elegant handle made of grain.

Hans Pils Pair

Last, but not least, is Pearl Snap by Austin Beerworks in Austin, Texas. Crisp and clean, the Pearl Snap is also a German-style pils (or pilsner). It is less hoppy, not as dry, and slightly more malty in flavor than the Hans Pils. The bright green and red can with its geometric design elements brings to mind Richard Anuskiewicz’s Untitled painting, date unknown (Anuskiewicz was born in 1930; his career spans the 1950s through the present).

Pearl Snap Pair

Special thanks to The Meddlesome Moth and Matt Quenette, Certified Cicerone (i.e., beer guru) and Beer Director at The Meddlesome Moth. This blog post would not have been possible without Matt’s assistance and encyclopedic knowledge of beer. If you are intrigued by any of these beers, most of them can be purchased by the bottle at The Meddlesome Moth.

Matt Quenette and Melissa Gonzales

Thanks also to Cyndi Long, who provided these beautiful images of the different beers.

Prost! (Cheers!)

Melissa Gonzales is the C3 Gallery Manager at the DMA. Although she enjoys drinking and learning about beer, she is no way an expert; however, she IS the 2nd annual DMA Texas Beer Tasting Competition Champion.

Artworks shown, in order:

William Michael Harnett, Munich Still Life, 1882, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase

Vincent van Gogh, Sheaves of Wheat, July 1890, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection

Margaret Lee, Dots on Top, 2013, Dallas Museum of Art through the Mary Margaret Munson Wilcox Fund; Jackson, Walker, Winstead, Cantwell, and Miller Photography Fund; and Campbell Contemporary Fund, © Margaret Lee

Ice bowl (with spoon), Gorham Manufacturing Company, c. 1871, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Gerhard Richter, Sea, 1972, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art League Fund, Roberta Coke Camp Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, and the Contemporary Art Fund: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon E. Faulconer, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant M. Hanley, Jr., Marguerite and Robert K. Hoffman, Howard E. Rachofsky, Deedie and Rusty Rose, Gayle and Paul Stoffel, and two anonymous donors, © Gerhard Richter, Cologne, Germany

Beer pitcher, Bailey and Company, 1858-1860, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Professional Members League

Richard Anuszkiewicz, Untitled, n.d., Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Duncan E. Boeckman, © Richard Anuszkiewicz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY Reproduction of this image, including downloading, is prohibited without written authorization from VAGA, 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2820, New York, NY 10118. Tel: 212-736-6666; Fax: 212-736-6767; e-mail: info@vagarights.com


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