In our family classes here at the Museum, we try to make sense of the art in more ways than one! Whether it’s through tactile objects that mimic textures we see in a painting, or listening to music that inspired certain works of art, we do our best to find creative ways to engage more than just our sense of sight when exploring the galleries. For this month’s Art Babies class, we kicked it up a notch and focused on our sense of smell.
Since babies already naturally rely on the five senses—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing—to learn about the world around them, they were the perfect audience for this sort of experiment. For me, though, it was a fun challenge to imagine smell as a pathway for exploring art. How could I bring smells into the galleries that were both baby-safe and art-safe? And how could I be playful and engaging in my approach? My solution—puppets and spice jars!
We began with a story featuring Jack the dog, inspired by Claude-Joseph Vernet’s painting A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm. Jack smells something new in the air and sniffs from one furry friend to the next trying to discover what the smell could be. I used a loveable puppet to bring the story to life, and Jack quickly became fast friends with our little visitors. Several wanted to hug and kiss him, but they also imitated the puppet’s sniffing, and as the story progressed, more and more babies would scrunch up their noses and make sniffing noises along with Jack. (The little one pictured above was one of my most expressive sniffers!) When Jack finally discovers that his mystery smell is the scent of rain, the children and their caregivers made their own discovery too—finding a little dog in Vernet’s painting and noticing the ominous clouds in the top corner of the landscape.
Now that we had planted the idea of using smell to better understand what we see, families set off on a smelling adventure through the galleries, using repurposed spice jars filled with a variety of scents—from apple blossom and rain to fresh hay and mountain air!
Babies sniffed, shook the bottles like rattles, and stuck them in their mouths. Adults searched for paintings with objects that matched the smells. Together grown-ups and children found new ways to experience art.
Before the shrieks of delight and giggles could dissolve into tears or frustration at not being able to touch, we left the galleries and made our way to our sensory play stations. Here, any and everything can be picked up, mouthed, dropped, smelled, rolled, bounced, and more. And for a special smell-inspired play area, we offered the babies fresh flowers, oranges, lemons, and limes to smell and investigate.
I do believe that these little ones have quite a nose for art!
You can create your own smell-based sensory play at home with recycled spice jars, cotton balls, and scents. I found inspiration from this blog post. Be sure to avoid scents that might create a burning sensation (like wasabi, chili powder, mustard or pepper). My go-to source for unusual scents is the Demeter Fragrance Company. Smells like art to me!
Manager of Early Learning Programs
Hello all! My name is Christina Miller and I am a first year graduate student at Texas Woman’s University, earning my Masters of Art in Teaching. Interning at the DMA this summer has really taught me so much about children and art. Rather than the camp teachers and interns teaching the children about art, throughout this experience, the children have been teaching me. The camp that was by far the toughest but most rewarding was the Hands-On Art for Children with Autism. This was my first experience working with children with special needs. I am pretty sure that I was just as nervous as the children were on their first day of camp, but I knew it was important for me to learn to work with children with a variety of abilities, since teaching will be in my near future.
The children all had different personalities and were on different levels of the autism spectrum. It was amazing to see how some had such an incredible memory! From remembering artists and their artworks, to songs, to even art history movements. One thing they all had in common was hard work and participation. Although each of them may have differing needs, they are all talented. I was so happy that I had the opportunity to work with this camp. I can proudly say that this internship has prepared me for my future as an art teacher and taught me how to truly bond and work with students with a variety of abilities.
Summer Art Camp Intern
I tried to set few expectations for my first day of summer art camp at the DMA. Now, as the clock strikes one each Friday, I still can’t predict what will happen the next week in camp for another batch of aspiring, artistic youngsters. One thing I can feel certain of as the end of a week draws near, is that I’ve had a blast with a bunch of unique, imaginative kids and a few bottles of tempera paint.
I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of the DMA’s program that allows kids to incorporate art into their lives in fun, engaging ways with the help of some awesome and caring teachers, volunteers, and interns. These kids arrive at camp with minds teeming with creativity and energy that is infectious and inspiring for a college student trying to figure out what to do with her life and love for art. Again and again, campers teach me how to have a bit of fun in the process of art-making, while surprising me with the friendships that come along with it. So, while creating art is something special in itself, sharing it with others is a whole other experience that I’m grateful these kids and I have had this summer.
