As the new Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs, my first few weeks at the DMA have flown by in a busy, joyous blur. Everyday seems filled to the brim as I acclimate to my new role and learn as much as I can from my new colleagues and our fabulous docent team. In the midst of this whirlwind of activity, I find myself coming back to the Asian Art collections again and again to visit a familiar face— Green Tara, a beloved female Bodhisattva central to Tibetan Buddhism.
In the summer of 2008, I had the opportunity to study Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan history and culture at the College for Higher Tibetan Studies in Himachal Pradesh, India through Miami University’s Anthropology Department. Each morning before breakfast, my fellow students and I would wipe the sleep from our eyes and make our way to temple to practice meditation with our teacher, Geshe Kalsang Damdul la, a monk and scholar with an advanced degree in Tibetan Buddhism. Geshe la taught us the value of cultivating resilience and mindfulness through meditation. I can still picture him chuckling and asking us, “What good is being a genius if you don’t know how to live a quality life? I appeal to you, practice!”
As we embarked on our practice, Geshe la instructed us that one possibility was to direct our meditation towards a deity. He suggested Green Tara, a much-loved female Bodhisattva distinguished by her emerald green skin, maternal compassion, and constant readiness to protect her devotees from physical and mental misfortune.
On our last day, one of my monk friends pressed a printed Green Tara card into my hand and told me, via a translator, that I should keep her with me always for protection. She has been with me ever since, tucked safely in my wallet.
The DMA’s exquisite 18th century Green Tara sits on her lotus throne with her right leg extended, ever-ready to leap to the aide of the suffering. Her hand gestures, or mudras, symbolize protection and boon granting. Shining gilt copper alloy flecked with cool turquoise stand in for the Bodhisattva’s characteristic emerald skin. What I love most about Green Tara is the delicate suggestion of tension in her lithe figure—she’s at once in a state of perfect calm and ready to spring into action.
Visiting Green Tara brings me back to the stillness of those early mornings spent in meditation, and reminds me of the sense of ease and wellbeing we experienced chanting the Bodhisattvas’s mantra together with Geshe la. Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha.
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs
Today we are saying goodbye to a dear colleague and friend. Danielle Schulz joined the Education department three years ago and has charmed us all with her wit, dedication to excellent teaching, and bubbly personality. She is moving on to a new position at the Denver Art Museum, so we want to send her off with happy memories of all that she has accomplished here. And since she has spent the majority of her time in one classroom or another, we thought it only fitting to say goodbye with the best kind of school farewell we know–the yearbook Most Likely Awards.
Most Likely to Put the Able in Abilities
From using pool noodles with participants in wheelchairs to mimic movements in paintings, to cross-stitching astrological signs with visitors with Alzheimer’s disease, Danielle always went above and beyond to find an extraordinary way to connect to those with special needs. Danielle has a gift for listening and relating to visitors of all abilities and uses her talent to figure out how best to teach about artworks.
Most Likely to Outsmart Little Rascals
While teaching an outreach lesson at a local school for the Go van Gogh program, Danielle led a discussion with elementary students about the different materials artists use to create art. With a little boy sense of humor, one student offered up “poop” as a suggestion, to which Danielle deftly replied, “Some artists do use refuse to create art” without missing a beat!
Most Unusual Amazon Shopping Cart
As the lead staff for coordinating the daily come-and-go for our busy summer art camps, Danielle supervised summer interns, set up studios for teachers, emailed parents, made parking arrangements, and all kinds of less-than-glamorous tasks that make summer camps smooth sailing. And oh the supplies–no matter what crazy material a teacher throws at her, Danielle can find it. Hundreds of plastic bags? Check. Toy motors? No problem. Lamp shades? Done. If you judge her by her Amazon shopping cart, you’ll know that this is one crazy, creative, out-of-the-box-thinking girl.
Most Likely to Go the Extra Mile
Danielle is a phenomenal teacher, whether she’s performing for a group of babies, leading a group of high school students through the galleries, or having a conversation with a senior group from a care facility. She always goes the extra mile, searching for ways to really connect with visitors, considering their needs, and adding in her trademark sense of humor. I’ve seen her perform the role of “Dragon King” for Art Babies class, wear a taco costume for a Late Night superhero tour, and bring in a treasured quilt from home for an access program–all in the name of helping visitors enjoy their experiences with art.
