Posts Tagged 'tours'

Hitting the Highlight Reel: 2013-2014 School Year in Review

As our tours wind down and we make our final school trip in the Go van Gogh van, it’s time to look back at all we’ve done this school year (and be pretty proud of ourselves). If we could have looked into the future last September, we would have seen a year of change waiting for us. 2013-2014 has been action-packed, full of happy surprises and new initiatives and programs. Instead of looking at this school year by the numbers, we’re going to hit the highlight reel and showcase just a few of many great moments.

2013-14 New Docent Class

From left to right: Felix Landau, Flo Lockett-Miles, Debi Waltz, Annette Culwell, Charlie Kuzmic, Stephanie Avery, Sandi Edgar, Art Weinberg, Evan Simmons, and David Caldwell.

New Docent Class of 2013-2014

We are excited to introduce our New Docent Class of 2013-2014! In order to “graduate” from the program, our new docents attend over thirty weeks of training, give ten (or more) tours, and read almost all of Marilyn Stokstad’s Art History. These new docents have put in countless hours prepping for tours and learning different touring strategies and activity ideas. We are excited to welcome such an enthusiastic, creative, and dedicated group to our DMA Docent Program. Look for them on your DMA tours this fall!

Booker T. Washington Learning Lab Partnership

This was another fantastic year for the Learning Lab partnership with the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Students met artists Jim Hodges and Stephen Lapthisophon, learning first-hand about their respective special exhibitions and their process as artists. Students then put their own creative talent on display, re-imagining a DMA artwork using Instagram as their artistic medium. They went on behind-the-scenes tours of the Museum’s art storage areas and object conservation space, and got some career advice from a variety of Museum staff during a DMA career panel.  Most exciting of all, we will soon see the first class from the Learning Lab partnership graduate—congratulations class of 2014!

Go van Gogh Color My World Program for Special Education Classrooms

We were excited to unveil a new Go van Gogh experience this year. Designed to fill a growing need for Special Education outreach, the Color My World program incorporates multi-sensory activities in a color-filled classroom adventure inspired by paintings in the Museum’s collection. With the support of our enthusiastic Go van Gogh volunteers, we’ve been able to lead many Color My World programs this spring. And with the help of two very smart colleagues (thank you, Danielle and Hayley!), we’ve spent those sessions learning how the program works best, experimenting and modifying our way to what is now an inclusive experience for children with a range of abilities.

South Dallas Cultural Center Second Sundays

Sometimes the best learning experiences happen when the school day ends and we’re with our friends and family.  This year also brought the beginning of what we hope is a long-term partnership with families from the South Dallas Cultural Center. One Sunday a month, we have South Dallas “Second Sundays,” where a group of families spends two hours together at the Museum exploring and making art. Families have sketched and painted like Edward Hopper, designed chairs like Frank Gehry, and have spent many a Sunday using the Museum as both a resource and a source of artistic inspiration. While we haven’t wrapped up this program just yet (families, if you’re reading this, our June Sunday is not-to-miss!), this out-of-school, school year partnership is one that has defined 2013-14 for me, in a wonderful way.

To all the docents, Go van Gogh volunteers, hard-working Education colleagues (past and present), and our amazing McDermott Intern who have all helped make this school year so successful and fun-filled–thank you!  We hope you have a great summer, and we can’t wait to see you right back here in the fall!

Amy Copeland
Manager of Go van Gogh and Community Teaching Programs

Docents in Motion

The DMA has over 100 docents who lead tours for visitors of all ages. Our docents are here every Monday for training from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Their training sessions are led by the DMA’s curators as well as outside speakers, and topics include both our permanent collection and special exhibitions. Some of our docents have been part of the docent family for 43 years, while others have been with us for only three months.

I have the pleasure of spending every Monday afternoon with our fifteen funny, smart, and dedicated new docents. Since September, the new docents have been learning how to teach with works of art. Each week, we immerse ourselves in the DMA collection with experiences ranging from how to look at a painting to imagining a text message exchange between two portraits.

This week, the new docents had their first introduction to our American galleries. I divided the docents into 3 groups and each group was assigned to a landscape painting. Their task was to recreate the painting using only their bodies. My ambitious group went one better–they created sound and movements, too!  I couldn’t resist sharing the videos I filmed of their performances.

Annette, Charlie, Debi, Evan, and Lauren did an interpretive dance for Georgia O’Keeffe’s Gray Blue & Black-Pink Circle.

Barbara, David, Devika, and Felix animated Marsden Hartley’s Mountains, no. 19.

Ali, Art, Flo, and Stephanie re-interpreted Frederic Church’s The Icebergs.

The next time you’re in the DMA galleries, try to create your own tableau vivant for one of our masterpieces.

