Posts Tagged 'Arts of the Americas'

Teaching with Modern American Art

Last week, Amy W. blogged about a training session on Colonial American art that she and Jenny led for our docents.  Melissa and I recently led a follow-up session for the docents on teaching with Modern American art.  

Arts of the Americas and Colonial to Modern American Art are two of the most popular topics for docent-guided visits at the DMA.  Melissa and I deliberately selected artworks from the first half of the 20th century that docents don’t typically use on their tours.  It was our hope that by learning more about these paintings and artists, docents will have even more flexibility in selecting stops for their tours.

I started off training by looking at two American artists who were influenced by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian: Leon Polk Smith and Ilya Bolotowsky

  • We discussed what “Boogie Woogie” means and how boogie woogie music might sound.  I even played a short clip of boogie woogie music for the docents and had them dancing in the galleries!
  • Leon Polk Smith’s painting Homage to Victory Boogie Woogie #1 is a direct reference to Mondrian’s final painting (Victory Boogie Woogie). There is an Homage to Victory Boogie Woogie #2, which is in the collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
  • Ilya Bolotowsky knew Piet Mondrian.  They were both members of American Abstract Artists, which was founded in New York City in 1936.  In fact, Bolotowsky was one of the founding members of the group.

Melissa invited the docents to complete a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting two still life paintings: Survival of the Fittest by Fred Darge and On the Ranch by Jerry Bywaters.

  • This is an easy exercise to do in the Museum or in your classroom.  Encourage your students to look closely at images of these paintings and make notes about what they see in a Venn Diagram.  This resulted in a great conversation with our docents, and we think the same thing can happen in your classroom.
  • There are many similarities in the lives of Fred Darge and Jerry Bywaters as well.  Both artists lived and worked in Dallas most of their lives.  They also both took sketching trips to West Texas, where they were inspired by the vast landscape.
  • Jerry Bywaters was actually the director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts when Fred Darge’s Survival of the Fittest came into the collection in 1944.

We hope you’ll visit the Museum this spring to see these paintings in person.

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Mesquite Week Visits

For the past two weeks, we have been welcoming 5th graders from Mesquite ISD for docent-guided visits.  This isn’t a new program, though.  For the past twenty-five years, students from Mesquite ISD have been coming to the DMA for docent-guided visits of our collection.  When this partnership began in 1985, each 5th and 6th grade student received a tour that aligned with their classroom curriculum.  Over 2,100 Mesquite students toured the DMA that first year.  Since then, this partnership (and the district) have continued to grow.

Today, we see every 5th and 6th grade student, as well as every 7th and 8th grade art student, for a docent-guided visit that aligns with their curriculum.  For the 2009-2010 school year, that totals almost 6,800 students!  This partnership is affectionately known as Mesquite Week because in 1985 the visits did only last for one week.  It now takes five weeks for the Museum to be able to tour that many students. 

DMA Docent Susan Cuellar talks about The Icebergs with 5th graders from J.H. Florence Elementary

Mesquite ISD has a wonderful Fine Arts Coordinator, Debi Waltz, who makes these visits a success year after year.  Debi schedules each school’s visit, orders the buses, and works with us to decide which works of art students will see while they’re at the Museum.  She’s one of the most organized people I have ever met, and I don’t think Mesquite Week could happen without her. 

I recently learned that it was one of our docents, Susan Cuellar, who took on the task of coordinating Mesquite Week visits in 1985.  The district wanted students to have the same types of experiences with art that they were having with music, and they decided that they wanted their students to visit the DMA each year.  Susan wrote the tour outlines for that first year, and she continues to give Mesquite Week tours today.  She says that starting the Mesquite Week program is “one of the most exciting things I have ever done.”  We’re excited that this program is still going strong twenty-five years later.

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator


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