Posts Tagged 'teacher'

Creating Narratives

Over the past few days, I have been thinking about the ways we communicate through words and images.   In grade school, we are taught to look for contextual clues to determine the meaning of unknown words.   We make the same application when we look at images that are both familiar and unfamiliar to us.   Images are all around us – in books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and museums, just to name a few.

To make sense of what we see, we often create events in our minds about what we think the image is about.  For example, a work of art may suggest a story to us – the work could show the beginning, middle, or end of a story.  Some artworks may be more narrative than others.  Take a look at the following images by artists Charlie White and Gregory Crewdson.

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In the photograph Untitled (boy with hand in drain),  Gregory Crewdson encourages us to look closely at the scene of a young man reaching down the drain into a sinister-looking space below.  Using a sound stage or working on location, Crewdson directs each photograph as if it were a feature-length film, placing his models exactly where he wants them.   Everything in the photograph has a specific purpose from the Scope mouthwash on the sink to the soap in the shower to the light from the window.

In Inland Empire, Charlie White draws our attention to the lower left side of the photograph where a woman wields an iron pipe at a hideous monster.   Although the scene appears as if it is from a science fiction movie, it seems strangely familiar, like an urban American landscape that we have encountered at some point during our lifetime.   This computer-assisted photograph demonstrates the influence of special effects on the technique and process of photography and the motion picture industry.

The stage is set and ready for us to complete the stories.   What do you think happens next in either Untitled (boy with hand in drain) or Inland Empire?  Use all of the contextual clues in the photographs to aid in creating a new narrative.

To explore more photographs in the Museum’s collection, go to Picture This: 20th and 21st Century Photographs.

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers

Artworks featured:

Gregory Crewdson (American, born 1962), Untitled, 2001-2002 Digital C-print, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art:  DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2002.45

Charlie White (American, b. 1972), The Inland Empire, 1999 Light jet chromogenic print mounted on Plexiglas, Dallas Museum of Art, Mary Margaret Munson Wilcox Fund, 1999.180

Elephants, Buffalo, and Giraffes…Oh My!

Take a moment and imagine an African elephant at the Dallas Zoo.  Now imagine an elephant at the Dallas Museum of Art.    Were the images of the elephants the same?    It would definitely make an interesting story (with a strong potential of damaging artworks) to see a live elephant  in the Museum galleries!    Although elephants are not allowed in the Museum, images and representations of elephants and other animals by living African cultures are.

On Saturday, January 29, twelve teachers from a variety of disciplines and grade levels joined the DMA and the Dallas Zoo for a full-day teacher workshop.   Teachers spent the morning exploring animals from Africa in the DMA exhibition African Masks: The Art of Disguise and in the afternoon engaged with live animals in the Dallas Zoo’s Giants of the Savanna exhibition.

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At the Museum, teachers considered the connections between the animals represented in masks and the living cultures that created the masks in response to their beliefs and surrounding environment.  With a focus on antelope, elephants, and buffalo, Museum staff encouraged teachers to think about descriptive words that relate to each, observe the realistic and abstract qualities of the animal masks, and think about the context of each mask in relationship to the ceremonies performed by the different cultures.

The conversation continued at the Dallas Zoo as teachers discussed  the  location of the African Savanna, the animal habitats within, and the challenges facing animals in the different African countries.  Luckily, the weather outside was extraordinary (the workshop occurred the weekend before the snow and ice), and the teachers were able to ride the monorail around the Zoo, participate in elephant observation studies, and feed the giraffes.

By the end of the day, teachers commented on their experiences with looking at patterns on the African masks and on the animals and made connections to the  significance of animals within the cultures and countries in Africa.

We all had a great time and are looking forward to another collaborative teacher workshop with the Dallas Zoo soon!  This workshop is one example of what the DMA offers to teachers of all grade levels and disciplines.   Be sure to check the Teacher Programs website for new workshops later this spring.

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers

Engaging Opportunities with Art, Artists, and Animals

As the new year begins, I encourage you to think about ways you can connect with with artists, artworks, and other K-12 colleagues  at the Dallas Museum of Art.  Here are two events that might prove to be inspirational, relaxing, or simply rejuvenating.

