Posts Tagged 'play'

Friday Photos: Silly Sensory Sack

Sensory sacks, also called “spatial socks” or “body sox”, are a popular form of therapy for those with Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism. This easily sewn stretchy lycra sack helps develop spatial awareness, as the wearer is able to feel the fabric’s resistance against his or her body.

Here at the DMA, we experimented with using sensory sacks as a tool to learn about other bodies in space– sculptures!

Emily Wiskera strikes a Lady Godiva inspired pose

Constantin Brancusi, Beginning of the World, c. 1920, marble, nickel silver, and stone

Whitney Sirois acts out Brancusi’s marble egg.

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McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art, Erin Pinon, poses on the second floor landing.

Moore

Emily Wiskera learns to empathize with modern sculpture.

Artworks shown:

  • Anne Whitney, Lady Godiva, c. 1861-1864, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in memory of Dr. Eleanor Tufts, who discovered the Massachusetts-backyard whereabouts of this long-forgotten statue and brought it to Dallas.
  • Constantin Brancusi, Beginning of the World, c. 1920, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
  • Figure of a woman, Roman Empire, 2nd century A. D., Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Cecil H. Green.
  • Henry Moore, Reclining Mother and Child, 1974-1976, lent by the Henry Moore Foundation © The Henry Moore Foundation

Emily Wiskera
McDermott Graduate Intern for Family and Access Teaching

Lessons Learned from a Kid Whisperer

Last summer, resident kid whisperer, Leah Hanson, asked me to step in to teach one of her Toddler Art classes. I had observed Leah’s Early Learning programs in the past and thought it would be a cinch. After all, Leah made it look easy!

Her classes were like the scene of Edward Hicks’ The Peacable Kingdom. Teaching her class would be a breeze! Right?

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom, c. 1846-1847, Dallas Museum of Art, The Art Museum League Fund

…WRONG!

There was nothing “peaceable” about the scene that ensued. In fact, it much more closely resembled Michelangelo’s Torment of Saint Anthony, on view at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.

Deeply humbled by the experience, I returned to Leah’s classes to watch with a much more observant eye. While she made the classes look easy, Leah was carefully employing mindful techniques to help her class go smoothly.

Here’s what I learned:

Don’t just give the rules, explain them

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Any child who has ever taken a class with Leah is ready to tell you, “We have oils in our skin that are good for us, but bad for the art. That’s why we don’t touch the art!” Give the agency of rules to the child by asking them to help you be the protector of the art.

 

 

 

Keep your cool

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With a group of excited children, it can be tempting to raise your voice level to be heard over them. This is a downward spiral. As you get louder, the kids will also get louder and pretty soon you will be at a full cacophony. Instead, lower your voice until you’re in a whisper. The kiddos will quiet down to hear your “secret” information.

 

 

Speak their language

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Think back. Way back. Remember when your teacher would tell you to fold your paper “hotdog style” or sit “crisscross applesauce” and you knew exactly what she meant? Especially with toddlers, it’s important to know that you are being understood, not just heard. Don’t know kid lingo? Befriend an elementary school teacher to teach you the ropes!

 
Ask about it

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Instead of trying to interpret a child’s artwork on your own (and risk misinterpreting it!), ask them to tell you about their work of art. You will be amazed by what you find out!

 

 

 

 

Play isn’t a bad word

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Museums are often thought of as solemn places, where education takes precedent over entertainment. But at the DMA, we believe that play is important too! Cognitive research has revealed that play is the central device for exploring and learning, developing new skills, and making connections with others. Playing thoughtfully with children will also help nurture their natural curiosity and creativity. 

Be specific in your praise

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Instead of saying, “That’s a great painting” try to take a closer look at the child’s artwork and find a specific quality to praise, such as “I love how you combined straight lines and zig zag lines in your painting”. This will encourage you to look more closely at the artwork and the child will appreciate your attentive eye.

 

 

I returned to the Early Learning programs with these tips and tricks and was amazed at how well the next class went. Practice Leah’s approach and you, too, will be kid whispering in no time!

Emily Wiskera
McDermott Intern for Family and Access Teaching

Surreal Play: Group Exploration with Surrealist Games

1982_28_FASurrealism is typically regarded as an art movement dedicated to personal exploration by tapping into a person’s subconscious. This was certainly an important component, but Surrealism was also focused on group activity, ranging from the creation of Surrealist journals, to collectively written statements, to unfettered discovery through group play and games.

