Posts Tagged 'Meadows Museum'

Community Connection: Combining Two Passions

One of the great things about working with volunteers is the opportunity to meet people with a wide range of interests, experiences, and passions.  Last fall, I interviewed Deborah Harvey, one of our Go van Gogh volunteers.  I am pleased to introduce Jennifer McNabb, another Go van Gogh volunteer, who has managed to combine two of her passions through our outreach program.  
Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m British, and I’ve been in the U.S. for twenty years, in Dallas for nineteen years.  I’m a longtime visitor to the DMA.   When my work situation opened up seven years ago, I was looking for a way to volunteer in the arts.  I have a background in community arts from the 1980’s in England, when I helped set up and run a group studio for artists called Red Herring Studios.  We took over derelict buildings that were to be demolished, converted the buildings to studio spaces, and had an exhibition space too.  Red Herring put visual arts on the map in Brighton and has given birth to other fabulous organizations like Fabrica.  

Jennifer with her father and sister at Chesworth Studios in West Sussex, England.

What do you like most about Dallas?

I think what I like most about Dallas is the very vivid cultural life here.  We have great museums (the Nasher Sculpture Center, the DMA, The Crow Collection of Asian Art), and I love the way the Arts District has been developing with the AT&T Performing Arts Center and the expansion of Booker T. Washington High School.  I don’t come from a place where you have zoning; in London, these places are all in different parts. Also, I love the fact that Ft. Worth is just a few miles away with another bunch of fabulous museums. Although Dallas is a town that tends to be on the map business-wise, it is also on the map culturally.  I live in Oak Cliff, so it’s very easy to get to these places.

Tell us about your relationship with the DMA.

I started out by coming to your office and asking what I can do to volunteer with the DMA.  At the time, I couldn’t give the amount of time necessary for the docent program, but I did like the idea of the Go van Gogh program.  I have a background in teaching, and I thought it would be nice to get back into the classroom.  I like that the DMA has this type of in-reach and does such a good job at taking art into the classroom, getting kids excited about it, and hopefully encouraging teachers to take kids to the museum more.  Teaching is something I feel passionate about along with the visual arts – I come from a family of artists and I like the fact that I can go into the classroom and do all the fun stuff, and the kids love me for it. 

I’d been doing Go van Gogh for three or four years when a friend said to me one day, “You should come to this meeting about Resolana and get involved with this organization that provides programming for incarcerated women.”  I am also passionate about prison reform.  When I saw the creativity workshops they did, I thought yes, this combines two things I feel strongly about.  I got involved almost immediately.  After I had been to the jail a few times, I spoke with you and Amy about the possibility of the DMA doing something in partnership with Resolana.  I was looking for ways I could take the DMA into the jail, and you suggested trying some of the programs we teach in the schools. 

Jennifer leads the Arts of Mexico Go van Gogh program with Resolana participants.

What are the greatest benefits and challenges to presenting Resolana programs?

I was very aware I was teaching a different population, but in some respects they’re kind of similar.  Being in the jail frees them up, and they are very good about trying anything you suggest.  They don’t have self-editing about what is right and what is wrong in a class setting.  The women are willing to try most things; I don’t get the same resistance I might get from sixth-grade students.  The difference is, these are adults, and I didn’t want to make them feel I was doing baby stuff with them.  I had to adapt the programs because certain supplies are not allowed in the jail.  I also tried to get the discussion portion much more pitched toward their level.  I would not lead too much, and tried to give them space.  I am also in the Master of Liberal Studies program at SMU, and I took a class with Carmen Smith, who worked at the DMA for twelve years before working at the Meadows Museum.  I learned a number of techniques for talking about art with groups of people that museum educators use and started to use some of those techniques.  What I learned about in class went straight to the jail, and I saw a remarkable difference in the quality of the discussions. 

What is capturing your time and attention at the moment?

