We are thrilled to welcome four new members to the DMA’s Education Division–Jeelan Bilal-Gore, Elaine Higgins, Samantha Robinson, and Emily Schiller–who are our new digital collections content coordinators, or D3Cs. This newly-created team is responsible for the research, aggregation, and digitization of rich, contextual information that will be presented on our online collection.
Essentially, the D3Cs are like detectives that unearth and build upon research the Museum has conducted on our collection. Then, they package that information for public consumption. For example, virtual visitors to the DMA will eventually be able to not only search for an artwork and find beautiful images, but also learn interesting details like who made the work, why or how they made it, and when. Our D3Cs will focus on artwork that is on view and recently on view, so that visitors will be able to access this content via smartphone or tablet while they meander through our galleries.
The work the D3Cs are doing is part of a five-year project funded by a generous $9 million gift to the DMA to support free general admission and free online access to our permanent collection. We are excited to be able to enrich our online collection and to provide this resource to onsite and digital visitors alike.
Meet the D3Cs
Jeelan is working with our Asian, African, Pacific and Contemporary collections. She holds a Masters degree in Art Museum and Gallery Practice from Newcastle University and a second MA in Art History from the School of Oriental & African Studies at the University of London. Her BA focuses on Asian languages and civilizations from Amherst.
When asked what DMA work of art she was most excited to research…
Just one?! The ones I am excited about are not currently on view but have been in the last five years (though of course there are some that haven’t been on view longer that I’m dying to look into like Shirin Neshat’s Soliloquy and Willie Doherty’s Ghost Story). It’s a toss-up between Yinke Shonibare’s Un Ballo in Maschera and Koki Tanaka’s Everything is Everything.
Elaine is focusing on our pre-Columbian, American Indian, and Latin American collections. She returns to the DMA as a Ph.D. candidate focused on Spanish Colonial art at the University of New Mexico. She also holds an MA in Art History with an emphasis in Pre-Columbian art from UT Austin and a BA in Art History from TCU.
When asked what DMA work of art she was most excited to research…
The Seated hunchback holding mirror and Reclining hunchback holding rectangular object, displayed together. Since I conducted my thesis research on the dwarf motif in Mesoamerican iconography, I am most looking forward to finding out more about these extraordinary works in our collection!
Samantha will be concentrating her focus on our extensive Decorative Arts and Design collection. Most recently, Samantha served as a McDermott Intern (2014-2105) and holds an MA in Art History with a concentration in 19th and 20th century American silver from SMU. Her BA is from Macalester College in St. Paul in International Studies.
When asked what DMA work of art she was most excited to research…
I am most excited to research our Valeri Timofeev martini glass. Acquired in 2014, the brightly colored and profusely patterned martini glass is the first design by Timofeev, a Latvian born designer trained in the former USSR and active in the United States, in the DMA’s permanent collection. I am eager to learn more about the Russian designers, such as Rasul Alihanov, and studios, such as Fabergé, Ovchinnikov, and Khlebnikov, that influenced the material and formal elements of Timofeev’s designs.
Emily is focused on our American and European collections, in addition to working with our aAncient Mediterranean and Contemporary collections. A former McDermott Intern (2012-2013), Emily is a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University, concentrating on the History of Photography and African American art, and she also holds an MA in Art History from American University. Her BA is in Art History and Women’s Studies from Hollins University.
When asked what DMA work of art she was most excited to research…
Something that excites me about researching an object is if it was acquired during the early decades of the collection. Any work that has an accession number from the 1900s through 1940s is fun because then it has two historic narratives. One is the history of the art and its creation, and the other is the history of how that piece has been exhibited or discussed since coming into the DMA’s collection.
One work that has intrigued me since the start of my Internship is Zoltan Sepeshy’s The Whole Town. He is an artist I know very little about, but his name repeatedly popped up when I was doing my dissertation research. I have a feeling he was an individual who socialized and interacted with some of the major art figures during the New Deal and WWII-era, but got neglected by later generations of scholars.