Many of the games the Surrealists played together were derived from the types of parlor games they learned as children or still enjoyed as leisure.  Such activities, while fun, were also meant to spur creativity and subvert the psychological conditioning of society. Sometimes these games resulted in finished works of Surrealist art and writing.  As the movement’s self-proclaimed leader, André Breton, described their game playing in 1954: “Although as a defensive measure we sometimes described such activity as ‘experimental’ we were looking to it primarily for entertainment, and those rewarding discoveries it yielded in relation to knowledge only came later. […] It is clear that to shut oneself off from game-playing […] is to undermine the best of one’s own humanity.”  (Brotchie and Gooding, 1991, 137-138)

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits for educators using Surrealist games in the classroom is how the activities offer a set of tools to get learners conceptualizing critically and playing with images, words, and ideas where the purpose is surprise, delight, and creativity. For the Surrealists, the fact that games had rules or instructions that mandated how they were played, but the end-goal was itself unstructured, illogical, and messy, was representative of their own world-view.

Let’s briefly explore two games the Surrealists used in group settings that might be fun to apply to classrooms and museum teaching. My descriptions of these games has been adapted from Alastair Brotchie and Mel Gooding’s delightful Book of Surrealist Games (Shambhala Redstone Editions, 1995).

 

The Exquisite Corpse
Perhaps the best known Surrealist drawing game, the Exquisite Corpse was actually born out of a writing activity. Surrealism’s roots are in writing and poetry; its earliest practitioners and founders were all writers.  Games like the Exquisite Corpse (the name is taken from the poetic results of the first game played) were later modified into a visual variant.

Exquisite Corpse by Breton-Knutson-Hugo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group size: Typically three-to-four players, or any size up to how easily one sheet of paper can be folded.

Instructions: A piece of paper is folded so that the number of creased sections matches the number of players, usually horizontally or in quarters for four players.

The first player takes the folded paper with the top fold exposed and draws anything that comes to mind. (Note: In it’s purest incarnation, as a reference to the name of the game, the players are to base their portions of the drawing on the portions of a human body, but this is by no means a hard-and-fast rule!)

She then extends some of her drawn lines across the fold into the next blank section, and refolds the paper so only the second section is exposed, and the next player cannot see what she drew in the first section.

The re-folded sheet is passed to the second player, who bases his drawing on the few exposed lines provided. After completing his section, he also extends a few of the bottom-most lines across the fold, refolds to hide his portion and expose the next, and passes to the next player.

This process continues until all players have a turn to draw a section, when it is unveiled and unplanned, group-designed drawing is revealed. An added variation involves the last player handing the folded drawing to the first player again, who must conceive of a title before the full drawing is shown.

Outcome: An example of an Exquisite Corpse can be seen above, created by André Breton, Greta Knutson, and Valentine Hugo, where the “head” is a florid, calligraphic design, the “torso” is an hourglass, and the “legs” are heart-footed compasses. The surprising and seemingly unnatural conjunctions of objects in these drawings are similar to the visual juxtapositions presented in many Surrealists’ work.  Examples include the René Magritte’s Persian Letters, and Surrealist objects, such the one below by Sonia Mossé, both in the DMA’s collection.

Magritte - Persian Letters - 1958

Gaston Paris - Photograph of Sonia Mosse mannequin from International Surrealist Exhibition - 1938

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game of Variants

This is essentially the traditional “whisper” game of Telephone. The group sits in a circle, and the first person conceives of a phrase, then whispers it to her neighbor. The second person whispers the same sentence to his neighbor, and so on, through the entire group. By the end, the beginning and ending phrases are compared.

An example:
Starting Phrase: “You must dye blue the pink bags fathomed by orange parapets.”
Ending Phrase: “At all costs forget the fifth paragraph of ‘Paradise Lost’.”

While not practiced by the Surrealists, I have used a fun visual variant of this game in teaching.

Group Size: Best suited for groups between ten and thirty players.

Instructions: Take a piece of paper and fold it horizontally then vertically in an accordion-style (front-over-back) into quadrants that add up to the number of players. (So, with twenty-five players, fold a typical sheet of paper four times horizontally, then four times vertically.)