  • Join us for our annual Late Night Birthday Celebration as the Museum turns 108 on Friday, January 21 from 6:00 p.m. to midnight!   To celebrate the beginning of the Spring Semester, we invite you to bring your educator ID to receive FREE Museum admission.  Come with your colleagues, family, and friends to experience traditional African music, polka with Brave Combo, participate in Twitter Treasure Hunts, and engage in conversations with artists in the Center for Creative Connections.  In addition, visit the Educator Resource Table from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. to meet DMA education staff, register for door prizes, and sign up for upcoming teacher programs.     


  • Join us for an exciting teacher workshop Animals from Africa at the Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Museum of Art on Saturday, January 29!  Spend the morning at the Dallas Museum of Art, experiencing African Masks: The Art of Disguise and then journey to the Dallas Zoo for an afternoon of exploration in the Giants of the Savanna!  This special workshop includes a gallery tour, a special behind-the-scenes experience at the zoo, and lessons from experienced art and zoo educators that you can take back to your classroom.  Participants will also receive six CPE hours.  Cost is $50 for this workshop and includes admission and parking at both institutions.  To register, please complete the registration form and return to the Dallas Zoo Education Department via fax, email, or mail.

We look forward to seeing you at one or more of these events!   Don’t forget, bring your educator ID on  Thursday evenings to receive FREE admission to the Museum.

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers   

Community Connection: Nasher Sculpture Center

This past weekend marked the kick-off of Art in October, a celebration of the Dallas Arts District that features a variety of performances, exhibitions, programs, and events throughout the month.  In honor of this celebration, I walked across the street to the Nasher Sculpture Center for a coffee break with Stephen Ross.  Stephen began working in Admissions at the Nasher months after it opened in 2003.  Since then, he has held the title of Education Coordinator, Assistant Curator of Education, and for the last two years, Curator of Education.  See if you can find Stephen in this picture (hint: you can often identify a museum educator by his/her all-black outfit).

Stephen Ross seen through Jaume Plensa’s Twenty-nine Palms, 2007

What sparked your interest in museum education?
I think you have two choices coming out of graduate school – stay in school and become a curator (even though you don’t know what that is) or get a job at a museum.  I like museum education because I get to work with the public.

What has been the most enjoyable, challenging, or surprising aspect of your work with the Nasher?

I really like our Education Department.  It is limited because of our small staff, which is a total of three people.  I work with two really good people, and together we reach a wide spectrum from young children to adults.  We do a lot – we reach different audiences with different types of learning – so we all get to do a variety of things.

If you could take home any work of art from the Nasher, what would you choose?

I would take home Alberto Giacometti’s Two Figurines (Deux figurines sur socles) because they’re wonderful and tiny.  I love their size and portability – each figurine is less than two inches tall.  Giacometti would carry them around in matchboxes and put up small “exhibitions” on café tables.  They are the smallest pieces in the Nasher collection.

Tell us about your relationship with the DMA.

I work with the Museum Forum for Teachers, a five-day summer program for teachers that occurs at the Nasher, the DMA, The Rachofsky House, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.  We also collaborate on the docent program, which is a big help.  A small museum like ours could never have its own docent program, and we are thankful that DMA docents also lead tours at the Nasher. 

I love the sense of collaboration, in general.  I feel I can pick up the phone and call anyone in the DMA Education department to talk about program ideas, ask questions, etc.

Describe your idea of a perfect day.

Reading Beckett.  Listening to the Rudy Van Gelder sound.

Check out the Nasher and other Arts District venues during Art in October.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

September Programs for Teachers

I hope you had a fun and relaxing summer break!   The school year has just begun, and we are looking forward to seeing you and your students here at the Museum.  This will be an exceptional year for exhibitions as we celebrate Mexico’s bicentennial, investigate the meanings and functions of masks from several Sub-Saharan African countries, and explore French medieval sculptures from the tomb of John the Fearless.

