Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

In the Stacks

This week is National Library Week, which makes it the perfect time to meet the Mayer Library’s new librarians, Jenny Stone and Kellye Hallmark.

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Jenny Stone, Librarian

Describe your job in fifty words or less. 
I’m the Librarian in the DMA’s art research library, a.k.a. The Mayer Library. I manage the day-to-day activities of the library, handle our interlibrary loan service, and help answer questions from staff and the public.

What might an average day entail?
On any given day, I might have reference e-mails to answer,  hunt down materials for research projects, purchase books, give a library orientation to a new staff member, or problem solve with Cathy Zisk, our cataloger, on how to handle an odd-shaped book.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges? 
The best parts of the job are the books!—and the cool things I learn about the collection and the Museum from various projects and questions we get. The biggest challenge: describing to visitors how to get from the Library to the European galleries.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum? 
I come from a family of librarians, so it was pretty much inevitable. And I can’t think of a better place to come to work every day than an art museum.

What is your favorite work in the DMA’s collection?
If I could stare at anything in the collection all day, it would either be Tatsuo Miyajima’s Counter Ground or Edouard Manet’s Vase of White Lilacs and Roses. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have a different answer!

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier was probably the most exciting and fun exhibition. The Mourners really opened my eyes to something new and unusual and beautiful, and Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World is very similar in that way.

Kellye Hallmark, Assistant Librarian

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
You can generally find me at the reference desk, where I assist both staff and visitors with locating materials, research, and a variety of questions associated with the Museum and our collection. Recently a PhD student from the University of Montana wanted to know what ancient sculptures we have that are made of serpentine or greenstone, and an ancestor of John Pratt had just discovered her lineage and called the library to see if his portrait by Ralph Earl was on view and to learn more about the work. I also manage our serial collection, as well as maintain and create artist files.

What might an average day entail?
Each day holds a new project or a new reference question, so it varies, but it is always something fun and interesting. Generally I am checking in new serials, scanning the papers for museum- or art-related news, and working on a special project, like researching Islamic art books for purchase.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
The best part of my job is being able to look at all of the new books and serials that arrive almost daily. I’m constantly learning about new artists, new shows, etc., and that is really fun. The biggest challenge is making myself put down all of those new books and serials—there just isn’t enough time to read it all!

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
I always knew I would work in an art museum. I got my BA in Art History fully expecting to pursue a career as a curator, but my focus and passions changed and they led me to art librarianship, and I couldn’t be happier.

What is your favorite work in the DMA’s collection?
I’ve always loved San Cristoforo, San Michele, and Murano from the Fondamenta Nuove, Venice by Canaletto. I love his perspective and how so much of the painting is the sky. I love the Sculpture Garden as well; it’s such a great place to spend your lunch break and to see little kids play.

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?
Being fairly new, I have to say that the Edward Hopper exhibition that just closed was definitely a stand out—it was fantastic. I was also blown away by the Nur exhibition, and I can’t wait to see the Michael Borremans exhibition next year.

The Mayer Library is located on Level M2, and is open to the public Tuesday through Friday 11:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturday noon-4:30 p.m.

Hillary Bober is the digital archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Installing Light

Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World is opening this weekend and the DMA is the only venue outside of Europe to host this exhibition featuring rarely seen objects from around the world. We’ve been preparing for weeks for Sunday’s opening, as you can see in the photos below,

Learn more about the exhibition and the artistic techniques used to enhance the effect of light found in the objects on display in Nur from the DMA’s senior advisor for Islamic art, Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir. And on Thursday, April 3, your lecture ticket will also include admission to Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World!

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Kimberly Daniell is the manager of communications and public affairs at the DMA

Words with Friends (and owls, mohels, etc.)

For the exhibition Never Enough: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, New York-based artist Darren Bader visited Dallas to help us realize a unique work recently purchased by the DMA. Bader is known for his innovative and unconventional use of materials that push the boundaries of sculpture and activates environments with unexpected pairings and phenomenological experiences.

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For example, in the 2012 exhibition Darren Bader: Images at MoMA PS1, the artist presented a room filled with a newly upholstered couch and several live housecats, all of which were available for adoption by museum visitors. Elsewhere the artist installed a selection of vegetables, each on its own wooden pedestal, that was made into salad for gallery visitors by a museum staffer twice a week. While these works all had a social dimension, for the artist these elements are understood to be sculpture of one form or another, albeit in the most expansive definition of the word.