Present the folded up paper so only one folded quadrant is visible, then have the first player draw a small simple, linear image.

She then presents the drawing to the next player, who looks at it, folds the paper over to the next blank quadrant, then redraws the image from memory. He then passes his version of the drawing on, and the process is repeated until the last player finishes her drawing.

Once finished, unfold the entire sheet, and marvel at the evolution of the image as it transforms from one recognizable thing into something else altogether!

Outcome: Just as the results of the Telephone game are remarkable for the dissimilarity between starting and ending phrases, the results of this visual variant are similarly startling, but the sheet also becomes a visual record of the transformation of starting image into something else entirely.  In the example below completed during a class I taught in 2009, the starting image of a shoe transforms multiple times, into a cigarette and ashtray, a frying pan, a robot, and a bug.

Successive Drawing In-Class_Page_1_2009

Game of Variants Drawing (recto), 2009

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Game of Variants (verso), 2009

 

Have you tried using Surrealist games like these in your teaching or for fun?  Please leave your experiences and ideas in the comments below!

 

Artworks shown:

  • Ferdinand Léger, Composition with Tree Trunks, oil on canvas, 1933, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation.
  • André Breton, Greta Knutson, Valentine Hugo, Untitled (Exquisite Corpse), Colored pencil on black paper, c. 1929, Private Collection.
  • René Magritte, Persian Letters, oil on canvas, 1958, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J.B. Adoue, III.
  • Gaston Paris, Untitled (Mannequin by Sonia Mossé), Gelatin silver print, 1938, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Junior Associates and an anonymous donor.

Sources:

Brotchie, Alastair and Mel Gooding.  A Book of Surrealist Games.  Boston & London: Shambhala Redstone Editions, 1995.

 

Josh Rose
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs

Come to the DMA and Play!

The C3 adults are at it again and this time they didn’t spare one ounce of fun! C3 offers a variety of programming for adults on Thursdays, when our visitors have the opportunity to have hands-on experiences with art and artists, be social, and experiment with materials. Think Creatively, one of our popular programs, allows visitors to dig deeper into certain aspects of creative thinking.

Think Creatively on November 7 was designed around the theme of play and how it helps adults enhance their thinking and learning. Dr. Magdalena Grohman and I decided to ask our participants to step out of their comfort zone and participate in a TASK party. TASK parties, originally designed by artist Oliver Herring, are improvised events with loose structure and minimal rules.
 


 
We set up the C3 Studio in a way that would promote playful experimentation, fun, and artful self expression. Varieties of materials were placed on worktables around the studio: paper, boxes, tape, sticks, and even toilet paper! The rules were simple: take a TASK from the TASK pool in the center of the room and do what it says. Then when a TASK is completed, write a new TASK and put it into the pool and get another one. Simple as that!

There were a set amount of tasks already created with an intent to promote play and participation from the same perspective as Mildred Parten. Parten studied social play in children and suggested that there are six types of play:

  • Unoccupied play: the child is relatively stationary and appears to be performing random movements with no apparent purpose. A relatively infrequent style of play.
  • Solitary play: the child is completely engrossed in playing and does not seem to notice other children. Most often seen in children between 2 and 3 years-old.
  • Onlooker play: the child takes an interest in other children’s play but does not join in. May ask questions or just talk to other children, but the main activity is simply to watch.
  • Parallel play: the child mimics other children’s play but doesn’t actively engage with them. For example, they may use the same toy.
  • Associative play: children are now more interested in each other rather than the toys they are using. This is the first category that involves strong social interaction between children while they play.
  • Cooperative play: some organization enters children’s play, for example the playing has some goal and children often adopt roles and act as a group.

We knew that anything could happen—and it sure did!

Task Pool

Task Pool

Task: Build a fort for a cat

Task: Build a fort for a cat

Task: Tell someone in the museum a secret

Task: Tell someone in the museum a secret

Working away!

Working away!

Visitors at play

Visitors at play

Task: Draw a portrait

Task: Draw a portrait

Task: Create a Mask

Task: Create a Mask

Don’t miss our next Think Creatively workshop on December 5, 2013. If you are reading this post and are interested in attending for 50% off–click here and enter the special code: CANVAS.

