Posts Tagged 'books'



Art of the Written Word

If I had to name some things that I could not live without, books and art would be first on that list (along with tea, my family, and my cat, of course). These passions led to this blog post, which combines the two! During my time at the DMA, I constantly find similarities or connections between some of the works in the collection and books that I have read, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few of my favorites!

Standing Female Figure & The Poisonwood Bible

Those who enjoy our expansive collection of African art should consider reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The novel tells the story of the Prices, a missionary family who move to the Belgian Congo in 1954. The family is made up of Nathan, a Baptist missionary, his wife Orleanna, and their five daughters. Narrated in turns by each of the five women, The Poisonwood Bible tells of their initial reaction to the Congolese villagers to their acclimation over the following years. The Standing Female Figure is from the same region where the fictional Price family settled: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known to the Price family in 1954 as the Belgian Congo). This piece depicts a coming-of-age ritual called butanda: this is represented by the arranged hair, the scarification, and beaded accessories. While this type of ritual does not occur in Kingsolver’s novel, the coming-of-age that we see in the statue is paralleled with the family’s acclimation to their life in Africa.

Lobster Pick & The Beautiful and the Damned

Those who enjoy the fancifulness and luxury of our American silver collection should turn to F. Scott Fitzgerald for their next novel. While many know Fitzgerald as the author of The Great Gatsby, his other novels should not be overlooked. I recommend The Beautiful and the Damned, which tells the story of Anthony Patch, a wealthy socialite living in New York in the 1910’s. The novel reflects a time of money and decadence, a period referenced with this lobster pick, part of our stunning silver collection.

Drouth Stricken Area & The Grapes of Wrath

What do author John Steinbeck and artist Alexander Hogue have in common? Both used their chosen profession to highlight the devastation caused by the Dust Bowl. Many people have heard of The Grapes of Wrath, a story of sharecroppers forced to move from their Oklahoma home due to the economic challenges that plagued the American Midwest in the 1930’s. Hogue tackles the same subject in his painting, Drouth Stricken Area, which almost reads as the aftermath of Steinbeck’s novel. Instead of depicting one family’s journey, Hogue’s painting shows a homestead that has been overtaken by dust and deserted by its owners.

Mountains Near Taos & Bless Me, Ultima

In Mountains Near Taos, artist Ernest Blumenschein offers the viewer a panoramic view of Taos, New Mexico. The jagged mountains tower over the small village in the foreground, which is the only sign that people inhabit this powerful landscape. It is this area in which Rudolfo Anaya’s novel Bless Me, Ultima, takes place. Set in New Mexico in the 1940’s, the novel is narrated by Antontio Marez y Luna. Tony shares with the reader his childhood memories and interactions with an important member of the community, Ultima. This is another coming-of age novel, which describes one child’s experience growing up in rural New Mexico (which can also be seen in Blumenschein’s painting). Bless me, Ultima has won many awards and is heralded as being the most widely read novel in the Chicano literary genre.

Those are just a few of my favorites – I encourage you to share any connections you have made between books and art! And of course, come visit us to take a closer look at some of these great artworks!

(PS: For anyone interested in the intersection of art and books, be sure to check out tomorrow’s Arts & Letters Live event featuring Peter Mendelsund, who designs book covers!)

Liz Bola
McDermott Graduate Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching

Get BooksmART at the DMA!

Looking to spark your young reader’s interest in fun and artsy books? Check out our Arts & Letters Live BooksmART series, which will be welcoming lots of great authors to the DMA this spring!


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Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, a collection of beautifully wrought poems depicting her childhood in South Carolina and New York, won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Much of her writing in Brown Girl Dreaming explores the issues of gender, class, and race, as well as family and history, themes she addresses in groundbreaking ways.

Jacqueline Woodson
Sunday, February 22 at 3:00 p.m.

 


 

Peter Lerangis SEVEN WONDERS coverAuthor Rick Riordan has hailed author Peter Lerangis’ The Seven Wonders adventure series as a “high-octane mix of modern adventure and ancient secrets.” In it, thirteen-year-old Jack McKinley learns he has a rare genetic anomaly that gives him a unique skill, but the cure is located at each of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Peter Lerangis
Sunday, March 15 at 3:00 p.m.