I’m always reading something fascinating, but work right now is capturing a lot time and attention.  We now have a pod in the jail dedicated to women interested in attending Resolana classes – they all live together.  It means we have doubled the number of women we see every week, so I’m trying to increase our number of volunteers as quickly as I can.  I am also trying to develop a program to train volunteers, using Go van Gogh as a model.  The Meadows Museum has donated their studio for training sessions. That takes up a lot of my time.

My other big passion is learning. I get to take classes in all kinds of things in the Liberal Studies program. I’m knee-deep in anthropology at the moment, and I’m writing a paper about systems of value in the U.S. and in the western world in general, and how that compares to other value systems when looking at works of art.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

TAEA 2010

This past weekend, my colleague Shannon Karol and I took a trip down I-35 to Austin for the annual Texas Art Education Association (TAEA) conference.   TAEA brings together art educators in K-12 classrooms, universities, and museums.

My favorite part of TAEA has been getting to hear what other museums in the state are doing.  This year, I learned how ArtPace works with community partners in a program called ¿Como Vives?, how the Meadows Museum structures a multiple-visit program with area 6th graders, and how the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston engages audiences with contemporary art.  There was a lot to take in! 

Shannon and I also got a chance to talk about the DMA in presentations we gave.  Shannon shared her expertise in African art with conference-goers in her session, Themes for Teaching with African Art.  The session included themes (including family, proverbs, and royalty) that can be used to engage students of all ages with African art.  If you are interested in integrating African artworks into your classroom, I hope you’ll check out Shannon’s African Art Resources

In my session, Close-Looking, Collaboration, and Creative Response: Interactive Experience with Works of Art, I shared three activities that allow for my favorite kinds of gallery experiences: ones that are open-ended, involve groupwork, and art-making or writing in response to a work of art.  My favorite of the three is Post-It poetry.  I like poetry exercises; I think they’re a great way to get students to distill their ideas about an artwork into brief, meaty responses.  With Post-It poetry, students write words that describe an artwork on individual Post-Its and stick them to a board that serves as a group word bank.  After all group members have contributed responses, the group works together to rearrange Post-Its to create phrases or sentences.  Click here for more detailed Post-It poetry instructions.

What I like most about this activity are the unexpected resonances that happen when students read poems.  Hearing different, fresh combinations of words always enriches the experience of looking at an artwork for me.  Below are some Post-It poetry pictures, and a Post-It poem participants made during my TAEA session.

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The two of us also took in the sights in Austin.  We checked out the Blanton Museum of Art, stopped by the capitol, shopped funky stores on South Congress, and had a blast eating out of trucks!  (Not the F-150 kind, but the street-food-vending kind).   All in all, it was quite the weekend.

Amy Copeland
Coordinator of Go van Gogh Outreach

Diego Rivera: A Closer Look at Cubism and Mexican Modernism

An opportunity to partner with the Meadows Museum for a two-part teacher workshop on Diego Rivera resulted in an exciting collaboration over the past two weekends. The Meadows Museum’s current exhibition, Diego Rivera The Cubist Portraits, 1913-1917,  explores Rivera’s artistic production during the formative years he spent in literary and art circles in Paris during World War I, and provides a new perspective on this lesser known and crucial period of the Mexican artist’s career.

 During the first part of the workshop, which was held at the Meadows Museum, we explored Rivera’s work and discussed various influences on his paintings. Personally, I enjoyed examining Rivera’s works through his connections with other artists like Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris. 

 The second half of the workshop was held at the DMA. We explored important Cubist works of art by Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Georges BraqueWe also spent time with our own Diego Rivera painting, Portrait of Dr. Otto Ruhle as well as works by fellow Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo. Teacher participants had in-depth conversations related to these works of art and made connections with the artworks through journaling, sketching, and artist quotes.

 This workshop was a great kick-off for our 2009-2010 school year. Information on our upcoming teacher workshops can be found at:  

 Amy Wolf
Teaching Programs Coordinator


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