Be sure to keep an eye on our online collection to discover the interesting facts they’re sure to find!
Andrea Severin Goins
By now I’m sure you know all about our McDermott Internship Program and the wonderful interns we’ve been working with this year. So I am excited to announce that applications are now open for the 2015-2016 McDermott Internship! This year we’ve instituted a fully digital application process, which can be accessed here, but be sure to check out our flyer with full descriptions before you get started.
But of course, we’re not ready to say goodbye to our current interns just yet! Here are some of the fun activities they’ve been up to. Submit your application and this could be you in the fall!
With Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse closing this weekend, you only have a few days left to enjoy the blossoming canvases in the exhibition. The tradition of recreating bundles of blooms in art as still-life is longstanding. Many of the floral arrangements you’ll see are bright, plush tableaus with numerous species represented. They demonstrate the prowess of French master artists who nestled cultural symbols throughout the canvas.
In contrast, neither silk ribbon nor glittering vase contain the artworks celebrating iconic Texas flora from the Museum’s permanent collection. They are rendered on paper or hardboard in print or with brush. Realistically portrayed in muted tones, a single species is the subject of each work. These plants thrive in the unique climate of our rugged state and have been cultivated by humans for centuries for medicine, sustenance and beauty.
Merritt Mauzey’s print Cotton Stalk and Florence McClung’s print Castor Beans resemble naturalist studies from early botanical books. The plants are highly detailed and placed against a void background to isolate their physical attributes. You can also see similarities to Art Nouveau motifs in Mauzey’s print. The cotton stalks are frontal and flattened with sinuous stems. Cotton has been a leading cash crop in Texas for generations. Every part of the plant can be put to use, especially the tuft of fibers which is removed and spun into thread. Castor-beans, on the other hand, have highly toxic seeds containing ricin and are hazardous to most livestock.
Otis Dozier, on the other hand, places Texas staple crops in a portrait style composition with their respective farm settings as the backdrop. In Cotton Boll, Dozier depicts the sequence of growth as we are reminded that flora has a brief but bountiful life cycle. Some art scholars believe Maize and Windmill resembles millet as the size and shape of the plant look somewhat like Red Millet or Sorghum. Maize has been cultivated and prepared as food in numerous ways since ancient times in North America. The shape or color of the seeds can be an indicator of their diverse genes.
Sunflowers have long been used by indigenous North Americans for many reasons, like treating snake bites or making oils. In some parts of Texas they can grow up to eight feet tall, with flower heads one foot in diameter! Charles T. Bowling captures the strength of the sunflower in its natural setting in his watercolor Meadow Wind.
Throughout the pages of many sketchbooks by Otis Dozier are studies of sunflower heads. It is interesting to see an artist working through his observations of nature. He uses the blank pages to examine the texture and form of the sunflower at various angles.
Imagine all the unique decorative arrangements that could be made with the regional flora of Texas. And there are many other examples of Texas flora in the collection to explore. Try searching for ‘jimson weed,’ ‘coxcomb,’ or ‘cactus’ in the DMA’s online collection database. And when you stop by for your last peek at Bouquets, see what other blooms you can find in our galleries!
Research Associate for Early Texas Art
We have had a fun month full of memories this January. During our Meaningful Moments program for memory care groups, we have focused on objects in the DMA’s Decorative Arts gallery. From the Silver Streak iron (model no. 1038) to the Nocturne radio (Model 1186), objects in this gallery have sparked memories from several participants. Close looking, conversations, laughing, and even some toe-tapping while singing along to Bing Crosby filled the Decorative Arts gallery. Following our time looking at art, participants created their own decorative work of art – a colorful wreath to take back and hang on their doors.
One object in particular, the Electrolux vacuum cleaner, inspired the most sharing. We got a kick out of one participant who shared a story about her mother’s Electrolux vacuum cleaner. We were lucky to snag a quick video.
Participant: “Father traveled a lot for business. He brought mother home an Electrolux, and he had her name printed on it.”
Danielle: “Was your mother very happy when she received that as a present, to see her name on the vacuum cleaner?”