2:00 p.m. Enjoy an adventure-filled tour of the DMA’s collection related to themes and cultures in the Seven Wonders series.

 


 

InsideThisBook_GrandmaBlue2Illustrator Harry Bliss asks audiences, old and young alike, the question “what is art?” in his newest collaboration, Grandma in Blue with Red Hat. In this book, a young boy offers up his grandmother for a museum exhibition. Bliss is also a cartoonist whose work appears regularly in the New Yorker.

Barney Saltzberg, author and illustrator of almost 50 books for children and a singer/songwriter, explores the creative process of writing and illustrating in his latest work Inside this Book. The story features three siblings crafting their own books and learning about their creative processes.

Harry Bliss & Barney Saltzberg
Sunday, April 26 at 3:00 p.m.

This is event is designed primarily for families with children ages 6 and younger

 1:30 p.m. Enjoy an illustration workshop with Harry Bliss – for ages 10 through adults.
 


 
Get cozy with these books while the weather is still chilly, then come see us at the DMA to make some artful literary connections!

Madeleine Fitzgerald
Audience Relations Coordinator

New Family Fun: Arturo’s Library Totes

If you’re a regular blog follower, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I love picture books {proof here, here, and here}. So it should be no surprise that I’ve been working on getting more picture books into the hands of our visitors! I think stories and art are perfect partners, especially for young children and am thrilled to announce the launch of a new gallery activity for families here at the DMA. Drum roll please… announcing Arturo’s Library totes!

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Arturo’s Library totes can best be described as a storytime-to-go. The totes are designed particularly for families with children ages two to five, and include a picture book, a deck of activity cards, and materials for hands-on activities.

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With our friendly mascot Arturo as your guide, you can take the tote into the Museum galleries and use the contents to explore a specific work of art. The debut Arturo’s Library tote is all about lines—wiggly, squiggly, zig zaggy, straight lines—and coordinates with Place de la Concorde, by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian.

Piet Mondrian, Place de la Concorde, 1938-1943, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation

Piet Mondrian, Place de la Concorde, 1938-1943, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation

Using the bag is simple—find the work of art in the galleries, plop down on the floor, and try one of the suggested activities in the activity card deck. There are four categories to choose from—READ, LOOK, PLAY, and LEARN MORE.

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Lines that Wiggle by Candace Whitman is one of my favorite books to use when talking about lines in art. The illustrations are cheerful, bright and sometimes silly, and the text has a beautiful rhythm to it.

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After reading the book, you and your child can LOOK at the lines in the Mondrian painting and compare and contrast the artist’s lines to those you found in the book.

If you’re in the mood for drawing, follow the directions on one of the PLAY cards and create your own Mondrian-inspired masterpiece or try your hand at a squiggle drawing.

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If you’re more of a 3D type of artist, use pipe cleaners to craft a squiggle sculpture to take home with you.

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Then take some time to learn a little more about Piet Mondrian and his unique painting style.

Each activity has minimal instructions, is easy to dive right into, and offers a fun way to spend a little more time with a work of art. Over the next year or so, we’ll introduce new book themes and new activities, so that you can explore the Museum from top to bottom. Is one of your favorite books up next? Cast your vote to let us know which book you would be most excited to see next in an Arturo’s Library tote!

On your next visit to the DMA, be sure to stop by our Family Fun Cart at the main museum entrance and check out one of the new Arturo’s Library totes!

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning Programs

 

 

Summer Reading Fun at the DMA

If you have or know any school-aged children, you know that the countdown to the end of school has begun! Dreams of afternoons at the pool, summer vacations to see grandparents, and lots of watermelon and ice cream are dancing through children’s heads. For me, one of the best parts of summer was the summer reading club at the library. I loved to read anyway, but getting rewards for reading? What a brilliant idea! (I just wish there was a summer reading club for grown-ups.) If reading by the pool isn’t your thing, why not bring a book to the DMA? Families are always welcome to read together in the galleries—on a bench or even on the floor.

