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.
Manager of Early Learning Programs
In January 2014, the Center for Creative Connections (C3) launched a series of activities which take place at a large table in our gallery space. Each activity is related to a work of art in the C3 Gallery and offers resources to assist in visitors’ creative process.
- The Portrait Drawing activity, which focuses on two portrait paintings by William Henry Huddle (Old Slave and Self Portrait), includes mirrors for self-portraiture and facial proportion handouts.
- The Hybrid Drawing with Light Boxes activity, which focuses on The Minotaur by Marcel Dzama, includes four large light boxes and printouts of works of art from the Museum’s collection so that visitors can combine human and animal figures to draw a hybrid creature.
- The Patterns with Felt Triangles activity, which focuses on Starry Crown by John Biggers, includes 9×12 inch black felt backgrounds and a colorful assortment of small felt triangles that visitors can use to create patterns similar to those represented in the painting.
After each of the three activities had a one month trial period, we felt certain that they were successful, but wanted to learn more about why and how these activities were successful. As art educators, we know intrinsically that experiences with art make a difference in people’s lives. Yet, when we are asked to prove this it can seem an unattainable task. Proving the importance of art education is perhaps made even more daunting in an informal learning environment where visitors come for various reasons, but generally not to be quizzed about their experiences with art. So, we sought advice from our evaluator to determine goals, indicators, and potential interview questions for each activity and immediately set to the task of measuring the immeasurable. Since April, we have observed and interviewed participants at the gallery table each Saturday from 1:30 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. During that two and a half hour block of time we have found the following averages:
- Portrait Drawing– on average 23, adults and 18 children participated; visitors spent about 13.8 minutes drawing with times ranging from 1 – 30 minutes.
- Hybrid Drawing – on average 27 adults and 36 children participated; visitors spent about 10 minutes drawing with a time range of 1 – 50 minutes.
- Patterns– on average 11 adults and 9 children participated; visitors spent about 7 minutes creating patterns with a range of 1 – 33 minutes.
Though these averages tell us a lot about how much time people spend and how many people engage in our activities, the most interesting aspect of this evaluation has been hearing our visitors’ feedback and seeing the images they post of their work on social media.
“Well, it’s like… it’s fun. Like drawing before was so serious and it had to be perfect, cause you were doing it for a grade. But this is just for enjoyment.”
“I’m guessing this was made for children? It’s fun and different and I didn’t expect to see this here. Yeah, it’s like that spark of creativity, kind of… childlike. I didn’t think I’d spend as much time or get into it like I did.”
“People think patterns have to be rigid, like red, yellow, blue and then repeat, but by playing with this you can be more creative.”
“This is more interactive than other galleries. [In] the other galleries you’re just looking, but here you get to do something.”
“I like to do the activity because it gets the kids interested in art, and if I do it, they’ll probably want to try it too.”
“It’s nice to make everyone focus. I would have never gotten him [points to husband] to do this at home.”
Through this evaluation we have come to better understand our visitors’ habits and motivations. For example, we found that most visitors do not read instructions. If the instructions are read it is only the main text at the top of the document that catches a visitor’s eye. This could be because these activities tend to attract visitors who prefer some amount of active doing or making rather than passive looking. Furthermore, visitors will spend more time participating in activities that provide seating and social interaction. Regarding motivations, we found that visitors who participate in these activities are likely to have some underlying interest in the media or subject matter presented.
As we move forward and continue to develop activities for the gallery table we will take these lessons into consideration. We will make our instructions more concise, we will offer activities that involve a social component, and we’ll branch out to include a variety of media so as to appeal to visitors who are interested in diverse artistic processes.
C3 Gallery Coordinator
Firefighters, doctors, policemen – heroes are all around us…even in art! In the August Arturo’s Art & Me class, visitors met some of the heroes of the DMA, including Vishnu, a Hindu god, and Takenouchi, a Japanese warrior. Then, the little heroes-in-training made heroic outfits to match their super personalities.
Check out the fun below!
Graduate Intern for Family and Access Teaching
Six months ago, I asked a few of our Teen Advisory Council members to suggest ideas for classes at the DMA that they would want to attend (be careful what you ask for!). The result was our first-ever zombie camp: a week-long series of workshops where the participants were asked to create an original zombie design inspired by a work of art. Secretly, it gave me the opportunity to make a fun, STEAM-based class with 21st century skill development sprinkled in. The primary goals for the camp were to incorporate art and science, and to connect students with local experts.
