Posts Tagged 'tours'



Recipe for Art: The DMA’s Delicious New Tour

With a new year beginning, we are delighted to announce a new school tour at the DMA! Starting this month, schools can book “Recipe for Art,” a tour developed for Kindergarten and First Grade visitors by our Manager of Early Learning Programs, Leah Hanson, and our Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs, Josh Rose.

One of the main goals of “Recipe for Art” is to help children make connections between art and their own personal experience. This is done by connecting a familiar idea (that of using a recipe to make a delicious treat) to the way that an artist makes a work of art. Instead of ingredients like flour and sugar, the ingredients for art are the elements of design: shape, line, color and texture.

On the tour, groups will visit four or five different works of art in the collection, in order to talk about the basic elements of design. Groups first explore what the terms mean before then looking closely at the work of art in front of them. This leads to discussion, after which the children engage in a variety of kinetic and multi-sensory activities. These activities were specially designed to address various learning styles and to focus on the attention span and needs of this particular age group.

One important characteristic of these young visitors is their need to move! The tour was specifically designed to give children opportunities for purposeful movement–movement that helps them connect what they see to the motion that they are asked to make. One example of this is an activity based on Jackson Pollock’s Cathedral. The children are each given “paint” (a piece of string) and they throw it onto a “canvas” (a piece of felt), in order to simulate the movement of Pollock’s action painting. This allows the children to burn off some of their energy, while also connecting them with the art!

The “Recipe for Art” tour was developed by members of the DMA staff, but it will be implemented by our wonderful docents, who lead most of our school tours. Yesterday, the docents gathered for a training dedicated to this new tour. Leah gave them an overview of the tour and its origins, before sharing tips and strategies on how to deal with this particular age group. After that, the docents were given an opportunity to look over the supplies for the wide variety of activities that they may use on the tour. I even took some of my fellow McDermott Interns into the galleries to try out some of the activities!

For most visitors of this age group, it will be their first visit to a museum. With this new and unique tour, we’re hoping to make their first experience not only a positive one, but one that they will remember. By teaching these curious and imaginative children the basic elements of design, they will then be equipped with all of the ingredients to make their own art!

We’ve already begun to schedule the “Recipe for Art” through the month of January. If you’re interested in booking a tour for your school or classroom, complete our tour request form online and our Audience Relations Coordinator Madeleine Fitzgerald will get you scheduled!

Liz Bola
McDermott Graduate Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching

Of Golden Axes and Tulips: Some Thoughts on Teaching Iconography in the Galleries

British Museum: Hollow lost wax casting in gold of a bead in the shape of an axe (akuma), Asante, early 19th century, Purchased from Crown Agents for the Colonies, 1876

A few months ago, I had the great pleasure of spending some time chatting with Dr. Roslyn Walker, the DMA’s Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific.  In the course of our discussion, she told me about an event that occurred in 1881 called the “Golden Axe Incident.”  The Asante People of Ghana sent an official delegation to the British-controlled Cape Coast because a refugee from their city had fled there to claim British protection. The Asante arrived to demand the refugee’s return, bearing a ceremonial Golden Axe. The British interpreted the axe as an explicit symbol of warfare, and suddenly, the threat of war loomed much to the Asante’s surprise. Only when the Asante later sent their most experienced official to deliberate was the Golden Axe’s meaning clarified to the British authorities: the axe symbolized the desire to cut away all the blockages on the path to settlement–it is, essentially, a diplomatic symbol.

I was fascinated by this story, because it shows how the misinterpretation of the cultural meaning of an image–its iconography–nearly resulted in war. Iconography is about explaining what symbols and imagery in a work of art meant to people at the time of its creation, understood through careful research into the historical context of not just that artwork, but a culture’s visual language. And while iconographic misreadings are usually not this fraught, I confess to sometimes feeling wary of how to present such information while teaching in the galleries.

Iconography is privileged knowledge. It is usually only understood by experts after laborious study, research, and careful analysis. Such knowledge is part-and-parcel of art historical practice, but can be tricky in gallery teaching. As Rika Burnham in Teaching in the Art Museum attests, iconographic information is often exactly what audiences and students are seeking, and offers momentary insight and relief, but usually stops any discussion or further analysis.

And in many ways, this is what iconography is meant to do–it’s not our cultural or individual interpretation of what a symbol means, it’s what it meant at the time of creation. This can be a difficult set of knowledge to tease out through discussion, although by no means impossible.