Most Likely to Make an Award-Worthy Cameo in a Whimsical Grant Video
Did we mention she acts? Several years ago, Go van Gogh went for a BIG opportunity that required us to make a short video selling our wonderful outreach program. Knowing that we needed to reeeally stand out to compete, we worked the whimsical angle, and Danielle spent an afternoon excitedly jumping out from behind artworks on camera. I don’t know how many times she jumped out from behind Nandi the Bull in our South East Asian galleries, but I do know by the time we were ready to submit our video, we had a fantastic (and definitely whimsical) representation of our program. The video went on to earn us $10,000. Without Danielle’s acting skills, teaching prowess, and overall great ideas and energy, we wouldn’t have had a shot. Someone get this woman an agent!
Most Likely to Soar as High as the Stars
Danielle’s passion for teaching with works of art and her love of people will propel her as high as her dreams will fly, and we wish her the best of luck at the Denver Art Museum.
We are going to miss Danielle more than we can say, but are so excited for the new adventure that awaits her in the Colorado mountains.
Manager of Early Learning Programs
We had a Very Important Baby visit the Museum today! Eleven-month old Vance Douglas Lancaster Van Daele took a stroll through the galleries this morning with his father Vance, and graciously agreed to strike a pose for us. Besides his adorable smile and cheerful personality, what makes baby Vance so very important? Well he just so happens to be the great godson of artist Gerald Murphy!
Baby Vance’s family first met Laura Donnelly, Murphy’s granddaughter, through Deborah Rothschild, curator of the critically acclaimed exhibition Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy, which was on view at the DMA when I first started working here in 2008.
Our little celebrity wasn’t too concerned with famous names as we spent time in front of Murphy’s painting Watch. He solemnly gazed at the painting, then took off crawling around the gallery with delighted squeals. I like to think Gerald Murphy would approve of Vance’s joyful approach to art and life!
Baby Vance has been a super tourist while his family has been in town, visiting the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Dallas Zoo, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. He loves looking at art, his favorite book is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and he’s a regular at his local library.
We were totally charmed by our V.I.B. and hope he comes back to see us again soon!
Manager of Early Learning Programs
With the summer heat subsiding, it’s time to get back to nature and truly enjoy the scenery. Get out this fall and capture some beautiful Texas landscapes, then submit your photographs of the great outdoors to our Flickr Group DMA Back to Nature to have your images displayed at the Center for Creative Connections #DMAdigitalspot.
Need some inspiration? Take a look at these Texas-centric works of art from our collection:
Click here for more information on how to submit your images to the #DMAdigitalspot.
C3 Gallery Manager
In late August, I was lucky enough to spend time exploring the art and culture of London and Paris. As a museum educator, my main goal (of course) was to fit in as many museum and cultural site visits as possible–and I tried my best! While I was mesmerized by the popular artistic highlights of these cities–who doesn’t treasure seeing a Da Vinci first-hand??–for this post I wanted to share some images that were particularly special to me, as they showcase some overlooked sites and scenes from these fascinating cities.
*For more information on Thomas Thwaites’ project (which is fascinating!) click here.
Perhaps my favorite art educational gem from the entire trip was stumbling upon the Musee D’Orsay‘s crowdfunding restoration project of Gustave Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio. The artwork is being restored on-site in the Museum’s exhibition space and visitors can view the progress in-person over many months, and through various interactive technologies. The most exciting technological component, in my opinion, was a French Sign Language (LSF) interpreted description of the conservation work–fascinating and accessible!
As with most trips overseas, mine was much too short and there were many, many things still left unseen. It was a magical trip and an unforgettable experience, which caused me to stop and think about the unexpected treasures that can be found on visits to popular and familiar places–and I hope you will too!
DMA’s got game. And that game is basketball.
This Late Night, we’re teaming up with the Dallas Mavericks to put a sports-themed spin on our regular Late Night programming. And in a nod to both our encyclopedic collection and the Mavs always-international team roster, the evening will also have a global focus. One of the many activities featured tomorrow is our new ‘Round the World self-guided tour.