Participant: “Well, her comment was, ‘You brought me something to work with!’”
What a fun story! And just the kind of memories we hope are shared during Meaningful Moments.
For more information, or to register a memory care facility group, call 214-922-1251 or e-mail access@DMA.org.
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences
In just a few more days, the Caldecott Medal will be awarded “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” (American Library Association website). For those of us who love children’s literature, this announcement is like the Oscars! Unfortunately, unlike the Oscars, the nominees aren’t narrowed down in advance, so it’s anyone’s guess as to which books are the strongest contenders.
During my undergrad studies, I worked in the children’s section of the university library, and one particular year my supervisor was on the Caldecott committee. I remember every week felt like Christmas as boxes and boxes of books arrived for her to review. Among other things, the committee members consider the artist’s technique, the way the story is visually interpreted, and the excellence of the work in light of the audience—children! Considering there are thousands of books published for children each year, I can’t even begin to imagine reading all the books, much less the pressure of choosing just ONE.
If I had to cast my vote for favorite picture book of 2014 though, these are my top contenders:
Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace
It’s time for Peter the pigeon to come home for dinner, but as the message gets passed down the line of birds sitting on the telephone wires, it turns into something else entirely different. I love the use of line in Corace’s pictures. The telephone wires stretch across the pages in unending straight lines, providing a visual contrast to the tangled, garbled message being passed along. Each bird has so much character and is painted so that readers can see how the bird’s own interests and activities play into the confusion. For instance, when the message gets to the blue jay with his electric guitar, it’s not too surprising that he interprets it as “Rock stars are admired.” Luckily a wise old owl saves the day, and this visual game of telephone has a happy ending.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
I’ll admit right up front that in my eyes, Jon Klassen can do no wrong. He already has stacks of awards, but why not win another?! Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole, and they aren’t going to stop until they find something spectacular. Unfortunately, every time they get close to something wonderful, they change direction and miss the treasure with no idea how close they were. Readers are in on the irony, and even their dog seems to sense their near misses. Something spectacular finally does happen, but even Sam and Dave don’t realize just how spectacular it is. I really love this one because Klassen gives children insider information through his illustrations, and the story wouldn’t be nearly as fun if readers didn’t get to be in on the joke. And man, does he know how to convey humor, exasperation and surprise with just the eyes of his characters!
The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
This is a story of being brave, following your dreams, and trusting yourself to do hard things. Beekle lives on the island where imaginary friends are created, and he waits and waits for his child to imagine him. But when his turn never comes, Beekle takes matters into his own hands and sets off on a journey to the real world to find his friend. The contrast between the imaginary island and the real world is stark—one is colorful, whimsical, and bright. The other is drab, dreary, and lonely. But when Beekle and his friend finally find each other, the world explodes in kaleidoscope color. I love the message that a little imagination can transform your world, and that it just takes finding your person or your passion or your favorite artwork at the DMA to pull you out of a bout of the un-imaginary blues!
Hooray for Hat by Brian Won
Elephant woke up grumpy, and seems pretty determined to stay that way. Until . . . a present arrives on his doorstep! Inside the box is a marvelous hat, and Elephant can’t wait to show Zebra. But Zebra is feeling grumpy too. Until . . . Elephant shares a hat and cheers Zebra right up. The power of sharing and caring is passed along as the friends visit Turtle, Owl, Lion, and Giraffe and realize that although they shout “hooray for hat!,” it’s their friends that really make the difference. My favorite illustrations show the animals marching along, hats perched on their heads, and good cheer jumping off the page. Won manages to perfectly capture the transformation of terrible tantrum to sunshine-y good mood, and the pictures will resonate with young children and parents alike. I can’t wait to use this one with my toddler crowd!
Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Gaston doesn’t quite look like his perfectly polished poodle sisters. And when he tries to yip (not yap) and walk with grace (not race), he doesn’t quite pull it off. When the Poodle family runs into the Bulldog family at the park one day, it seems quite obvious that there’s been a mistake. Is Gaston in the wrong family? Mrs. Poodle and Mrs. Bulldog have their puppies switch places. Now the families look right, but they don’t feel right. Where does Gaston belong? This is a perfectly charming story about being true to yourself. Robinson’s paintings are drawn with a childlike exuberance—the picture plane is flat with washes of color and the stylized puppies seem to jump off the page. And the message that you need to look deeper to really understand someone is just as true for looking at art.
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Matisse is one of my favorite artists, and Hooper’s interpretation of both the story and Matisse’s style is phenomenal. The story imagines Matisse as a child and how his early life influenced the artist he became—from the rugs his mother hung in the house to the birds he saw out his window. Hooper hand cut the basic shapes for the pictures out of foam, inked them and made prints, which were then scanned into Photoshop. The lines, colors and patterns scream “Matisse” and the texture created by the printmaking gives the illustrations an added warmth and depth. This would be a great book to tuck in your bag and bring to the Museum for a visit with our Matisse!
I used lists from Calling Caldecott and Huffington Post to help me narrow down which books were my favorites of the year. A few not pictured here (because they weren’t available at my library) that I would add are Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and The Clown and The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I heard Marla speak in November and when she “read” the book to us (The Farmer and The Clown is a wordless book), I choked up and got all teary. The story is so tender and the illustrations are gorgeous. Sweet’s collages for The Right Word mix imagery from Roget’s first edition of his thesaurus, vintage papers, and watercolors to create intricate layered pictures that you’ll want to pour over.
Have I picked a winner? We won’t know until Monday, February 2, at 8 am when the ALA makes its announcement. So stay tuned!
Manager of Early Learning Programs
Looking to spark your young reader’s interest in fun and artsy books? Check out our Arts & Letters Live BooksmART series, which will be welcoming lots of great authors to the DMA this spring!
Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, a collection of beautifully wrought poems depicting her childhood in South Carolina and New York, won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Much of her writing in Brown Girl Dreaming explores the issues of gender, class, and race, as well as family and history, themes she addresses in groundbreaking ways.
Author Rick Riordan has hailed author Peter Lerangis’ The Seven Wonders adventure series as a “high-octane mix of modern adventure and ancient secrets.” In it, thirteen-year-old Jack McKinley learns he has a rare genetic anomaly that gives him a unique skill, but the cure is located at each of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
2:00 p.m. Enjoy an adventure-filled tour of the DMA’s collection related to themes and cultures in the Seven Wonders series.
Illustrator Harry Bliss asks audiences, old and young alike, the question “what is art?” in his newest collaboration, Grandma in Blue with Red Hat. In this book, a young boy offers up his grandmother for a museum exhibition. Bliss is also a cartoonist whose work appears regularly in the New Yorker.
Barney Saltzberg, author and illustrator of almost 50 books for children and a singer/songwriter, explores the creative process of writing and illustrating in his latest work Inside this Book. The story features three siblings crafting their own books and learning about their creative processes.
This is event is designed primarily for families with children ages 6 and younger
1:30 p.m. Enjoy an illustration workshop with Harry Bliss – for ages 10 through adults.
Get cozy with these books while the weather is still chilly, then come see us at the DMA to make some artful literary connections!
Audience Relations Coordinator
Almost all museums have programs for the public, in one form or another. These programs may fall under the fields of education, visitor engagement or interpretation, and may take the forms of drop-in workshops, ticketed lectures, in-gallery interactives or scheduled tours. Even within a single museum, these programs are diverse in their scope, varied in the spaces they take place, and wide-ranging in their scale. Furthermore, they differ in their intended outcomes, but more on that later.
Importance has been placed on growing different types programs for the public, as these can garner more attention from the community, increase overall attendance, and develop audiences. Oftentimes, this growth is approached by expanding programmatic offerings: increasing lecture topics, presenting more classes and workshops, or providing additional interactives in galleries. In these instances, growth is measured by quantity: “Well yes we serve our community, look how many programs we offer!” But I question whether this type of growth is positive for museums. Is expansion without reflection a good idea? I am inevitably reminded of the adage, “Less is more,” and wonder how this concept can be manifested in museum education programs.