Amanda Batson
C3 Program Coordinator

Theater, Play, and Creativity

Thursday evening the Center for Creative Connections was filled with thirty playful, divergent thinkers who were asked to have fun and break rules. These adults were attending a once a month program called Think Creatively taught by Dr. Magdalena Grohman and guest performer Harold Steward from the South Dallas Cultural Center.  During one portion of the evening, visitors engaged in playful theatrical activities that were developed from Steward’s theatrical background and knowledge of the practice known as Theater of the Oppressed.

During the 1970’s, Brazilian activist and actor Augusto Boal was the driving force for the creation of this theatrical practice. The goal of Boal was to use theater as a way to promote social change. Boal took inspiration from educator and theorist Paulo Freire, who is well known for his work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In this revolutionary text, Freire argues that education should allow those who are oppressed to recapture their sense of humanity and overcome their sense of oppression. However, that oppressed person must play an active role in their own freedom. Inspired by the critical pedagogy of Freire, Boal believed that through the dialogue and interaction between actor and audience, people could free themselves; the actors and audience become active explorers and transformers of their own realities with the help of a facilitator. Theater of the Oppressed is about dialogue, playing and learning with one another to create change.

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As I watched Steward act as the facilitator, I was encouraged by the freedom that the participants seemed to gain with each passing moment. He had the visitors stand back to back; he then called out directions for each of them to follow. Placing one’s head to another’s hip, or positioning a knee to an elbow was really a sight to see.

After this warm-up, Steward and I demonstrated an activity together. I was directed to make a movement and was not allowed to stop moving until Harold said, “What are you doing, Amanda?” I was not allowed to respond with what my action was, but instead I had to say what I wanted him to act out. I called out the action, “Running a marathon,” and he pretended he was running the race of a lifetime. After, the visitors were roaring in laughter and running around the room, engaging in this activity. Steward had them stop and then broke all the rules that he just taught them. The pairs had to create their own guidelines and interpretations to the last activity. One pair decided that they were only allowed to sing to each other, another group determined that all of their activities to act out had to be represented in mime.

The visitors responded to the process and indicated that participating in these Theater of the Oppressed exercises was difficult for them at first because they had to overcome their initial hesitations to move, play, and be free without fear—but once they let go of all that was holding them back (or oppressing them), they were able to experience liberation and freedom from restraint.

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Here is another Theater of the Oppressed activity created by Augusto Boal that you can try with your friends!

The Name and Gesture Game:
The group will stand in a circle. The facilitator introduces themselves and creates a physical gesture. The whole group repeats the name and gesture. The process occurs until everyone has said their own name and preformed a gesture. Then, this process is repeated but without the name. Anyone who wishes takes a step forward and the rest of the group must say the name and preform the gesture.

I hope you’ll join us in C3 soon!

Amanda Batson
C3 Program Coordinator

Go van Gogh Stays to Play

Last Friday, Go van Gogh staff  led a “play” workshop for our volunteers. This session led volunteers into the galleries to discuss and interact with works of art in a creative and fun way. Volunteers  posed as the objects, created a yarn painting similar to Jackson Pollock’s Cathedral, as well as experience several discussions led in Spanish. A former McDermott Intern, Leticia Salinas, who facilitated the discussions, demonstrated various hand gestures and other techniques that could be utilized when facilitating programs with students who speak languages other than English.

The fun did not stop there! Volunteers used materials from the space bar in the Center for Creative Connections to create art, then continued their play session in the Tech Lab. Go van Gogh is an outreach program that brings the Dallas Museum of Art to 1st through 6th grade students in schools throughout North Texas.   Allowing the volunteers to play was a unique approach of seeing the artworks in a new way and re-igniting the volunteers’ energy, enthusiam, and  passion for teaching. 

Karen A. Colbert
Teaching Programs Intern

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Summer Reading

A couple of years ago, the education staff at the DMA decided to form a monthly reading group to keep up with the many books and articles that relate to teaching and learning, works of art, and art museums.  Since then, we’ve met once a month to discuss a reading over lunch.

Here are a few of my favorite books from which we’ve read.  I hope that you find something interesting to add to your summer reading list!

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, M.D.

Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow by Chip Conley

Art as Experience by John Dewey

Tell Me More: Listening to Learners Explain by Eleanor Duckworth

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Evocative Objects: Things We Think With by Sherry Turkle

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs


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