Getting Smart about Play
Tyler Rutledge began volunteering at the DMA during Late Nights over a year ago, and joined the C3 Volunteer Program last January. Through our conversations with Tyler, we learned that he had a strong interest in talking to and sharing his passion for art with visitors. We offered Tyler a volunteer internship so that he could learn more about the Museum and, in turn, we could learn from his unique and thoughtful perspective. As his internship draws to a close, we’ve invited Tyler to share a few insights about his time working with us.
Get Smart was one of my favorite TV shows for play-pretending. I loved the unsuspectingly gadget-ized scenery—the excessively concealed entrance to CONTROL or Max’s dangerously unassuming apartment—mostly because it gave me the perfect setting to play and explore my world as it could otherwise exist.
Similarly, my education internship with the Center for Creative Connections has encouraged me to imagine alternatives through play. For example, I designed a Creativity Challenge for the Late Night in October. During Creativity Challenges, visitors exercise their imagination in projects based on works of art at the Museum, working within parameters such as limited, pre-selected materials and a thirty-minute time limit. This Creativity Challenge prompted visitors to create a memorial to a cause or event inspired by the DMA’s Indian Shrine. Despite the proposed scale of the project, which was about the size of a roadside memorial, the winning team imagined a monument-marketplace capable of providing food to all seven continents.
Exploring the different perspectives of DMA visitors has been delightful as well. I originally began volunteering at the Museum to learn more about the stories related to our guests’ ephemeral creations. During one Late Night, a physician attending a digestive medicine conference in Dallas talked with me about a sculpture formerly on view in C3, Untitled (35) by Lee Bontecou. She explained that, to her, the wall-mounted sculpture represented a portion of the digestive tract, whereas the metal framework served as blood vessels and the small copper wires adhering cloth to the structure were nerve endings. To me, this conversation revealed the intuitive way that people play within their own space. Playing together also gave us a small shared-intimacy: she gave me a trinket she made at the Art Spot inspired by our conversation about Untitled (35). She explained that her trinket symbolizes her desire to be open and available to new imaginings.
A shared intimacy of art and play is one experience I hope visitors have together at the Pop-Up Art Spot in the DMA contemporary galleries. The abstract expressionist paintings on view are fiercely independent yet possess bold relationships, inspiring me to develop activities based on sensory experiences. An activity that has proven particularly difficult to predict visitor response is called Olfactory Produced, a title meant to reference Jasper Johns’ Device in addition to personal preferences of scent. Olfactory Produced asks visitors to consider associations between different scents and paintings, and it encourages them to wonder how the sense of smell enhances the experience of looking at and thinking about works of art. This activity is intended to elicit an entirely subjective, personal experience with the works of art.
Eventually my reenactments of Get Smart ended (if I remember correctly) when my mom realized my bathroom’s secret-telephone towel hooks were loose because I unscrewed them to talk, and my time of play at the DMA must also end. In January I will depart for Los Angeles and, with it, exciting new scenery for adventurous play. Share your scenery and playtime with me on Instagram. Tag @TylerGreyDragon and #DMAPlay!
**My playtime as a volunteer and weekend intern in the Center for Creative Connections has been accompanied by some of the best playmates on the swing set: Leah Hanson, Amanda Blake, Danielle Schulz, Amy Elms and JC Bigornia, who have inspired me to play with materials and sensory experiences; Amanda Batson, who encourages me to be my very best self through all of her magnificent achievements and friendship; Jessica Fuentes, who has guided me through creative problems and has been a faithful Klyde-Warren-Park-Food-Truck play pal; Melissa Gonzales, who refines my sandcastles and teaches me about how to build their bridges; and, Susan Diachisin, who has opened me to a new world of play through her expansive imagination.