Because we value you as educators, we are offering FREE admission with your educator ID on the following days this month:  September 4, 5, 25, and 26.   Below are additional opportunities to participate in programming designed for K-12 educators during September:


Arts of Mexico Teacher Workshop
Saturday, September 11, 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Explore the arts of Mexico in the Museum’s collections and the historical significance of artworks and artists in the exhibitions José Guadalupe Posada: The Birth of Mexican Modernism and Tierra y Gente: Modern Mexican Works on Paper


Late Night at the Dallas Museum of Art
Friday, September 17, 6:00 p.m. – midnight

Show your educator ID and get in FREE.  Visit the Educator Resource table to register for door prizes and sign up for upcoming teacher programs.


African Masks: The Art of Disguise Teacher Workshop
Saturday, September 25, 9:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Experience the power and wonder of African Masks: The Art of Disguise. Investigate the functions and meanings of African masks and consider how they are used today. 

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers

Community Connection: The Best of Both Worlds

It is just me, or is anyone else shocked that we are already in the second week of August?  As we look forward to the 2010-2011 school year, it only makes sense to feature a classroom teacher in our monthly Community Connection blog post.  Meet Michelle Alcala, who begins her fifth year as art teacher at Salazar Elementary School in Dallas ISD.

Michelle and her children

What are some ways you’ve worked with the DMA?

I began by bringing my students here for visits.  My 4th-graders come every year and really enjoy the experience.  Another teacher and I started Saturday programs with our students, and we bring a group of fifteen to twenty students from all grade levels and their families to the Museum once a month. 

Last year, I was invited to create artwork with students for the Art Ball, the DMA’s annual black-tie fundraiser event.  My students were so excited to see their work in a real museum setting, which is unbelievable for an elementary school student.  They brought their families to see their work and dressed up; the pride they had was great.

I’m also a part of the teacher panel and am hoping my insights help with the new online resources for teachers.  Before, I did not use the DMA online teaching materials very often, and I’m hoping my contribution will help art teachers and other teachers.  [Michelle is part of a select group of teachers collaborating with Museum education staff on an IMLS grant focused on redesigning the DMA’s online teaching materials.]

How has your work with the DMA affected your approach to teaching?

I’m always trying to find things that I can tell my students about that will help them make connections to the Museum and encourage them to visit with their families.

Do you consider yourself an artist?  What are your creative outlets?

Initially, I intended to go to art school.  I ended up having children and realized they were more my passion than becoming an artist.  I tried to find the best of both worlds, and that’s when I came up with teaching art.  I still sketch and paint sometimes, but not in the volume that I used to before I started teaching.  I also love to read.

How do you spend your summer months?

I spend my summers with my children at my home in Oak Cliff.  We play and read and go to the zoo and go to museums and as many different free things as we can find.  We just got back from a trip to Florida and Disney World.  I also went to Chicago with my mother.  It was wonderful.  I visited the Art Institute and went on a tour of the new wing.  It was just incredible, seeing so many pieces of art. 

What do you most look forward to in the 2010-2011 school year?

To my new art lessons, both my own that I’ve created and ideas from the DMA.  I also look forward to seeing the kids again.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen all of their little faces, and I’m ready to get back into it.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

Friday Photos: Exploring Creativity

Today is the last day of Summer Seminar, our annual partnership course for teachers with The University of Texas at Dallas.  The topic this year was The Creative Process, and we have spent the week exploring both the theory and the practice of creativity.  Here are a few photos of our experiences this week.

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs

Community Connection: Our Friends and Neighbors

Dear loyal blog readers,

We have a new summer blog post schedule.  Look for new posts on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Have a fabulous summer!

The opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center last fall brought our friends at the Dallas Theater Center (DTC) to the ever-growing Dallas Arts District.  Having comfortably settled into their new home at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, the DTC has developed programs and collaborations as innovative as the building itself.  Lisa Holland, Director of Education and Community Programs at the DTC, gives us a peek behind the scenes.

Tell us about your new home at the Wyly Theatre.
The Wyly Theatre is remarkable – there’s not another theater like it in the entire world.  The flexibility that it affords is unparalleled and I think that we, as the primary tenants, are going to learn about this building as time goes on.  I think the possibilities are going to be limitless in this building.  I also think our patrons are going to be the lucky beneficiaries of seeing what this building can do.  It’s like a giant transformer.  What that provides to the patron in terms of the audience to artist relationship is going to be powerful and immediate. There’s nothing like it.  

