Posts Tagged 'art education'

TTFN

Today’s post is bittersweet, as it will be our final one here on Canvas. Over the last eight years, DMA educators have enjoyed sharing our passion for art, creativity, and museum education with you here, and we hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about us and what we do at the Museum.

Throughout that time, we’ve recounted our programs, shared DIYs, engaged with art, and had lots of fun along the way, and we don’t want the fun to stop here. Though we’ve decided to end our blogging on this forum, we are excited to continue highlighting our projects on the DMA’s institutional blog, Uncrated.

So if you’re not following already, head over to Uncrated and check out the behind-the-scenes scoop on the DMA—we look forward to seeing you there!

Until then, ta-ta for now!

Sarah Coffey
Education Coordinator

Hands-On Learning: Not Just for Kids

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

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The Center for Creative Connections (C3) is unique because we focus on learning by doing. That means we design activities for people of all ages to learn about works of art from the collection by participating in a hands-on way. The activities we create to accompany works of art prompt visitors to engage in ways that are different from the standard didactic approach of a wall label. In C3, we want to provide experiences where visitors can make personal connections by drawing, writing, making, and discussing works of art with each other.

This kind of active engagement carries a certain stigma; many people assume that it’s only for kids, mainly because we are used to seeing activities like these in children’s museums. Part of our design process is to evaluate visitors’ experiences by observation, interviewing and counting. We’ve learned that half of our participants are adults and that there is a reoccurring theme in their comments regarding why they participate. So, why do adults flock to C3 to draw, write, make, and talk about art? Because it connects them to a childlike curiosity and creativity which, as an adult, often takes a backseat to other responsibilities and tasks.

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In January 2014, we installed a large table in the middle of the C3 Gallery, that hosts three activities that rotate on a monthly basis. As a part of the evaluation of these activities, we interviewed visitors about their motivations for participating, their past experience with art making, and their view of the value derived from participating in a making activity at the Museum. I was repeatedly intrigued by the responses of the adult participants.

For example, I spoke with a couple participating in a portrait drawing activity which encouraged close looking at the proportions and scale of the human face.  The couple, in their mid-thirties, each claimed to have no artistic experience. Through our conversation, they divulged that they both graduated from arts based college programs. “I went for fashion, like a BFA in Design, and he went for Graphic Design. We don’t really draw in our free-time though, I mean, he does for work,” the woman stated as she looked over at the man who accompanied her. He added, “Yeah, but just on the computer.” Then the woman broke in, “And I do for work, but it’s not the same. Like, I do fashion sketches, not this kind of drawing.” I prodded them a bit to understand what “this kind of drawing,” meant. “Well, it’s like… it’s fun. Like drawing before was so serious and it had to be perfect, cause you were doing it for a grade. But this is just for enjoyment.”

This idea was reinforced by further conversations with other adult participants: drawing, making, and discussing in C3 is fun in a freeing kind of way. I interviewed another thirty-something couple drawing at a light box activity designed to assist in the making of hybrid imagery. The man began with, “I’m guessing this was made for children? It’s fun and different and I didn’t expect to see this here.” The woman with him agreed, “Yeah, it’s like that spark of creativity, kind of… childlike. I didn’t think I’d spend as much time or get into it like I did.” A sixty-something man participating in the portrait drawing activity remarked, “I used to take art classes, but it’s been so long ago… it’s like I forgot that and I saw this and I remembered.” This feeling of nostalgia for something that is no longer a part of someone’s everyday life was also a common response from adults. Many adults responded that they enjoy drawing or making but, “don’t do it enough.”