Bader’s work also frequently employs double-entendres and wordplay, as is readily apparent in the series of rhyming couplets that make up the recent acquisition at the DMA, and which is now on view: obi and/with SCOBY; oak with/and smoke; owl and/with towel; oar with/and store; oil with/and mohel; oat and/with note; orc with/and fork. Generally, when a museum purchases a work it has a set physical form, but in this case the work itself consists solely of the words listed in the title above and the conceptual potential for realizing these couplings. These absurd combinations can be realized in physical space (e.g., placing a rowing oar in the DMA store) or in the form of photographic or video documentation to be displayed in the galleries. Contractual agreements like this have a long history within the canon of conceptual art, including works by Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein, Hans Haacke (with the aid of dealer Seth Siegelaub), and Andrea Fraser, among others.

As the curator for this exhibition, I was tasked with coordinating and/or sourcing the various elements needed to realize this work, including an obi and SCOBY, owl and towel, and even a mohel (more on that in a later blog post). In order to find an owl, we got in touch with Kathy Rogers from Roger’s Wildlife Rescue down in Hutchins, Texas.

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Kathy and her team run an amazing facility that rescues, rehabilitates and houses hundreds of birds of all varieties. For our project, Kathy had three types of owls available—Barred, Barn and Screech—and ultimately we decided to go with Forest, the Barn Owl. Forest was born in captivity, so he is very comfortable around humans and was more than happy to be filmed by the DMA’s crew.

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Next we had to find a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to go along with the obi (a traditional Japanese sash used with a kimono) we purchased from eBay. Lucky for us, the wonderful people at Holy Kombucha in Fort Worth were more than willing to provide us with a grade-A large SCOBY. While the SCOBY itself is naturally slimy and smelly, it is probiotic, and when used in kombucha it makes for a very tasty health drink; however, in order to exhibit the SCOBY our Objects Conservator dried it in an oven for several hours until it became a tissue-paper thin wafer.

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For those that are curious, the SCOBY will be on view in the Stoffel Gallery, along with video clips representing other pairings from the Bader piece scattered throughout the galleries (included in free general admission!). We have also staged two small interventions outside the gallery spaces that you might encounter on your next trip to the DMA. So if you find an oar in the DMA store, or oats in the DMA donation box, don’t be alarmed . . . it’s only art.

Gabriel Ritter is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Searching for Chanel at the DMA

When Wendy Reves donated a massive collection of over 1,400 objects to the DMA in 1985, it was already known that a few large furniture objects, like the dining table, originally belonged to Coco Chanel. Recently, we began a new quest to see what other objects might have belonged to Mlle Chanel that are currently in the DMA’s collection. To do so, we looked at old photographs from the 1930s and 40s, when the designer lived at Villa La Pausa, in southern France, and tried to match furniture in those photos to what we have today in the Reves Collection. When we found matches, we knew that the objects were left behind by Coco Chanel when she sold La Pausa to Emery and Wendy Reves in the early 1950s. Here are a few examples so you can go see for yourself.

The Entry:
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This chandelier was originally in Coco Chanel’s bedroom, hanging above her bed. Like most people who move, Mlle Chanel didn’t feel the need to take the light fixtures in her home with her. Wendy Reves, however, decided this could not stay in her new bedroom and moved it to the entryway of her home.

hanel’s Bedroom at La Pausa, with the chandelier now in the Reves entry and the desk at the right now serving as a buffet table in the Reves Dining Room.

Chanel’s bedroom at La Pausa, with the chandelier now in the Reves entry and the desk at the right, now serving as a buffet table in the Reves Dining Room

The Dining Room:
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This long table was originally used by Coco Chanel as a desk; however, Wendy decided that this could be useful in another way. She unfolded the leaves and moved it into her dining room to act as a buffet table.

The Grand Hall:
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Mlle Chanel had a set of two matching clocks, this one, which is now hanging in the Grand Hall, and another that hangs above the fireplace in the Reves Salon. When Wendy and Emery Reves moved in, they enjoyed these gold clocks and kept them in their original locations before donating them to the DMA.