Also, the synergy between other organizations in the Arts District and the potential collaborations that exist now is so thrilling.  I think about how we can collaborate with our friends and family at the Arts District in ways that will be really engaging and exciting.  To walk down the street and see who you’ll run into, or walk down the street and have a meeting at the DMA – it’s exciting. 

Do you ever consider integrating or thinking about works of art related to your programs?
Absolutely.  In the past, we’ve incorporated a visual arts component in our SummerStage program.  I believe that whatever kind of artist you are, you need to “feed your hopper”.  In other words, you pour into yourself different experiences, whether it’s a trip to the zoo or going for a walk and looking at leaves.  You never know what will inform your work as an artist.  

Also, we deal with a lot of visual arts formal elements like color, line, and composition in the theater.  And, we have had collaborative events with the DMA in the past, such as sending artists to the DMA and working with Arts & Letters Live.

Tell us about the Shannon and Ted Skokos Learning Lab, your new partnership with Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
It was brand new this year, and it was a resounding mutual success. Last spring, we auditioned the rising juniors and from that group chose eighteen seniors.  The Learning Lab has three components.  Kevin Moriarty (DTC Artistic Director), Charlton Gavitt (Booker T. Washington High School Theater Cluster Faculty), and I team-taught the class component, which occurred every other day, all year long.  The second component is a twenty-hour internship that students complete outside of class hours.  The final component is a performance project, in which we paired the students with our professional acting company, and they performed ten scenes in the Wyly Theatre with the professional actors.  The students also came to every single show we produced this year, free of charge.  This is a super exciting program, and I don’t think anywhere else has that sort of integrated relationship between a school and a professional theater with that kind of access.  The program is a great example of the kind of collaboration that can happen in the Arts District – it was so simple to walk across the street, teach, and walk back to my office.

How did you come to your position as Director of Education & Community Programs?
I grew up in the theater.  My parents took me to theater and I’ve been a theater student my whole life.  After I earned my graduate degree in directing, I was hired as one of two artistic directing interns at the Dallas Theater Center thirteen years ago.  I was hired to work in the artistic office after my internship year, and I basically never left.  I defected into the education department about halfway through my tenure, but that made sense because my undergraduate degree is in theater education.

What program/performance are you most looking forward to this summer?
We have a program called SUPERStage (SummerStage’s alter ego), where we have theater day camps for kids ages 4-14. I’m also looking forward to our summer production It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s SupermanI’m so excited about having a mainstage show running concurrently with our SUPERtage program.  Our SUPERStage students will have access to what we do in a primary way, and we’re going to enfold into the curriculum what is happening on stage so it becomes a learning lab of sorts.  It’s going to be awesome.  Superman – what can you say – there’s flying  –  it’s Superman!

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

Community Connection: Using Art to Get at Life

As museum professionals, we attend conferences regularly to share the exciting work we are doing at the DMA and to learn from our national and international colleages.  I attended the annual National Art Education Assocation Convention for the first time in 2004, and I had the pleasure of participating in a session led by Dr. Terry Barrett.  Since then, I scan each year’s schedule to make sure I don’t miss an opportunity to learn from Dr. Barrett.  Last year, I was delighted to hear that he had joined the Art Education faculty at the University of North Texas.  I recently had a chance to talk with Dr. Barrett before UNT adjourned for Spring Break. 

Dr. Terry Barrett

What sparked your interest in art education?

I’ve been in the field a long time and I got into it by default.  When I graduated from college, I was eligible for the Vietnam War draft.  I was opposed to the war, and one way to avoid the draft was to teach.  I began teaching in an inner-city, all-black high school in St. Louis; I was there the year Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.  I fell in love with the kids and decided I liked teaching.  I’ve been teaching ever since.

How would you describe your theory to a person with no experience in art education?

My mission is to help people appreciate art and to appreciate life through art, because I think art gives us different ways of thinking about the world.

Did you ever have a great idea that didn’t work?  What did you learn from that experience?

No, I don’t think I ever had a great idea that didn’t work.  Thinking of “great ideas” is intimidating in itself.  Other people come to me with great ideas – I have said yes to many offers throughout my career, and that’s led me to different directions that have been very interesting.