To give you a jump start on your summer reading list, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite books along with suggestions for the perfect reading spot in the museum.

Clad in her swimsuit, cap and flippers, little Flora seems to be bursting with the need to move. Her muse? A pink flamingo who does not appreciate the little girl’s adoration! The two dance across the pages in this wordless book in a graceful ballet that reminds us that imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery and perhaps a way to begin unlikely friendships. Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle is the perfect book for your little dancer, and would be a great choice to tote along to the DMA when the Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cezanne exhibition opens at the end of June. Several of the museum’s pieces by Degas will be on display, including these lovely dancers.

The push and pull of waves on the beach is irresistible at any age. In Wave by Suzy Lee, a little girl timidly approaches the edge of the water, then slowly gets wetter and wetter as she becomes more sure of herself. The wave takes on its own personality as it interacts with its little companion, and in a splash of watercolor resembling a Pollock painting, the two become the best of friends. Several views of the ocean are on display in the American galleries on Level 4. Perhaps the waves in Alfred Thompson Bricher’s Time and Tide can become your friends too!

Have you ever wondered where imaginary friends live before they join your family? In Dan Santat’s charming book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, we discover the answer to this mystery. A little marshmallow-like creature patiently waits on an island far away for a child to imagine him into the world. But when no one chooses him, he bravely ventures forth on an adventure to find his person himself. Across the vast ocean, through crowded city streets, and finally perched high in a tree’s branches, our hero discovers a perfect friend waiting for him and learns that she has been thinking of him all along. Santat turns the idea of an imaginary friend on its head, and his color-saturated illustrations will make you wish you could have Beekle as your own unimaginary friend. Bring Beekle along for a visit to the Reves collection on Level 3 and search for Maurice de Vlaminck’s Bougival. The vibrant colors of this painting remind me of Beekle’s birthplace, and I can imagine him and his new friend tramping through these woods!

Beep, beep! Look out—fun is on the way! If your child loves everything that goes, Poem-mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis & Douglas Florian should be tops on your list. Douglas Florian has written some of my favorite poetry collections for children, and for this high speed volume, he’s teamed up with U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. As soon as you open up to the first page, you know you are in for a wild ride. The table of contents looks like a bunch of blueprints, and the list of vehicles is sure to get some giggles. From “The Dragonwagon” to the “Eel-ectric Car,” these crazy car poems will ride their way right into your imagination. The rhythm and flow of the language is just right for kids, and Jeremy Holmes’ illustrations are so involved, you’ll get lost in the pictures. Tow this book straight to the Hoffman galleries later this month and find John Chamberlain’s Dancing Duke. Chamberlain uses car parts and materials found in junkyards to create his fantastical sculptures.

If you can’t get enough of stories in the galleries, join us for story time this summer! Each Tuesday in June and July at 1:00 p.m. Education staff will lead story time, DMA-style. We’ll read stories, look at art in the galleries, and do hands-on activities. Story time is free and open to all ages.

Artworks shown:

  • Edgar Degas, Ballet Dancers on the Stage, 1883, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin B. Bartholow
  • Alfred Thompson Bricher, Time and Tide, c. 1873, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Mayer
  • Maurice de Vlaminck, Bougival, c. 1905, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
  • John Chamberlain, Dancing Duke, 1974, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Harold J. Joseph in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Max Walen

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning

Counting Down to the Caldecott

For children’s book lovers, January is the month when we wait in anticipation to hear who will win the Caldecott Award. We’ve spent the year oohing and ahhing over gorgeous illustrations, delighting in quirky characters and being filled with wonder as yet another story reaches The End. Several of this year’s contenders are books that I think would feel right at home here at the DMA, both because of the quality of their illustrations and the power of their stories.

In Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, Mr. Tiger is quite the respectable, gentlemanly tiger. His top hat and bow tie are endearingly dapper, and his manners are every mother’s dream. But that is all about to change when Mr. Tiger has a wild idea. Brown’s watercolor and gouache illustrations perfectly capture Mr. Tiger’s journey from the orderly, precise city to his walk on the wild side in the jungle. When I read the book, I immediately thought of Henri Rousseau’s vivid jungle scenes and the sneaky tiger on a Japanese scroll here at the DMA. Can you imagine this tiger in a suit and tie?