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Aside from drawing based activities, the Center for Creative Connections also has a drop-in art making area with large communal tables called the Art Spot, which we say is the place for “anytime art-making for everyone.” We invite visitors to explore their creativity by making creations out of unexpected or everyday materials. Every two months we change the materials and provide a prompt to inspire ideas. Each time I’m hesitant and wonder, “What will people make with this?” But, I am always delighted and surprised by the imaginative creations that are made and left behind. Children often come to C3 and head straight for the Art Spot, while adults can be a bit more tentative. However, regardless of age, most visitors stay anywhere from 5 minutes to two hours, with an average of about 20 minutes. Once they gather their materials they become immersed in their creation. For some it is a hands-on problem solving activity while for others it is about manipulating materials. How can you combine these objects (cups, spoons, paperclips, wire, egg cartons, cardboard, etc.) into something unique and surprising? This kind of open-ended activity, reminiscent of childhood playing and pretending, is not often made available to adults. I frequently watch my eight-year-old daughter take something like a toilet paper roll and turn it into a piano for her dollhouse, or repurpose a cardboard box to make an enormous rocket ship. This nostalgia for childhood play was brought perfectly into perspective by a recent Art Spot creation.

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At the DMA, learning can take many approaches and forms. We strive to be inclusive so that we can reach visitors with a multitude of interests and experiences and preferences for learning. In the Center for Creative Connections, our mission is to engage visitors of all ages with works of art and the creative process of artists. We hope that by designing participatory ways to learn we will provide fun and playful activities for all of our visitors, regardless of their age.

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

Touch Tour for Students with Vision Impairment

Many people may not think that of an art museum as the ideal field trip location for a group of children with visual impairment, but when the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) contacted the DMA earlier this summer with such a tour request, we were eager to provide the best experience possible. When discussing the visit with vision teachers at DISD, they felt it was important to expose their students to art and wanted an experience that would illustrate to the students that they too have the ability to create and appreciate art just as well as any other student.

DISD students with vision impairments visiting the DMA.

DISD students with vision impairments visiting the DMA.

The Planning Process
The Dallas Museum of Art has never before offered guided touch tours to visitors with visual impairment, but after speaking with our Director of Exhibition Design, we learned that she fully supports inclusive gallery teaching, and thus was open to supporting the Museum’s first ever touch tour. We talked with our colleagues in the exhibitions and conservation departments and found that they too were fully supportive of trying out a touch tour with the DISD students. The DMA Sculpture Garden was identified as the best place for our inaugural touch tour, since the objects in the garden are designed for an outdoor space and are thus subject to (and able to withstand) a variety of natural elements. We also felt that it was essential for the students to have the galleries to themselves during the tour, so as not to confuse other visitors about the acceptability of touching works of art, as well as for the overall comfort of the students with vision impairment. We therefore decided to schedule the touch tour for a Monday, when the Museum is closed to the public.

Our next step in the planning process was to walk through the space as a group, making note of areas that may be problematic for someone with vision impairment to navigate. The team was comprised of education, conservation, and exhibitions staff, and everyone on the team raised thoughtful questions and contributed wonderful ideas! We discussed which works of art may be the best for a tactile experience, and our conservators suggested that the kids have the chance to touch the works of art without gloves (which is usually unheard of in other touch tours!). Our exhibitions team offered to wash and hand-clean the works we selected so that they would be nice and clean for the experience. And one conservator suggested we select works of art that were large enough to be touched by more than one student at a time, so that the students could talk to one another about what they felt as they each touched the artwork.

After squaring things away with the exhibitions and conservation teams, the education team began planning the educational experiences of the tour. We prepared for twenty-five students, ranging in age from six to thirteen years, all with a range of visual impairment. The majority of students in the group had some residual vision, while two students were very photophobic, and two were blind from birth. Due to the range of abilities of our tour group, our education team knew it was important to include a variety of artworks in the tour (in addition to those on the touch tour), integrate many descriptive explanations of works of art and hands-on activities, and to have numerous tactile objects available.

In the Galleries
When designing the overall tour, we selected a variety of objects that spanned time periods, artistic techniques, and geographic locations. We visited two contemporary art sculptures in the Sculpture Garden for the touch portion, two Abstract Expressionist works in the contemporary gallery, and a mask in the African gallery. Our aim was to engage all of the senses throughout our tour, as we believe that presenting multiple representations of content would effectively cater to the different learning styles of the group. We created a multi-modal experience by collecting auditory clips for sound stimulation, tactile materials and replica objects for touch, Jelly Belly jelly beans for taste sensations, and essential oils and scented colored pencils for olfactory information.