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs

What Does Fun Look Like at the DMA?

I have written posts in the past about our goals for docent-guided tours at the DMA. Our current goal statement was written five years ago, and I think it’s in need of a few updates. It states that we want students to feel comfortable at the Museum, as well as to begin to see their world in a fresh way. What does that mean, and how can we measure whether that happens on our tours?


Over the summer, I met with small groups of docents to begin redefining our goal for tours. These docents were asked “What are your motivations and desires when planning a tour for the DMA’s visitors?” Their answers were thoughtful and really demonstrate their passion for the work that they do at the DMA.

  • My hope is that they will learn how to “look” in a museum setting and that they will want to return or visit other museums.
  • My biggest goal is to get the students to want to come back and to leave with vivid memories of what they saw.
  • My biggest hope is that even one child sees an object that excites them and makes them want to see more.
  • I want them to leave with more questions than they had when they came in so that they will be eager to come back and enjoy what this museum has to offer.
  • I want the students to feel comfortable, be inspired and amazed, learn a few things, and have fun!
  • My motivation is to share objects that are special to me so that I can bring genuine excitement to them.


I plugged the docents’ responses into Wordle in order to easily see what words popped up repeatedly. In a word cloud, the size of a word corresponds with the number of times it was entered into Wordle. From this word cloud, it’s obvious that a “fun experience” is the top motivation for our docents when planning tours.

Docent Goal Word Cloud

As a group, the docents and I are now trying to unpack the word “fun.” Just what does a fun experience at the DMA look like? How do we know that students are having fun in our galleries? Do sketching and inventing stories about a work of art lead to a fun experience? Is laughter our best indicator that students are enjoying their tour? These are just some of the questions that we are pondering as we begin our new training year.


These kiddos certainly appear to be having fun on their tour

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. I would love to have your insight as we move forward with revising our goal for docent-guided tours. How do you know that your students (or children) are having fun at the DMA? What have been some of their favorite experiences here? If you’re a teacher, I am also curious to know what your motivations are when you schedule a field trip to the DMA. It will be interesting to see how your motivations overlap with those of our docents.

Please add your comments below or feel free to email me. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on having fun at the DMA!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs

Texas Late Night

Howdy, y’all! This past Friday, the DMA showed folks a rootin’ tootin’ good time at our Late Night celebration of the Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas exhibition. With a theme as big as Texas, you can bet that there was lots to do here at the Museum. With live folk bands playing in the Atrium Cafe and in the galleries, visitors could hear old-time, toe-tapping, traditional Texas music almost anywhere they went. Adult crowds could be seen gathering for tours of the exhibition and  surrounding the watercolor demonstrations led by artist Scott Winterrowd. Lectures, talks, and films throughout the night also kept the adults scurrying from one program to the next. Families had a rip-roaring time in the Center for Creative Connections studio constructing their own Dallas building to contribute to a three-dimensional city skyline. Also in C3, kids created Texas-inspired bandanas and participated in Yoga for Kids. To get a peek at all the festivities, check out the slide show below.

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One of my favorite moments from the night was bumping into a family I had taught during a Go van Gogh Summer Library Program. When I stumbled upon them, they were in C3 doing yoga and discussing what kind of building they would create in the studio. They excitedly told me all about going into the Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas exhibition to see all of the works of art we had talked about during the Impressions of Dallas library program. “They know everything!” the kid’s impressed dad exclaimed. It is always a joy to see familiar faces in the Museum. To learn a little more about the Go van Gogh Library Program, check out Amy’s blog post from last week. Every participant receives a free family pass, which you could use at the next Late Night on August 17.

What was your favorite moment from the Late Night?

Hannah Burney
Go van Gogh Programs Assistant

A Look Back at the 2011-2012 School Year

School is out for the summer! It’s amazing how quickly this busy year flew by. We’d like to take a moment to celebrate some of the accomplishments of this year, and look ahead to some of the highlights for next year.

Museum Visits

  • During the course of the year, we provided docent-guided tours to approximately 37,352 people.
  • The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibition brought in the most docent-guided and self-guided groups with a whopping 11,455 visitors.
  • This fall, we anticipate a large number of group tours for The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico exhibition.  We begin taking requests for the 2012-2013 school year on August 1st, so don’t forget to sign up!

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits

Go van Gogh Classroom Visits

Thank you docents, Go van Gogh volunteers, students, and teachers, for a wonderful year!

Hannah Burney
Go van Gogh Programs Assistant

Wanted: Teen Docents

Each summer, we recruit and train a group of dedicated volunteers known as Teen Docents.  Initiated in the summer of 2001, the DMA Teen Docent program provides opportunities for high school students to deepen their relationship with the Museum.  Our Teen Docents not only lead tours for young visitors, but also volunteer to help with First Tuesdays and Late Nights.  They really are an integral part of summer programming at the DMA.