The camp was divided into three parts: learning, ideation, and creation. To help understand zombie behavior and morphology, Perot Museum of Nature and Science Educator Melinda Ludwig led a (sheep’s) brain dissection experiment focused on the centers of locomotion, smell, and speech; Meadows Museum Educator and medical illustrator Mary Jordan led an anatomical drawing session featuring the musculature and skeletal structure of the skull; and Mara Richards, Manager of Education Programs at the Dallas Theater Center led a movement workshop to think about how zombies inspired by works of art would move.
During the ideation phase of the camp, participants sketched from works of art in the galleries that inspired a character of their own design, complete with backstory. Afterwards, they shared their concept designs as a group and offered feedback and suggestions to each other.
Students then set about transforming themselves into their characters. Sarah Popplewell led them in a costume workshop while Kat Burkett demonstrated how to cast forms with tape in order to create limbs and other body parts. Mitch Rogers, sculptor, special effects artist, and owner of Brick in the Yard Mold Supply gave the teens a glimpse into the world of creating visual effects for film.
Mitch and his crew helped camp participants with their makeup and prostheses on the last day and, as an added treat, he brought along Stuart Bridson, Special Effects Supervisor for Game of Thrones, Emmy-winning series for Outstanding Visual Effects. The results were pretty amazing:
On Friday afternoon, the teens put their zombie-ambulatory skills to use by interacting with visitors in the galleries. Photographer Teresa Rafidi took some fantastic portraits of each of the zombies, and a selection of images will be shared on our Flickr page soon.
All in all, it was an amazing experience for everyone involved. In addition to the science and art crossover, students sneakily developed other skills such as creative problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking, iterative design, and more. I’m already getting suggestions for next year’s camp–aliens in the Museum, anyone?
Special thanks to Melinda Ludwig, Mary Jordan, Mara Richards, Teresa Rafidi, Mitch Rogers and staff, Kat Burkett, and Sarah Popplewell. Special effects materials provided by Brick in the Yard Mold Supply. No works of art were harmed during this camp (surprisingly).
C3 Program Coordinator
This large photograph by Nic Nicosia, titled Vacation, was installed in the Center for Creative Connections (C3) in early July. At first glance this appears to be a normal, everyday scene of a family picnic, but as you look closer it becomes apparent that there are some unusual aspects to this photograph. Is it a snapshot or is it staged? The children appear very natural, but the mother seems posed. The ground looks like real dirt and leaves, but the tree and sky are a painted backdrop. Then, between the branches you can see an airplane on fire and hurling to the ground. This is not your typical vacation.
As the summer comes to a close, the Dallas Museum of Art education staff has taken some time to reflect on our own unusual vacation experiences. We hope you enjoy our snapshots.
C3 Gallery Coordinator
I spent the last week in July in sunny California. Though I divided my time between walks on the beach, wandering the bustling boardwalk, and exploring the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH), this was no beach vacation, but rather an intense seventy-two hours at Nina Simon’s Museum Camp 2014. Even with the itinerary, I honestly did not know what to expect as I walked up to the MAH, feeling like a true camper toting my loaded backpack and refillable water bottle attached to my purse. As a museum educator, this was a dream come true. Not only has Simon influenced the way we think about and create programs and interactives in the Center for Creative Connections (C3), but I also used her book in the literature review of my Master’s thesis. As relevant professional development can be hard to come by as a museum educator working in an interactive space, this Social Impact Assessment themed camp seemed to be what I was looking for to give me some direction in the evaluation of the C3 and specific activities within our space.
Overnight camp as an adult is a unique opportunity, so when I was offered the chance to attend Museum Camp and sleep over at the museum, I was all in. There is a special bond that is formed by spending that kind of concentrated time with a group of people. That bond is reinforced by going through certain trials and tribulations together, like searching for a comfortable spot to sleep, waking up and walking through a foggy Santa Cruz morning to the gym to take a shower, or late night revelations in the Confessional Tent. Though not all the campers opted to stay the night at the Museum, there were other opportunities for bonding, like karaoke night, mess-hall style dinners, swimming in the Pacific, and of course the fast-paced group research projects that were at the center of our camp experience.