Each stop on the tour had a visual description of the gallery space and of the works of art we focused on, because it was important for us to situate ourselves, the children, and the art in space, as the sense of bodily awareness in space is something that many people without vision impairment may take for granted. Much of our time in the galleries was spent guiding students in tactile looking activities connected to specific works of art and facilitating conversations about texture and form. For instance, we created a reproduction of Jasper John’s Device so that the students could not only touch canvas and feel layers of paint, but they could also replicate moving the wooden stretchers back and forth across the canvas, while imagining the technique in which Johns spread the paint back and forth.

In the African galleries, we focused on a helmet mask made by the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and passed around raffia, cowrie shells, feathers and other materials found in the mask. Additionally, we played sound clips of the various animals that related to the mask.

Helmet mask (Mukenga), Kuba peoples, mid-20th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift in honor of Peter Hanszen Lynch and Cristina Martha Frances Lynch

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kuba peoples, Helmet mask (mukenga),  mid-20th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift in honor of Peter Hanszen Lynch and Cristina Martha Frances Lynch

Relating to Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park No. 29, we discussed how an artist could depict a place using sounds, smells, and taste. The students each ate a jelly bean and imagined the color they believed the flavor might represent. Next, they used a scented colored pencil to illustrate a place based on that smell. We also played sound clips of ocean waves and boat horns to recreate the Santa Monica locale that inspired Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series.

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park 29, 1970

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park 29, 1970, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated

Our tour concluded with a sensory drawing activity that took place at the large fountain outside the Museum’s Flora Street entrance. The students listened to the sounds created by the water in the fountain, and considered how the water (and space around it) might appear, what color the water would be, even how the smell would be rendered. We gave each student a piece of thin Styrofoam and a pencil to create their drawing of the fountain; the students were able to feel the indented lines they drew onto the Styrofoam and took turns sharing their creations with one another.

Until Next Time
This was an exceptional experience for DISD students, teachers, and DMA staff alike. One teacher who helped to organize this visit said that this experience “might be the only time this whole summer [the students] get this opportunity to learn tactually, through their auditory channels and their residual vision, which sighted people take so much for granted.” It was a transformative experience as well for our Museum. We are honored to have been a part of this experience, and cannot celebrate enough the fantastic support and collaboration exhibited by DMA staff from many different departments. A huge thank you to DISD for bringing their students, and a thousand thank you’s to the DMA’s conservation, exhibitions, visitor services, and security teams. This was a team effort and we appreciate the unified support and assistance—let’s hope this is the first of many touch tours to come!

Amanda Blake
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

Go van Gogh, Past to Present

Go van Gogh, the DMA’s elementary school outreach program, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Before we pack up the Go van Gogh van and head out to schools across the city, we thought it would be fun to take a look through all thirty-five years of the program.

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1992 Go van Gogh program led by DMA educator Phil Collins

Below are a few fun facts about Go van Gogh through the years.

The first Go van Gogh van was actually a bus!

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First Go van Gogh vehicle, 1978

When the program began at the then Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in Fair Park in 1978, school outreach presentations could be given in classrooms or on the Museum Outreach bus itself.

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DMFA teaching staff member Roberta Mathew conducting an outreach program in the Go van Gogh bus in fall 1979

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DMFA education staffers Susan Geyer and Roberta Mathews conducting an outreach program aboard the Go van Gogh bus in fall 1979

Go van Gogh vans (and buses) have always been easy to spot on the freeway.

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Go van Gogh van in 1981

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Go van Gogh van, c. 1988

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Go van Gogh program, c. 1988

Bright and colorful, Go van Gogh vans often feature artworks from the Museum’s collection in painted or vinyl designs. The Go van Gogh van from the late 1990s included a design from Henri Matisse’s Ivy in Flower.

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Go van Gogh van in the 1990s

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Today’s Go van Gogh van

Go van Gogh programs have always included a visual presentation of artworks from the Museum.

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Go van Gogh program using a slide projector, 1980s or 1990s

Through the years, we’ve made many updates in the technology we use to bring these artworks to life. What began with projectors and large printed posters led to overhead transparencies and laminated images.