Teen Docents Leah and Abby lead a tour during last year's BooksmART Festival

One of the perks of being a Teen Docent is learning more about the DMA’s collection and our summer exhibitions.  Teen Docent training will occur in early June, and shortly after that the teens will begin leading tours in our galleries.  Our tours this summer include Animal Safari, which allows students to search for animals in works of art, and Summer Vacation, which asks students to make connections between their favorite summer activities and those they see in works of art.

The 2011 DMA Teen Docents

We will begin accepting applications for the Teen Docent program next week.  If you have any students who love art, teaching, or might even be thinking about a career in a Museum, have them email me at  We would love to have them spend their summer with us as a Teen Docent at the DMA!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Friday Photos: Youth and Beauty

This Sunday is the opening of Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties. With over sixty-five artists represented, this dynamic exhibition expresses life as an American in the period between World War I and the Great Depression. The “Roaring Twenties“, as they are known, may bring to mind iconic flappers and lively jazz music. From the outside this may seem like a period of frivolous fun, but taking a closer look reveals a complex time of transition. With the rapid urbanization of America, modern ideals and industry created a lot of change and disorientation, which can be felt throughout the exhibition. With so much to see and discover, don’t miss your chance to peer into the psyche of this topsy-turvy decade.

Below is a little sneak peek of some of the artworks in the exhibition.

Don’t miss all the fun and engaging Youth and Beauty programs for you and your students!

Hannah Burney
McDermott Education Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships

Artworks shown:

Nickolas Muray, Gloria Swanson, circa 1925, gelatin silver print, George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York, Gift of Mrs. Nickolas Muray

George Wesley Bellows, Two Women, 1924, oil on canvas, Portland Museum of Art, Maine, Lent by Karl Jaeger, Tamara Jaeger, and Karena Jaeger

John Steuart Curry, The Bathers, circa 1928, oil on canvas, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Purchase: Acquired with a donation in memory of George K. Baum II by his family, G. Kenneth Baum, Jonathan Edward Baum, and Jessica Baum Pasmore, and through the bequest of Celestin H. Meugniot

Edward Hopper, Lighthouse Hill, 1927, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Purnell

Bumpei Usui, 14th Street, 1924, oil on canvas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art

Joseph Stella, American Landscape, 1929, oil on canvas, Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Gift of the T.B. Walker Foundation

Gerald Murphy, Razor, 1924, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the artist

Lewis Wickes Hine, Power House Mechanic, 1920-1921, gelatin silver print, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Walter and Naomi Rosenblum

Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties is organized by the Brooklyn Museum. Major support for this exhibition and the accompanying catalogue was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund, The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Friday Photos: The Best Thank You Notes Ever

Every once in a while, we are fortunate to receive thank you letters from students after their docent-guided tours and Go van Gogh classroom visits.  Below are some of our favorites:

Inspired by a Japanese bronze sculpture, pictured below

Takenouchi no Sukune Meets the Dragon King of the Sea, 1875-1879, Japan, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The John R. Young Collection, gift of M. Frances and John R. Young

Inspired by the Egyptian collection

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

Intern Project: Artworks for Me & My World

Last month, Jessica and I introduced you to Me & My World, a program specifically designed for first grade students. There are two versions of the program, one created for tours in the museum and another developed for classroom visits. Although Jessica and I will be doing a lot of collaborating, she will be primarily focusing on the docent-led tour, while I will be working on the Go van Gogh classroom experience.

Our first step in the Me & My World revision process was to select new works of art for each program. Go van Gogh is a sixty-minute program that is broken up into two equal parts of looking at works of art and then making works of art. With half an hour to look closely and discuss the art, there is just enough time to have quality experiences with four artworks. With thousands to choose from within the collection, picking just four is no easy task. When teaching in the classroom, we bring reproductions of artworks to be projected onto a screen; as a result, visibility can become an issue. For example, paintings that are really dark usually won’t project well, and sculptures with a lot of detail or incising can be washed out and difficult to see. Besides keeping all of these basic logistical challenges in mind, it was also really important to find works specifically ideal for engaging first-graders.

We started by seeking the advice of volunteers, docents, and education staff for their insights from past experiences. This resulted in a lot of great ideas, almost too many! To further narrow down our selections, we developed two main criteria to focus on: themes and teaching opportunities. In an effort to make the programs well-rounded with a variety of diverse topics, we categorized the artworks by themes, such as family or sports. These themes are meant to be easy for first-graders to relate to, so they can develop personal connections with the works. Then, by using the DISD curriculum for first grade, we created a general list of possible teaching opportunities that could be addressed through looking at art. Finally, we chose works that clearly matched some of those teaching goals and also fit into one of the themes.