Coco’s Great Hall, with the same sunburst clock on the wall.

Coco’s Great Hall, with the same sunburst clock on the wall.

The Library:
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Possibly one of the coolest furniture items in the Reves Collection, this chair actually reclines using steel rods that come out of the handles. You can barely see them here, but pulling them out and pushing them in changes the recline of this chair. It is probably not as comfortable as our plush recliners today, but it was still the prototype. This early version of the recliner was originally in Mlle Chanel’s bedroom.

The Reclining Chair in the Library, shown with the rods pulled out

The reclining chair in the Library, shown with the rods pulled out

The Bedroom:
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Originally in Mlle Chanel’s bedroom at La Pausa, this mirror didn’t travel far when Wendy and Emery Reves moved. They opted to keep it in their own bedroom. Interestingly, this is the only item that belonged to Coco Chanel that is in the Reves Bedroom.

The other side of Coco’s bedroom features the mirror now in the bedroom of the Reves collection as well as the reclining chair now in the library.

The other side of Coco’s bedroom features the mirror now in the Reves Bedroom as well as the reclining chair now in the Library.

The Salon:
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Of the many items in this room that belonged to Coco Chanel, we think that this yellow couch might have originally been covered in a darker fabric and left behind when she sold La Pausa. Wendy liked the color yellow and recovered the couch to fit her tastes. We can see the similarity between them when comparing the side views.

Chanel’s Salon at La Pausa, with the same couch seen from the side.

Chanel’s Salon at La Pausa, with the same couch seen from the side

Michael Hartman is the McDermott Intern for European Art at the DMA.

Teenage Dream: Young Masters

The DMA’s Concourse is filled once again with art created by area AP high school students, and that means it is time for the annual Young Masters exhibition. Since 1994 North Texas art and music students have submitted their work to the O’Donnell Foundation’s AP Arts Incentive Program for a chance to be selected for the exhibition and earn scholarships. Check out this year’s selections, on view through April 27 at the DMA.

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Olympics in the Galleries

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

No, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s ice skater is not executing a complicated triple lutz, soon to be witnessed by billions around the world during the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He is permanently suspended in his upside-down state, having been painted on the verso of a canvas 17 years after the main painting on the other side, Four Wooden Sculptures, which depicts small primitive sculptures. Both sides of this expressionist artist’s painting can currently be seen (the skater requiring a bit of head tilting) in the DMA’s Behind the Scenes exhibition in the Conservation Gallery.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Four Wooden Sculptures (recto), 1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Four Wooden Sculptures (recto), 1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Kirchner’s interest in the movement and agility of the human body began early in his career with depictions of Berlin and Dresden cabarets and circuses. He later found inspiration in the bicyclists who practiced racing at Berlin’s Olympia stadium. The DMA’s skater was painted after the artist moved to the Swiss Alpine mountain town of Frauenkirch, near Davos, where he would spend the last 20 years of his life. The area remains a mecca for cold-weather athletics–Davos is now home to both the Kirchner Museum and the Winter Sports Museum.

In 1930, in his essay “On Life and Work,” Kirchner reflected: “Observation of movement has been for me a particularly fruitful source of creative inspiration. From that observation comes the increased awareness of life which is the source of all artistic works.” For Kirchner, most of his sports experience was only that–observation and then the subsequent depictions thereof. The skater and other works such as Ski-Jumpers (1927) and Ice-Hockey Players (1934) were executed after his physical and mental breakdown. Archery seems to be the one sport that the artist attempted himself. In 1933, he wrote to a friend, “My wife is quite a good shot, too. It is an educational sport which makes people take up beautiful attitudes.”

And here’s a view of Kirchner’s Ice Skater that doesn’t require turning the computer upside down.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30

Read more about the appearance of athletic activity in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s work here.

Reagan Duplisea is the associate registrar, exhibitions at the DMA

Hide and Go Seek: A Behind-the-Scenes Field Trip to Permanent Collection Storage

A few months ago, the seven other McDermott Interns and I toured art storage with Anne Lenhart, associate registrar for the permanent collection. Each year, McDermott Interns explore the storage facilities and get a sneak peek inside the DMA’s collection. We spotted more than a few hidden gems during the tour, which you can find, too, through our DMA Friends program. DMA Friends points can be redeemed for an Into the Deep reward that explores art storage. See snapshots of the secrets of storage below!