After I say a bittersweet goodbye once again today, I’ll hope that they continue to play with art and express their most imaginative ideas to the world after they leave our finger-painted doors.
Summer Art Camp Intern
Today is France’s national holiday, what we Americans like to refer to as Bastille Day. The date marks the storming of the Bastille in 1789, an event which ignited the French Revolution. Much like our July 4th, the holiday is a day to celebrate national pride in France with food, music, and fireworks. Here in Dallas, you can join in the celebration and commemorate our city’s own French connection at Bastille on Bishop.
But before you head to Oak Cliff this evening, stop by the DMA–we’ve got a few revolutionary works of our own on view in our European galleries on Level 2.
This grand new acquisition is a portrait of Louise Marie Adelaïde Eugénie d’Orléans, daughter of Louis Philippe Joseph d’Orléans. Although the Duke of Orléans was one of the wealthiest French aristocrats and cousin to King Louis XVI, he desired a more democratic government and supported the ideals of the French Revolution. Unfortunately, however, the Duke was not able to escape the Terror, the most violent period of the French Revolution, and met his fate at the guillotine in 1793.
Jean-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne rose to power during the French Revolution, becoming a member of the governing body that oversaw the new republic. He was an active participant in the Terror, the violent time when thousands who were considered enemies of the new state–including the Duke of Orléans–were executed by guillotine.
This painting shows Monsieur George, an aristocrat imprisoned during the Terror and subsequently released, gratefully greeting his former prison guard. Monsieur George has returned to the prison with his wife and servant to thank the guard, who had generously provided financial support to the family during his imprisonment. Liberté, égalité, fraternité, indeed!
Joyeux Le Quatorze Juillet!
Last week, while vacationing in San Juan with my family, we stopped by the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. When I travel to a new city, I always like to visit the museums to see their collections and learn about their educational initiatives. Puerto Rico is a US Territory, but it’s quite a different place than any of the fifty states. Though my family is bilingual, I’m a non-Spanish speaker, so I was pleased to learn that Puerto Rico is bilingual. Many residents speak both Spanish and English and, to my delight, all of the museum signage was bilingual! As a museum educator who has been involved in making signage more accessible, it was amazing to walk in and find that everything from the museum map to the artwork labels were in both Spanish and English. (Click on the images below to enlarge.)
Last year Steve Yalowitz wrote a guest post on Nina Simon’s blog about the significance of bilingual signage. As co-author of the Bilingual Exhibit Research Initiative, which strove to better understand bilingual labels from the visitor perspective, Yalowitz offered these three points as significant findings:
Code-switching – We found lots of evidence of effortless switching back-and-forth between English and Spanish….The power of bilingual text is that it’s bilingual – it provides access in two languages, and code switching lets you understand and express yourself from two different perspectives, with two sets of vocabulary.
Facilitation – We researched intergenerational groups, so it’s not surprising that many of the adults saw their role as facilitator as essential to their own and the group’s success in the exhibition….With Spanish labels available, adults were able to facilitate, guiding the conversations and interactions, showing their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews where to focus and how to interact. Adults who were previously dependent on their children could now take the lead as confident facilitators.
Emotional reaction – This study found that the presence of bilingual interpretation had a profound emotional effect on the groups. Groups said they enjoyed the visit more, felt more valued by the institution, and many said having bilingual interpretation changed how they felt about the institution.
When I read Yalowitz’s article last year, it opened my eyes to the experiences of non-English speakers in museums with English only text. But the experience was made even more tangible as an English speaker visiting the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Had the text only been in Spanish, I would have had to ask my daughter or significant other to translate for me. This would not have been impossible, but rather inconvenient. If I stopped to look closely at a work of art that they were not interested in, I would have to call them back and interrupt their experience to get assistance understanding the label. Having bilingual text allowed me to take on the role of facilitator, reading the label and prompting my daughter with questions, and allowed my family to switch between Spanish and English comfortably. Furthermore, going beyond bilingual label text and providing bilingual directional signage was significant as well: we were each able to easily and equally participate in the entire museum experience.