With the thoughtful suggestions of our department, volunteers, and docents, as well as the criteria Jessica and I created, I was able to narrow down my search to seven final works of art to begin testing for Go van Gogh. I provided two examples below.

Apple Harvest, Camille Pissarro, 1888, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Theme: Family/Teamwork

Teaching Moments

  • Look at brushstrokes/dots of paint
  • Count the people
  • Name the colors
  • Discuss the weather/seasons

Personal Connections

  • Teamwork – helping family or working with other students at school
  • Fruit/food
  • Outdoor activities

Wild Cattle of South Texas: Ancestors of the Longhorns, Tom Lea, 1945-1946, oil on canvas covered masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Life Magazine

Theme: Natural World/Texas

Teaching Moments

  • Discuss and count longhorns – native to Texas
  • Look at landscape – cactus, stream, plush green trees and grass
  • Talk about weather/seasons

Personal Connections

  • Texas
  • Animals
  • Outdoors

In preparation for testing these artworks with first-graders, I will need to develop guidelines for conversation and activities that incorporate various learning styles. If you have had any memorable experiences with activities or conversation starters related to these themes, please share them in the comments section below!

Hannah Burney
McDermott Education Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships

What to Expect on a Docent-Guided Tour

A few months ago, Loryn shared her tips for making the most of a self-guided visit to the DMA.  I thought I would weigh in today with a summary of what to expect when you schedule a docent-guided tour at the Museum.  We offer docent-guided tours Tuesday-Friday at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m., and all requests for docent-guided tours must be submitted at least three weeks in advance.

Let’s say you’ve submitted your request and received your confirmation letter from Loryn.  What happens once you actually arrive at the DMA?

An excited 4th grader hops off the bus

First, you’ll be greeted by one of our fabulous docents.  This docent will chat with you to make sure that you’re broken up into smaller groups (we assign one docent for every fifteen students), and s/he will match you up with the docents for your tour.  Once your tour is under way, you should expect to see five to six works of art in a one hour tour.  We emphasize quality  over quantity–we believe your students will gain more from in-depth experiences with a limited number of works than they would from trying to see twenty works of art in one hour.  If you would like your students to see more paintings and sculptures while they are here, consider scheduling a self-guided visit after your tour.  That’s a great way for your students to be able to go back and look at works of art that are most interesting to them.

Discussing Mark Rothko's Orange, Red, and Red

Three years ago, we created a program goal for K-12 docent-guided tours.  Our goal states:

  • On docent-guided tours, students will experience the Museum as a comfortable place to visit and return to, discover that works of art are relevant to their lives, and begin to see their world in a fresh way.

How does that happen in the galleries?  First off, your docents will welcome you to the Museum and learn a little bit about your group and what you have been studying.  They’ll discuss the guidelines for a Museum visit, and also present a theme for your tour.  At each stop, they will ask your students to look closely at the work of art.  They might use open-ended questions to ask the group what they see, and they’ll hopefully ask them to share visual evidence for their ideas.  We use questions and conversations to encourage closely looking, rather than a lecture-based teaching method.

A docent helps students look for clues that tell us about Tlaloc

We also know that everyone learns in different ways, and docents are encouraged to think about addressing multiple learning styles over the course of their tour.  Your students might be asked to write a short poem, act out a pose or gesture, or even sketch in the galleries.  Each of these activities focuses their attention and allows them to look closely to make sense of the works of art in the Museum.

Students move their bodies like the lines in a painting

We want students to begin to experience a sense of wonder while they are at the Museum, and that can happen in many ways on a docent-guided tour.  Some students experience wonder the minute they step through the door and see the Barrel Vault space for the first time.  Others ask questions about works of art, make connections between works of art, or say things like “I never knew that.”  One way that docents can help facilitate that sense of wonder is by giving students time to look and reflect on their own.  And of course, listening and responding positively to your students’ ideas is a great way to promote that sense of wonder, as well!

Students are asked to arrange colors in response to an abstract painting.

The final element of a docent-guided tour at the DMA is helping students see that works of art–whether they were made 2,000 years ago or two years ago–are relevant to their lives today.  How is a bed made in 1844 similar to the beds we sleep in?  What is different about it?  What type of bed would you love to have in your house?  These are just some of the questions docents might ask students when discussing this work of art in our galleries.  We want students to make a personal connection while they are at the Museum, and it is our hope that these connections will turn your students into lifelong Museum goers.

We end all of our tours by inviting students to come back to the DMA often.  I hope that this gives you a sense of what happens on a typical docent-guided tours, and that you’ll bring your students to visit us soon!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching


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