The Tiny King has a huge army, a massive castle, and all the things a person could wish for. But he is very, very lonely. When he meets a big princess, and asks her to be his Queen, his life gets noisier, more crowded, and definitely more happy—bigger in every way! Taro Miura creates bold, colorful illustrations that remind you how simple shapes and a lot of imagination add up to memorable visual images. Pair this book with a close look at some of the Abstract Expressionist paintings on view at the DMA, and you can have your own shape-filled adventure. To see more of Miura’s amazing illustrations, visit Carter Higgins’ blog Design of the Picture Book (one of my favorites).

What can you do with a piece of chalk? Create an entire world! Reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, Journey’s heroine uses red chalk to draw a door to another world. She creates a hot air balloon, a magic carpet, and a bicycle to help her get around, and the illustrations beg you to look closer and closer as she explores this new place. When she loses her chalk, it seems like all is lost, until she gets some help from a surprising place. Aaron Becker’s watercolors make you feel like you’ve jumped into a painting, and reminded me of Claude-Joseph Vernet’s A Mountain Landscape with Approaching Storm. With an interrupted picnic in the foreground and a shiny castle in the background, you wish you could just walk around this mountain landscape and experience the frantic activity as the storm draws closer. Journey would work well as a classroom warm-up to practice close-looking, storytelling, and searching for contextual clues before a visit to see the Vernet at the museum. (To see a video demonstrating how the illustrations for Journey were created, visit the author’s website).

Duncan’s crayons have gone on strike and instead of an afternoon spent coloring, he faces a pile of complaint letters. Yellow and orange are arguing over what color the sun really is, blue is worn out from coloring water, white is feeling neglected, and the beige crayon worries that he is only ever a stand-in for the brown crayon. Duncan’s colorful solution for soothing everyone’s frazzled nerves shows some stellar out-of-the-(crayon)-box thinking. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is just as entertaining for kids as it is for adults, and makes you wonder what your crayons would say if they could talk. Oliver Jeffers’ whimsical illustrations bring the crayons to life and offer the perfect way to start a conversation about the surprising ways artists use color in their work. You can meet artist Oliver Jeffers here at the DMA on February 9th as part of the Arts & Letters Live BooksmART series. Learn more about the program and reserve your free tickets here.

Do you have a favorite picture book that you hope will walk away with the Caldecott next week?

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning Programs

Arts & Letters Live By-the-Numbers

Each July, I travel to New York City with Carolyn Bess, the DMA’s director of programming and Arts & Letters Live, to meet with publicists at all the major publishing houses. We get a sneak peek at which authors will have new books out during the Arts & Letters Live season and who will be touring to promote their book. Arts & Letters Live relies heavily on author tours to create the best possible season line-up. Once we return from New York, we sift through our notes and prioritize a wish list of authors for the upcoming season. This past week, we were in New York for this annual planning trip. It is always a complete whirlwind. Here is a by-the-numbers look at this year’s Arts & Letters Live season planning trip (along with a few photos from our journey):
2 tickets to New York
5 days
30 meetings with
50 publicists
97 pages of notes
380+ books pitched
1 unforgettable season (check the DMA’s website this fall for the season announcement!)

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Katie Hutton is the Program Manager of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

New on the Bookshelves

This week’s rainy weather is the “perfect storm” to send me to my sofa snuggled up with a stack of good books. I’m a self-proclaimed bookworm, and have blogged before {here and here} about how learning to read is similar to learning to look at art. Both involve making meaning through understanding context as well as visual cues, and the desire to communicate ideas. For many young children, picture books are their first introduction to art and illustration, and thus one of my favorite teaching tools. Here is my latest round-up of books to tuck in your bag on your next visit to the Museum. Or, simply enjoy them at home!