But when to introduce iconographic information during the course of learning?  Ideally, the need to raise what certain symbols and images meant is prompted organically in the course of a discussion, but how much information should the teacher offer?  If we open the floodgates, pour forth all the information we know for every symbol, we risk that sense of closure and discovery we want to carefully allow students to explore on their own. If we offer too little or carefully selected iconographic details, we risk, at the very least, presenting a stilted understanding of what the artwork might have meant historically.

I was thinking of these questions when standing before Jean Marie Reignier’s Homage to Queen Hortense, featured in the Museum’s new special exhibition, Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting From Chardin to Matisse.

Jean Marie Reignier, Homage to Queen Hortense, 1856

Jean Marie Reignier, Homage to Queen Hortense, 1856, Credit: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Inv. A 2896

As part of a beautiful exhibition of floral still-life, this grandiose painting stands out (it’s nearly seven feet tall and five feet wide): a lush garland of flowers surround a sculpted bust of Napoleon III’s mother, Hortense, atop which sits an eagle bearing an olive branch.

These details–the portrait bust, the eagle, the olive branch–as well as the scale of the painting tantalize us that despite the floral imagery, something else is going on here. For me, it would be easy in the context of the exhibition to dismiss these and focus on a comparison of this with the other floral still-lifes in the exhibition…If it were not for the seemingly unavoidable depiction of a paper label at the upper right bearing the number “7824189,” placed just under the eagle’s left talon. This numerical notation must have a specific meaning, right?

Thus we begin down the rabbit hole of the complex iconographic meaning imbued in this painting. Some symbolism here is relatively common, such as the olive branch as a symbol of peace. As the mother of the leader of France at the time (Napoleon III came to power in 1852), this homage to Hortense is rife with political and personal symbolism, ranging from the inclusion of red tulips (at the upper right) as symbolic of Hortense’s title as Queen of Holland and violets and bees (towards the lower left) as Napoleonic symbols, to the palette held by the figure (to the left behind the portrait bust) as indicative of Hortense’s own practice as a floral painter. And that number? It is supposedly the number of votes cast for Napoleon III in the election, securing his victory and rightful leadership of France.

I’ve learned all of this iconographic meaning from a wonderful series of lectures and trainings Dr. Heather MacDonald, the DMA’s Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art, has offered to the public, staff, and docents since the exhibition’s opening. And the symbolic understanding of Reignier’s painting offers a wealth of insight into aspects of how imagery worked as political propaganda in France at the time, even as this painting avoids many of the traditional symbolic tropes common to floral painting up to this point in history (the memento mori and cycle of nature suggested by wilting flowers, for instance). It is also helpful for understanding the intentions behind this painting: as a “statement” painting, this artwork was meant to elevate floral imagery to the same level as other academic painting approaches that relied on the human figure.

The “privileged” nature of iconographic meaning is a slippery slope in gallery teaching. And while I don’t think every painting that is iconographically rich necessitates a discussion of such iconography when teaching in the galleries, I can’t help but feel that here, that tag with painted number on it, likely forces an educator’s hand while teaching before it, or a painting like it.

How do you handle iconographic analysis when teaching in the galleries or your classrooms? Leave tips, thoughts, and feedback in the comments below!

Josh Rose
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs

Friday Photo: Arturo’s Preschool

arturo_04

Imagine a school where you could explore a pond during science class, visit the symphony for music class, and look closely at a painting by Monet in art class! Real-world lessons are powerful at any age, but are especially important for the preschool crowd. We don’t have a pond or a symphony here at the DMA, but we can connect preschoolers with art masterpieces from all over the world.

The Arturo’s Preschool program is a free class for preschool, homeschool, and day care groups serving children ages three to five. In the class, we look closely at paintings, sculpture and other objects; read a picture book; and try out games and movement activities in the galleries. Then with our imaginations ready to create, we go to the art studio where children engage in process-oriented, open-ended art projects. Each month’s gallery discussion and art projects focus on a new theme, covering everything from the dance-inspired paintings of Edgar Degas to intricately sewn textiles from Africa.

Reservations for the 2014-2015 school year are now being accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. For information on how to book your preschool class, please click here.

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning Programs

 

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?

4th_Grade_Tours_11_2012_032

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.

4th_Grade_Tours_11_2012_105

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.

StudentVisits_ShannonKarol_02_27_2009_072

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.
.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

.
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


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,603 other followers

Archives

Twitter Updates

Flickr Photo Stream

Categories