For example, one big change in my career occurred when a former student asked if I would be an art critic in education for the Ohio Arts Council and I said, “Yeah, why not?”  Being an art critic in the schools enlivened me;  my research, my teaching and my community service came together like a circle – a productive circle.

I was a cancer patient about 5 years ago.   I went through chemotherapy and private counseling and during that time I figured out I wasn’t afraid to die, but I was afraid of becoming old and inactive.  My counselor told me I have to get over that fear and suggested I go to an assisted living community and work with the elderly.  I said “Why not?”.  I also started doing contemporary art interpretation with people with cancer, and we started seeing how those images related to our lives. They really enjoyed the process and produced some beautiful writings.  That’s when I started thinking about life issues more than art issues and using art to get at life.

I had enough years at Ohio State to retire, but there was an opening at University of North Texas and I thought “Why not?”.  I wasn’t ready to retire; I wanted to stay active and keep working, writing, and teaching.

I love your artist statement about choices you’ve made related to making art, your creative process, and the materials you choose.  Can you tell me more about how you came to these decisions – was it a learning experience of trial and error, or did you approach artmaking this way from the beginning?

When I was young, I made art instinctively and intuitively. As I got older and was writing more, I didn’t have time to make art and do it well, so I stopped.  I realized I missed it, and that’s when I began painting.  Sandy Skoglund told me I needed something to fit my lifestyle.  As an example, she told me about a friend who frequently traveled on an airplane and made small collages because they didn’t require a lot of space or materials.  The small paintings I make really satisfy me.  They’re fun to make and I don’t exhibit them; I just do them for my own enjoyment.

It seems like much of your life and work has been in the Midwest, specifically Ohio.  What is your impression/experience of living and working in north Texas?

I miss the trees, but I like the sunshine a lot. The people here are friendlier than they are in the Midwest. There’s a degree of politeness that I like; the Midwest has a reputation for being a friendly place, but people here smile and make eye contact and open doors more than I’m used to.  I love wide open skies, and I love living in horse country.  I wish some rich ranch owner would give me a little plot of land to live on a horse farm, where I would build a small green house with a small ecological footprint.

Dr. Barrett will lead part of an upcoming Teacher Workshop titled  Exploring Photography: The Lens of Impressionism, along with photographer and educator Frank LopezVisit the website to learn more and register.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Learning Partnerships with the Community

From Student to Staff

I began my relationship with the Dallas Museum of Art when I was an AP art student at Frisco High School and visited the Museum with my class.  Although I spent at least three hours a day in art classes during my senior year, the Museum felt like it was a world apart from my own, much further than the half hour drive from my school. After graduating from Frisco High, I earned a scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas where I was accepted into Collegium V, the honors program there. In addition to the courses available on campus, each spring UT Dallas and the Dallas Museum of Art collaborate to offer an innovative honors seminar that takes place at the Museum.

Me in 1717 during the honors seminar exploring the senses

I signed up for the partnership class in the spring of my freshman year,  a course devoted to the Maya, and I fell in love with the Museum. I took the class again the following year, studying modernism, then once more the next spring, studying the process of creativity. Although I had graduated with my Bachelor´s degree in Art & Performance by the time my fourth year arrived, I was able to participate as a graduate student auditing the course, this time about the senses in art and literature. As my scholarship program drew to a close, I learned that the Museum offers eight McDermott internships: four in the Curatorial Department and four in Education. I knew I loved art, I knew I loved sharing the things I was passionate about with others, so I applied to work at the Museum doing just that. Not long after, I found myself walking through the Museum’s doors as the McDermott Teaching Programs Intern.

Me leading discussion during a teacher workshop about contemporary art

Not only have I been afforded the great opportunity to participate in teacher workshops and docent training as well as leading tour groups of all ages, but I have found myself on the other side of the table in the spring honors seminar. My experiences as a high school, undergraduate, and graduate student have shaped the way I see the Museum and the educational opportunities it provides, especially the way we interact with visitors. As someone who has witnessed it firsthand, I know that transformative experiences with art in the Museum are possible. My goal as a museum educator is not to impart a specific set of facts to a group of students, but rather to spark each student’s sense of wonder and provide them a starting point for whatever journey their imagination takes.


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