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Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Green is exactly what the title proclaims it to be—a beautiful, engaging concept book about the color green. Each two-page spread features a different type of green with a clever cut-out that reveals a peek into the next page. There’s “lime green,” “forest green,” “jungle green,” and “glow green,” to name a few. I used this book with preschoolers to talk about how there’s not just one green, but many, and the illustrations and simple text offered a concrete way for the kids to think of how to describe different shades of a single color by connecting to real-world objects.

  • Gallery connection: Read Green in the American painting and sculpture galleries on Level 4 and go on a scavenger hunt to see how many different types of green you can discover in the art.

dreaming up

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale

For every young block-loving builder out there, this book is a dream come true! Illustrations of busy children building structures out of blocks, constructing houses out of playing cards, and finagling a fort out of blankets and pillows are paired with photographs of actual buildings that closely resemble the children’s creations. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Stadium, and Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim are just a few of the architectural marvels highlighted. Concrete poems for each structure mimic the shapes of the buildings and show-off the beauty language can create.

  • Gallery connection: Bring Dreaming Up and a sketch pad along for a visit to the Formed/Unformed exhibit. Read the book, look at the wonderful variety of chairs on display, and then draw your own design for a new chair!

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Mice by Rose Fyleman, illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Two sneaky mice are out in the night getting into all kinds of things! But these “mice are nice,” and their adventures nibbling on treats, climbing into things, and even making art are sure to delight. Ehlert’s signature collage illustration style is built around the use of several simple shapes—triangles, circles, and rectangles and begs to be imitated by young artists.

  • Gallery connection: Use Mice as your artistic inspiration and make your own collage characters at the art-making space in the Center for Creative Connections. We provide the paper, tape, and pencils—you provide the imagination!

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Chuck Close: Face Book by Chuck Close

What if you could sit down one afternoon with artist Chuck Close and just ask him anything you wanted to? That scenario actually happened for a group of fifth graders in Brooklyn. Armed with questions like “What made you start to draw?” and “Why are your paintings so big?,” these children helped start the conversation that became the basis for this autobiography. A flip-book feature allows readers to mix and match foreheads, eyes/nose, and chins from several of Close’s own self-portraits and offers an up-close look at the small squares that compose each work of art—squares of paint, fingerprints, and leftover bits of paper.

  • Gallery connection: The DMA’s piece by Chuck Close isn’t currently on view, but you can discover another artist’s fingerprints hiding in the art by exploring the installations by Karla Black. Or, spend some time in our European galleries sketching the faces you find in the portraits on display.

Happy reading!

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning Programs

Teaching for Creativity: A Few Good Books

I am often inspired by a good read and I am an equal opportunity reader.  I love both fiction and non-fiction books and find that both can ignite my creative capacities.  Through fiction, I escape the day-to-day to walk in a character’s shoes and visit places unfamiliar, perhaps discovering an interesting metaphor that results in a richer understanding of the world around me.   Encountering new perspectives from an expert in another field and reading about real-world stories and events are a few things I appreciate about non-fiction reading.   These too can lead to richer understandings.  Here’s a list of books on my radar presently (some in the mail as I write) for which I have high expectations of stirring my creative spirit.  After you take a look at this list, then share with us what’s on your bookshelf or nightstand that is provoking you to think in new ways and see the world with fresh eyes?

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer – This one comes out in March, 2012 and is the third book written by author Jonah Lehrer.  Lehrer has a background in neuroscience and a strong interest in the relationships between art and science.  In Imagine, he discusses new science about creativity and proposes that all of us can achieve increased creativity through effectively using a distinct set of thought processes.  Lucky for me (and others), Lehrer will be in Dallas on March 23, 2012 presenting at the DMA’s Arts and Letters Live programming.

Sketchbook with Voices by Eric Fischl and Jerry Saltz

Sketchbook with Voices by Eric Fischl and Jerry Saltz – This collection of prompts from contemporary artists was compiled in 1986 by Fischl, an artist, and Saltz, an art critic.  The book was reprinted this year and I discovered it recently as I ambled through a museum gift shop.  Full of empty, ready-to-be-filled pages, this sketchbook includes inspirations from artists such as Richard Serra, Susan Rothenberg, and John Baldessari.