The process of reflection and evaluation is an often overlooked step in program creation. Activities are designed, implemented, and either repeated (perhaps next week, or next month) or they are archived (if they’re lucky) for posterity. But rarely does someone stop and ask, “So what?” This question, seemingly harsh and unforgiving to some, or unimportant to others, is an invaluable asset to evaluation in my mind. It is a question that harks back to my time as a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin in the Art Education department. My thesis advisor and Assistant Chair to the department Dr. Paul E. Bolin situated this question as an integral part of all academic research. Students would approach him with research proposals and he would answer, “Well yes, that does sound like an interesting study of this-and-that at the so-and-so institution, but so what?” This simple question produced its fair share of frustration, but also some very fruitful discussion about the field of art education. It caused us to reflect on how our intended research would impact or advance the discipline. It wasn’t enough for the topic to simply garner interest, it had to have purpose and intention; it needed to be able to stand on its own and answer, “This is why I exist.” Now, I am not proposing that every public program initiated by a museum or art institution should be held to the bar of furthering the field of art education (this would be rather difficult), but I do feel that every program should be accountable in providing a significant answer to this critical question.
As a department, the DMA’s Education team has spent many hours creating a mission statement that encapsulates our departmental practice, inevitably answering the So What question for ourselves. And during this process we have hit upon some key concepts that fuel our programs, the chief one being engagement. As educators, we aim to broaden and deepen engagement, and recognize that the DMA can influence the depth of one’s engagement, not by pitching more programs at our community, but by facilitating meaningful experiences in our current educational endeavors. But how can we know that these experiences are meaningful, unless we ask?
Our Education team is undertaking the evaluation process by implementing a series of one question studies that aim to pinpoint specific queries we as educators have about our public programs. The restricted format of this evaluation exercise is key, because evaluation can be a daunting task if approached too broadly. The one question design ensures that we concentrate on a single point—one program or interactive, one outcome, one bit of information that is important for us to determine. Just as the questions vary, so too do the methods of collecting data from visitors, ranging from written surveys, a post-it note response wall, and even a voting system using colorful pony beads. Below are preliminary looks into two different one question case studies we’ve begun.
CASE STUDY #1: YOUNG LEARNERS GALLERY (contributed by Jessica Fuentes)
The Young Learners Gallery, within the Center for Creative Connections (C3), is a space designed for children ages 5-8 and their caregivers. Over the past three years while much of C3 has changed—with the introduction of new artworks, art-making materials and gallery interactives—the Young Learners Gallery has gone untouched, because making changes to that space requires a complete redesign. Before undertaking such a task, the C3 staff want to learn more about families’ anticipated and actual experiences at the Museum.
We started with the prompt, “I bring my child(ren) to the Dallas Museum of Art because…” posted on a wall in the Young Learners Gallery near a small table equipped with post-it notes and pencils. Unlike a survey, this method allows for open-ended responses that can later be categorized and analyzed while retaining the individual visitor’s voice. This analog system has been brought into the 21st Century through the development of the Post-It Plus App. With this app, instead of sifting through responses and later transcribing them in digital form, we can simply photograph the post-it notes and organize the digitized notes on a virtual board. The board can then be exported in a variety of formats including PowerPoint, Excel, and PDF.
We posted our question for a month and received 107 responses. The responses ranged from children’s drawings to eloquent statements expressing a desire to expose children to a broader world view. Because the purpose of this question was to gauge the caregiver’s motivations, we set aside the 26 children’s responses and the 4 irrelevant responses; however, we plan to use future questions to gather children’s input as well. The top three categories for why caregivers bring their child(ren) to the DMA is to get inspiration or foster creativity, to provide exposure to different cultures or broaden their world view, and because it’s fun.