Over the last few years, the Center for Creative Connections (C3) has begun to incorporate bilingual text and voices in a variety of ways. This initiative began soon after the DMA moved to free general admission. With this change in our admission policy, our overall number of visitors and the diversity of those visitors increased. The need for accessible signage for Spanish speakers was apparent, so in late 2012 we started to test out the use of bilingual prompts at the C3 Art Spot.
This was the perfect place to start because it is one of the busiest spaces in the Center for Creative Connections. It was also easy to begin using bilingual text in these kinds of prompts because these signs typically change more often and are easier to alter than more permanent wall signage. In 2014, we began to use bilingual activity prompts in the main C3 Gallery as well. This is a prompt for an activity where visitors use a light box and reproductions of works of art from the Museum’s collection to create hybrid creatures.
These small steps have been leading up to a bigger change. This year when we installed our Community at LARGE project, both English and Spanish text was included not only in the table prompt, but also on the wall text.
As we continue to install new works of art in the Center for Creative Connections, our hope is to integrate bilingual text throughout the space.
C3 Gallery Manager
My human leaves me at home each day to spend time in a place where I am not allowed, but that doesn’t stop her from getting my PPOV (puppy-point-of-view) on her work. She has incorporated me into many aspects of her job, from dressing me up as George Washington (George PAWshington, as I like to call him) and as dapper gent Woodbury Langdon, to organizing a day for dogs in the Dallas Arts District – complete with doga (dog yoga). She is totally obsessed with me.
Unless you’re a service dog, we canines aren’t allowed inside the DMA…what do they think we’re going to do, chew on the art?! My friend Echo (guide dog extraordinaire to artist John Bramblitt) has been to the DMA many times and has told me that the works of art are doggone drool-worthy. Check out this PAWsome video of Echo – she is quite the gal. While there are many reasons for humans to paws and enjoy artwork depicting four-legged fur-balls in the DMA galleries (check out this post for my top dog picks), how are creative canines supposed to experience it? Simple, young pups – admire it outside! The DMA has several works outside for us art dogs to appreciate. Check out some of my fur-friends and me hamming it up at the DMA. Who let the dogs out, indeed!
Darcy found a colorful mural at the DMA to add to her growing collection of mutt mural portraits, Luna color-coordinated her cute bandana with DMA artwork, Chaussettes found the perfect backdrop to show off her styled new summer cut, and sweet Jane stopped for the PAWparazzi on her daily jaunt around the Museum.
These hounds are always up for an arty party. Explore the pawsibilities of spending your next dog day afternoon sniffing out some artwork – sit, stay, and then snap a photo or two!
Until next time,
George Costanza Blake
Canine Museum Consultant
This summer, bring your summer school students and summer campers to the Dallas Museum of Art for a tour led by one of our teen docents! Our docent-guided tours allow students to form meaningful connections with works of art through close looking and interactive gallery experiences, including sketching, writing, group discussion, and more. Teen docents conduct summer tours for young visitors (ages 5-12) all summer long, during which they encourage critical and creative thinking while addressing all learning styles. If you are interested in scheduling a guided tour with one of our teen docents, the process is easy!
Step 1: Visit www.dma.org/tours. This page includes information about fees–FREE if you are an educational organization and scheduled 2-3 weeks in advance!
Step 2: Click on Docent-Guided Tour Request Form, making sure you already have a few dates approved for a visit.
Step 3: Choose whether you would like the “Animal Safari” tour or the “Summer Vacation” tour.
- On the “Animal Safari” tour, students will set off on a safari to search for animals in works of art. They will think about how animals look and what they might mean and symbolize in works of art from all over the world.
- On the “Summer Vacation” tour, students will travel the world without ever leaving the Museum! They will think about how they spend their summer vacation and make connections between their favorite summer activities and those they see in works of art.
Step 4: Choose a date and time. Docent-guided tours are only available in the summer on Wednesday and Friday between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. We can only tour 30 students every hour, but feel free to split them between a few hours! For example, half the students can tour at 11:00 a.m. while the other half explore our collection in small groups or eat lunch in our Sculpture Garden.
Step 5: Once the form is submitted, you will be added to our schedule in the first available time and day.
We have lots of room left in our schedule, and our teens are ready to show your students their favorite pieces! We hope you join us for a Safari or a Vacation soon!
Audience Relations Coordinator