Mr. g by Alan Lightman

Mr. g by Alan Lightman – This is the forthcoming book from one of our department’s favorite authors!  Remember the recent post about Einstein’s Dreams?  We cannot wait for Lightman’s new book to come out in January, 2012.  Lightman, like Lehrer, is a scientist intrigued by the blurred and crossing boundaries of art and science. However, Lightman explores these ideas through novels and in Mr. g, the story of creation is told, as narrated by God.  Alan Lightman is also coming to Dallas next year!  On May 20, 2012 Lightman will be the featured author for Arts & Letters Live.

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites

The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites – This is a recent addition to my “books to read” list.  I heard about it the other day on the radio and love the curious story behind the book.  In pursuit of wanting to know more about where things come from, Thomas Thwaites decided to build a toaster from scratch….

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Coming Soon: The BooksmART Festival

Growing up, I loved to read.  I looked forward to trips to the library, and the arrival of the Scholastic Book Fair was always the highlight of my school year.  I’m still an avid reader today, and I have a soft spot for children’s literature and young adult fiction (Harry Potter, and yes, even Twilight).  So imagine my delight when it was announced last month that Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, was one of the featured keynote authors for the DMA’s first ever BooksmART Festival.

What exactly is the BooksmART Festival?  It is a day-long free event put together by the DMA’s Arts & Letters Live team.  On Saturday, June 11th, visitors of all ages can enjoy presentations, book signings, and hands-on demonstrations from a wide array of award winning authors and illustrators.  A complete listing of participants can be found on our Web site.  A schedule of events – including storytelling, musical performances, and tours led by our Teen Docents – will be available shortly.

In preparation for the BooksmART Festival, I interviewed my colleague and friend, Katie Hutton.  Katie is the Interim Head of Arts & Letters Live, and one of the great minds behind the festival.

Katie Hutton (R) with Tony and Lauren Dungy at a BooksmART event earlier this year

How long have you worked at the DMA?
I have worked at the Dallas Museum of Art for almost six years.  I started as a McDermott Adult Programming Intern for a year and then worked for four years as Program Manager for Arts & Letters Live.  Last November, I took over as Interim Head of Arts & Letters Live. 

Describe your job as the Interim Head of Arts and Letters Live.
Arts & Letters Live is the literary and performing arts series at the Dallas Museum of Art.  We are celebrating our 20th anniversary season this year and have featured some of the greatest names in contemporary literature and the performing arts.

I oversee approximately thirty-five to forty Arts & Letters Live programs each season.  I work with the Director of Programming and the Arts & Letters Live team to plan each season and implement the programs.  I have found that the writers, actors and artists we bring in are some of the most thoughtful and interesting people I have ever met. 

During your five years with Arts and Letters Live, which author has left you the most star-struck?  Why?
Ooooh, that’s a good question.  I was definitely a little star-struck by Gary Paulsen, author of the children’s adventure novel, Hatchet.  I read that book more times than I can count when I was growing up, so it was a real thrill to get the chance to meet the man behind the story.

I was also definitely star-struck by Tony Kushner.  I was a drama minor in college and loved Angels in America.  Tony Kushner was so smart and funny.  Getting to have dinner with him and get a sneak peek into the next play he was working on is one of the highlights of my time with Arts & Letters. 

How did the idea for the BooksmART Festival come about?
The idea was born about a year-and-a-half ago. We have had a BooksmART series as part of Arts & Letters Live for a number of years, in which we brought in children’s and young adult authors and illustrators.  We have developed a terrific, loyal audience base for this series over the years.

What we found, however, was that these events were cost-prohibitive for some people, and we wanted to find a way to reach a broader cross-section of the Dallas community.  We decided to shift the emphasis to a day-long free festival featuring something for everyone.  We hope that our loyal BooksmART audiences will come and celebrate with us, and that we will also get new visitors to the Museum to discover and embrace all that the DMA has to offer. 

Which BooksmART Festival author are you most looking forward to hearing speak?
I am especially excited about Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  I heard Norton Juster at the National Book Festival last fall.  He is in his eighties but still has this boyish zeal for life.