As we plan the new Young Learners Gallery, we are keeping these findings in mind. For example, we have decided to include works of art in the space which currently is an activity area. The works of art selected will have a strong emphasis on culture and creativity. We also plan to create hands-on activities that address the developmental milestones of children aged 5-8 and provide opportunities for children and their caregivers to play, draw, and talk together about the works of art in front of them.
Now that we understand why caregivers bring their children to the DMA, we are in the process of posing more questions to learn what families actually do in the Young Learners Gallery. Understanding both expectations and experiences will help us develop a space that will meet a wider spectrum of caregivers’ and children’s needs.
CASE STUDY #2: ART TO GO FAMILY TOTE BAGS
The DMA first offered activity-filled tote bags to families around this time last year, premiering during our January 2013 Late Night event. Each tote bag contains a variety of activities that encourage families to write, talk, play, or make while exploring the galleries together, the idea being to have fun with the art as a family. Since their public introduction last year, our Art To Go Family tote bags have grown to include many different themes: Senses, to help explore art through the five senses; Color, to explore art while thinking about colors; Family Fun, with activities designed by a family who frequently visits the Museum; and Arturo’s Library totes, designed for children under five years of age, which focus on a single work of art with an accompanying book and hands-on activity. These tote bags are available for check-out at our Family Fun Cart, located at the main entrance to the Museum, and are free to use by families anytime the Museum is open.
Initially, the Family & Access programs staff sought feedback on tote bags through individual paper surveys, presented to families once they returned tote bags to the Family Fun Cart. We found that very few of these surveys were returned, or even taken in the first place. During busy times at the Museum, those who coordinated checking bags in and out to visitors rarely had time to focus on handing out this extra survey to families, who for their part, were usually rushing to leave the Museum, and therefore rarely could spend extra time answering a two-page questionnaire. In this case, the one question evaluation was ideal not only because of its simplicity and accessibility, but also because of its straightforwardness. Unlike the above-mentioned project with the Young Learners Gallery, for the tote bags we were not looking for open-ended answers, at least not yet. While it is absolutely valuable to know whether or not visitors feel that the tote bags encourage a playful attitude towards looking at art, or if they are able to increase visitor confidence in looking at art with children, this is information that is best obtained in a second stage of evaluation, when we look at the specific effects of each activity and deem whether things should be modified or not. At this still early stage in the life of the tote bags, our team is really interested in the simple question of whether families are indeed using the tote bags during their visit, and where in the Museum they are being used. (This is our So What question.)
We designed our one question evaluation as a multiple choice prompt, which was added to the tote bag check-out sheet. We asked, “On Which Floor Did You Use the Tote Bag?” and invited visitors to check the box next to each area in which they used the bags—Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4—or, if they didn’t in fact use the activities in the bag, to check Did Not Use. Our hope was that including our one question evaluation on the check-out sheet, something that families were already using and thus familiar with, would increase the amount of feedback we received.
The updated check-out sheet has been in rotation for two months, and we have collected data for November and December 2014. On average, 52% of people who checked-out tote bags during that time responded to our evaluation, and of that total only 6% did not use the tote bag activities at all. While in the Museum, the respondents said they preferred to use the tote bags most on Level 1 (28%) and least on Level 4 (16%). Now, is this choice based on physical access (Level 1 is the same level on which the tote bags are offered, while Level 4 is farthest away) or related to the works of art available on each level (Level 1 is Contemporary art, Level 4 is American)? Now that we are beginning to better understand how much the tote bags are being utilized by visitors, and where in the Museum galleries they are being taken, we can start to pose these types of ancillary questions, that tap into deeper inquiries about visitor engagement.
The insight provided by these two studies hopefully demonstrates the importance of evaluation to both growing and expanding program development. These are just preliminary looks into initial studies, and we hope to have more one question studies, as well as data, on the horizon. In order to increase the effectiveness of our programs and spaces, museum educators need the input of our audience to better understand their level and scope of engagement. Reflection and evaluation, in the style of these one question studies or other formats, can facilitate this exchange of ideas in a positive and productive manner, providing a strong foundation for educators to answer the So What question for themselves, their institution, as well as their community.