GvG MT Reilly Elementary, 4th grade

Go van Gogh program with 4th graders at Reilly Elementary School

Later this school year, Go van Gogh will go digital: using iPads and projectors to bring images of artworks to life in the classroom.

Looking ahead to fall, we are excited to unveil a new facet of Go van Gogh outreach–a program designed for Special Education classrooms called Color My World. To learn more about the program, visit our website.

Amy Copeland is the Manager of Go van Gogh and Community Teaching Programs at the DMA.

What the NAEA Means to ME!

The Mission Statement:
“The National Art Education Association (NAEA) advances visual arts education to fulfill human potential and promote global understanding.”

“Founded in 1947, The National Art Education Association is the leading professional membership organization exclusively for visual arts educators. Members include elementary, middle and high school visual arts educators, college and university professors, researchers and scholars, teaching artists, administrators and supervisors, and art museum educators, as well as more than 45,000 students who are members of the National Art Honor Society or are university students preparing to be art educators. We represent members in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia, U.S. Possessions, most Canadian Provinces, U.S. military bases around the world, and twenty-five foreign countries.”

[quotes from the NAEA Website]


The NAEA Student Chapter

I joined the National Art Education Association in 2007 when I was an art education student at the University of North Texas and was instantly welcomed into a membership of 17,170 art educators who would mentor me along my educational journey. Membership and attendance to the national conventions truly made an impact on who I am today. By constantly being filled with current research, discovering the various ways to put educational theory to practice, giving presentations, hosting students, having numerous networking opportunities and by creating countless friendships—I became a stronger art educator. As I became more active in the organization, I was granted the opportunity to hold two leadership roles within the NAEA structure and just recently concluded my term as the NAEA Student Chapter President this past March at the 2013 Annual Convention in Fort Worth.

As of June 2012, 2,633 members classified themselves as students and testified to the need for an active voice in the organization. It was my duty over the past four years to serve the university student population to make their voices heard to the board of directors and to be an advocate for pre-professionals.

NAEA Governance Structure

NAEA Governance Structure

At the beginning of the 2013 NAEA Convention, Past-President Dr. Bob Sabol addressed the Delegates Assembly to propose a change to the current governance structure.  That change was voted on unanimously and can be seen in the following video. Some new and exciting things are in the works, and Bob can express it better than I can. I am still speechless!

NAEA from amanda Batson on Vimeo.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to be a part of the NAEA and the 2014 National Convention in San Diego, CA. The NAEA is currently accepting applications for proposals. See you there!

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Amanda Batson
C3 Program Coordinator

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

Arts & Learning

In my daily life as an educator at an art museum, I can easily be caught up in the administrative aspects of my job.  With this post, I would like to step back and reflect on the importance of our jobs as art educators – whether in the classroom or at an art museum – and why learning through the arts is so important.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that “advocates for 21st century readiness for every student.  As the United States continues to compete in a global economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the three Rs and four Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation).”  Learning through the arts plays an important role in the development of these skills.  “…the arts promote work habits that cultivate curiosity, imagination, creativity, and evaluation skills.  Students who possess these skills are better able to tolerate ambiguity, explore new realms of possibility, express their own thoughts and feelings, and understand the perspective of others.”  View a map for the arts and 21st century skills.

A four-year research initiative at the Guggenheim evaluated the impact of its pioneering arts education program Learning Through Art (LTA) on students’ problem-solving abilities and creativity.  “With this study of the Learning Through Art program, we are pleased to demonstrate that arts education helps develop the skills necessary to persistently and adaptively work through problems,” said Kim Kanatani, Deputy Director and Gail Engelberg Director of Education, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. “By asking students to think like artists, we are imparting 21st-century skills in encouraging them to approach problems with creativity and analytic thought rather than just recitation of facts.”

Finally, the National Art Education Association website has a list of Ten Lessons the Arts Teach, which include “the arts celebrate multiple perspectives” and “”the arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source.” 

I believe that experiences with works of art can be transformative, and the DMA Teaching Programs & Partnerships department values and supports the work of classroom teachers who are providing these learning experiences for students.  Thank you for the work that you do!

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs


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