I am also very excited about Cynthia Leitich Smith.   A fellow Texan, she has such an incredible range to her work.  She writes for very young children right up through older teens.  I find that very admirable. I also love the ways she has incorporated her Native American heritage into her stories. 

My hope is that people will perhaps come to hear an author they are more familiar with but will stay and discover some new favorite authors while they are here.

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Backstage with Arts & Letters Live

Many people have asked me, “How do you plan Arts & Letters Live?” Here’s a glimpse into the process of how we “produced” this year’s series.

In July DMA colleagues Helen Seslowsky, Katie Hutton, and I spent five days in a very hot and humid New York meeting with nearly forty publicists from all the major publishing houses to learn the scoop about new book releases on the horizon for 2011. When we got back to Dallas, we met for about twelve hours to prioritize our wish list of authors and brainstorm about books whose themes resonate with the Museum’s upcoming exhibitions and collections installations. For example, Mexico’s renowned novelist Carlos Fuentes is coming to speak while the exhibition Tierra y Gente: Modern Mexican Works on Paper is on view. In March two biographers will share new insights into the lives of artists Lee Krasner and Amedeo Modigliani, both of whom have works in the Museum’s collections.

Throughout the year, we also travel to hear authors speak at several prominent book fairs—the Texas Book Festival in Austin, the National Book Festival in D.C., and the New Yorker Festival in Manhattan—to discover which authors speak as beautifully from the stage as they do on the page. I heard Annie Proulx, Simon Schama, Pico Iyer, Gary Shteyngart, and others at a variety of these festivals while planning the 2011 season and knew I wanted to pursue them.

From my front row seat at Steve Carell's interview with Tad Friend at the New Yorker Festival. At the 2010 festival, I also heard authors Tobias Wolff and Mary Karr, E. L. Doctorow, Atul Gawande, Yo-Yo Ma in conversation with Alex Ross, and Simon Schama and Annie Proulx -- both of whom we're bringing to Dallas as part of the 2011 season!

And because we want a season of events that will appeal to many people, we book (pun intended) a balance of fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, and programs that combine art forms in creative and unexpected ways. In February we’ll feature Eric Siblin, author of The Cello Suites, who will share the story behind Bach’s missing manuscript, its rediscovery, and his own infatuation with this music. To give this evening added flair, we’re partnering with the Dallas Bach Society, and their cellist Gyongy Erody will perform musical excerpts to bring this story to life.

Our next step is to send out proposals to the publishers and anxiously await their responses. The process is like putting together a complex jigsaw puzzle—discerning which authors and performers are available and when. There’s been many a time when a requested author wants to come to Dallas, but he’s scheduled to be on the West Coast at the same time we want him to be here in Texas.

Katie Hutton (Interim Head, Arts & Letters Live) at The Library Hotel's rooftop bar after a long, but fruitful day of meetings with publicists in New York. The team enjoyed "Red Badge of Courage" cocktails!

Throughout the summer and early fall, we also spend at least one day every week vetting short stories for our Texas Bound series, where Texas actors read short fiction by Texas writers. Lone Star State–connected authors from all over the country submitted nearly two hundred stories for consideration. Our team reads them and brings the strongest contenders to read-aloud sessions with our director Raphael Parry, who many people know as the Executive and Artistic Director of Shakespeare Dallas. We debate the merits and potential shortcomings of each story. Does it hook the audience’s attention and follow a cohesive narrative arc, or does it lag in the middle? What actor do we imagine bringing the story to life? Constructing a program of three or four stories is like creating a chef’s tasting menu—a short, funny appetizer followed by a hearty, more serious entrée, and finally, a dessert.

Arts & Letters Live will celebrate its 20th anniversary season in 2011! I’ve been with the series nine of those years. It’s heartwarming to hear vivid recollections from many of you—what an author said to change your perspective or transport you out of the everyday. Or the “aha” moment you had in the middle of a performance combining art, music, and poetry. I hope you’ll share your favorite Arts & Letters Live moments by commenting on this post. Check out our exciting 2011 season lineup here!

Carolyn Bess is the Director of Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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