Self-guided tours are bite-sized: they focus on four to five artworks each, packaging our wonderfully expansive collection into short, themed looking adventures. Self-guides include facts about artworks you can’t find on gallery labels. They provide artwork images and gallery locations, getting you to the right space in the Museum, but letting you wander just enough that you get that fun I-just-found-something-on-a-scavenger-hunt sort of feeling when you find yourself right in front of the artwork. Self-guides are cheeky and fun, and in the case of ‘Round the World, chock-full of sometimes veiled and other times blatant Mavs/basketball references that some of us here (ahem!) are pretty jazzed about.
So if you’d like to see an artwork that’s nothin’ but net, explore a small exhibition devoted to the DMA’s Big German (he’s a 16th century print-maker), or see two objects that could fit in courtside at a Mavs game, pick up our ‘Round the World self-guided tour at the Visitor Services Desk tomorrow night.
Manager of Go van Gogh and Community Teaching Programs & MFFL
After 16.5 years at the DMA, JC Bigornia, Manager of C3 Programs, is heading across the freeway to take the position of Manager of Mobile Innovation at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. JC is our McGuyver, always ready with an ingenious, perfect solution for any and every art-making challenge we throw his way. For his last day at the Museum, we’re taking a look not just at the countless small and brilliant projects he brought to life through his freakish artistic talent, but the way in which his worked shaped our department in larger ways.
Susan Diachisin, The Kelli and Allen Questrom Director of the Center for Creative Connections, perfectly captures what it is we all enjoy about our resident DIY expert:
JC is a creative and diligent art educator who has managed and taught thousands of programs for museum visitors during his tenure here. He worked with people of all ages, guiding them in careful looking at works of art from the collection and then making connections through an art making process. He was at the helm of our popular Late Night Studio Creations, the drop-in art making program that hosts over 250 multi-age visitors each month. And for many years he led the drop-in weekend family Studio Creations that took place on every Saturday and Sunday all year long. He spent the summers managing logistics for the Summer Camp Program for children and teens, as well as many other family programs too numerous to mention here.
JC has a pretty high coolness factor that was perfect for his accomplishments of working with teens—a focus he originally started back in 2008. In 2013 he was the Project Manager of the IMLS Teen Learning Lab planning grant in partnership with the Perot. For that he spent extensive time researching teen developmental learning, designing innovative programs, and launching a DMA/Perot Teen Advisory Council (TAC). This project boosted his already popular Urban Armor program and launched Maker Club the Thursday night program focusing on the intersection of art and science. He recruited and met bi-monthly with the thirteen member TAC team, and collaboratively led experimental programs, visiting artist projects, and community projects in partnership with other Dallas organizations.
JC brings extensive artistic skills to the programs he designed. I can’t tell you how many times during the development process he had to test and produce project samples. He would say, “I’ll just make that.” And a short time later he would share a creation that was absolutely incredible.
As humble a person as JC is, there are a few memorable projects that you might have seen and may not know they were his:
If you were ever at the Materials Bar in the C3 Materials & Meanings exhibition you might have caught JC’s creative hands demonstrating how to work with materials on the video screens:
Last year, JC developed a week-long teen summer camp program call Brains, Brains, Brains where the participants learned about the art and science of zombie culture. Inspired by our collection, they transformed themselves into zombies and went roaming in the galleries:
The Perot Museum entrance featured a mural designed by the TAC students led by JC:
JC’s students in the Urban Armor: Street Art Workshop transformed the DMA Sculpture Garden with masking tape:
And this year, the popular teen themed Late Night in June was developed and run by JC’s teens.
JC is a terrific listener and thoughtful which makes him an excellent supervisor to our volunteers and interns. They adore working with him. They enjoy his creative ideas as well as the support he gives them. He is genuinely interested in the people he works with and takes the time to get to know everybody. I’d like to publically thank him for his outstanding work at the DMA with our visitors.
In case you—like all the rest of us here—would like to siphon off a little of JC’s talent and take some art-making adventures of your own, check out his many DIY tutorial blog posts on how to make: sounds prints, printed t-shirts, etchings with cola, vinyl toy mini-amps, collagraphs, and cosplay armor and accessories.
In his new position, JC will oversee the Perot’s fleet of Mobile Innovation trucks so look for him on the streets–taking learning into the community! We’re gonna miss ya, JC!
Manager of Go van Gogh and Community Teaching Programs