We met our group members at the end of the first day of Museum Camp and, through a tumultuous game of White Elephant, our research locations were determined. Over the next few days we developed a research question, hypothesis, and indicators, then carried out our research and compiled our findings. The goal was to use unconventional methods of data collection to gather information regarding social impact. My group, the Metacampers, had a more sensitive location than most because we were attending a private rather than public event. The event was hosted by the Beach Flats Community Center for a small group of Latino families. Since we were all outsiders, we found it important to gather as much information as possible before engaging in our research. We visited both the community center that was hosting the event and the park where the event would take place. Yet, we still came to our project with a handful of assumptions both about the community and the location. We planned our methods so as to be as natural as possible at the event; our Spanish-speaking group members engaged in informal interviews with adult participants, our non-Spanish-speaking members made observations of both adult and youth participants, and towards the end of the gathering we asked the youths to each take a photograph of what they found most fun at the event. We expected to be greeted with some amount of skepticism, but were surprised to find the community was quite welcoming. The key to this was our Spanish-speaking group members; they were able to become ingrained in the event as participants, and holding informal interviews was a natural aspect of that.
This brings me to my biggest take-away from Museum Camp. While undertaking the research project and learning about the other groups’ methods was interesting and insightful, my biggest take-away has more to do with the idea of community. Time and again throughout camp, I was surprised by how immersed Nina Simon is in her city. Clearly, whether the camp was going on or not, Simon would have had dinner at India Joze or gone to karaoke at I Love Sushi or walked to the beach to go swimming in the Pacific. As a cultural and educational institution, connecting to the community is an important aspect of the Dallas Museum of Art’s mission. What I learned at Museum Camp is that rather than seeking to connect to the community we must be embedded in it; we must be active participants in our own communities.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Museum Camp 2014 experience, take a look at these resources from camp and reflections by other campers.
C3 Gallery Coordinator
As August heats up, you might find yourself retreating to cooler climes, and you can only spend so long at the pool before the kids shrivel up! Beat the heat and keep the kids busy with creative art-making using one of my most favorite unconventional art materials—contact paper.
Contact paper is most often used to line shelves in the kitchen, but take it into the art studio, and you can create some art magic. Here are some of my go-to projects using this surprisingly versatile material.
Use a piece of contact paper (sticky side up) as the collage base, and encourage your child to create using a variety of collage materials—cotton balls, feathers, sandpaper, tissue paper, sequins, felt, and more. This project works really well for toddlers because they don’t have to worry about managing glue in order to get their materials to stick to the paper. Older children might want to use some glue if they build up layers of materials on top of one another. The finished product is a touchable work of art!
Stained Glass “Windows”
One of my favorite art projects to do with kids here at the Museum is inspired by the Tiffany stained glass windows. We use clear contact paper and tissue paper or transparency film to create a stained glass window-effect. Cut two squares of contact paper and arrange pieces of colored tissue paper or transparency film on one contact paper square, sticky side up. The tissue paper and transparency film can be layered to create a variety of colors; tissue paper can also be crinkled and squished to add dimension and texture. When your window is complete, carefully stick the second contact paper square on top, sealing the materials in. Hang in a window to allow light to shine through.
Make Your Own Stickers
Contact paper comes in a variety of designs, making it the perfect medium for creating your own stickers. A few months ago in the Arturo’s Art & Me class, children made up their own imaginary creatures. They used permanent marker to draw the different parts of their animals on different kinds of contact paper. These pieces were then cut out, the paper backing removed, and the newly created stickers were stuck to a landscape drawn on wood. Contact paper stickers will stick to paper, wood, and glass.
Try your hand at “painting” with sand! Use a piece of contact paper as the base for the painting, sticky side up. Sprinkle colored sand onto the contact paper to make interesting designs and shapes. For more control over the sand, use small funnels. You can also draw directly in the sand using a dull pencil. Shake your painting around, and watch how the design shifts and changes. You can also add a piece of colored paper as a backing to add even more color.
Dry Erase Drawings
Contact paper can turn any printed image into a re-usable drawing board. Print out images of landscapes, faces, or objects on cardstock and then cover the image with clear contact paper. Give your child dry-erase markers and challenge them to add to the picture. They could add figures to a landscape, add accessories to faces, and transform everyday objects into crazy characters. Use a damp paper towel to erase the drawings and use again and again!
Manager of Early Learning Programs