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First stop, Main Storage: Adolph Gottlieb’s Orb, 1964, is rolled out for closer inspection. If you would like to see it for yourself, the painting is on view through March in the Museum’s Hoffman Galleries.
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Second stop, Conservation Office: Mark Leonard, chief conservator, works on a painting’s mounting in his old office. With the opening of the Paintings Conservation Studio in November, his work process is now on public display.
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Third stop, Photography: Here works, such as water pitchers, are photographed for publication.
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Fourth stop, Cold Storage: Marc Quinn’s blood heads have never been stored here. If they ever do come to the Museum, we’ll have the proper storage for them!
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Fifth stop: Textile Storage: Textiles are tightly packed on rungs.
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Sixth stop, Large Objects: While some artists do not designate what particular hardware and software to use for digital artworks, some do. We have a nice collection of “ancient” relics.
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Seventh stop, Prop Storage
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Eighth stop: Meso-American and Small Objects Storage: Anne gives Amy Kaczmarek a closer look.
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Temple Shipley is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Crating on Uncrated

Be sure to stop by the DMA by Sunday, January 12, for a last look at Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take. which we were excited to co-organize with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and to premiere in Dallas. Starting bright and early on January 13, DMA staff will begin packing the artworks in preparation for shipping the exhibition to Minnesota . These photos showcase the careful packing methods needed for such fragile and unusual materials.

Jim Hodges, Anymore, 2010, handmade paper and cast paper with Beva adhesive, Lillian and Billy Mauer

Jim Hodges, Anymore, 2010, handmade paper and cast paper with Beva adhesive, Lillian and Billy Mauer

Anymore is pinned into place to prevent movement during transit, and then padded with Tyvek-covered bolsters and archival (acid-free) tissue paper. Anymore packing

Jim Hodges, Untitled (bells), 2002, blown glass in 18 parts, Pizzuti Collection

Jim Hodges, Untitled (bells), 2002, blown glass in 18 parts, Pizzuti Collection

Each of the glass bells is wrapped in Tyvek and surrounded with custom-cut foam collars that fit snugly around the piece. Bells packing

Jim Hodges, Untitled, 2011, mirror on canvas, Penny Pritzker and Bryan Traubert

Jim Hodges, Untitled, 2011, mirror on canvas, Penny Pritzker and Bryan Traubert

The black mirror Untitled hung high on the back wall of the Barrel Vault comes apart into five pieces; each is screwed into the back of a travel frame so that it “floats” and nothing touches its
fragile edges.

Black mirror packing

Jim Hodges, Changing Things, 1997, silk, plastic, and wire, Dallas Museum of Art, Mary Margaret Munson Wilcox Fund and gift of Catherine and Will Rose, Howard Rachofsky, Christopher Drew and Alexandra May, and Martin Posner and Robyn Menter-Posner

Jim Hodges, Changing Things, 1997, silk, plastic, and wire, Dallas Museum of Art, Mary Margaret Munson Wilcox Fund and gift of Catherine and Will Rose, Howard Rachofsky, Christopher Drew and Alexandra May, and Martin Posner and Robyn Menter-Posner

Each of the 342 pieces of the DMA’s own Changing Things artwork is pinned into its numbered spot onto a foam tray inside archival blue-board boxes. The numbers correspond to labeled holes on the plastic template that hangs on the wall for installation.

Changing Things packing

Jim Hodges, the dark gate, 2008, wood, steel, electric light, perfume, paint, flooring, Private Collection

Jim Hodges, the dark gate, 2008, wood, steel, electric light, perfume, paint, and flooring, Private Collection

The many custom bolts that attach the sides, ceiling, and floor panels of the dark gate room are neatly inserted in parallel rows inside their crate. Dark Gate packing

Jim Hodges, Untitled (Gate), 1991, steel, aluminum, copper, brass, paint, electric lighting, Collection of the artist

Jim Hodges, Untitled (Gate), 1991, steel, aluminum, copper, brass, paint, and electric lighting, Collection of the artist

Eleven strips of twill are drilled into the foam backing of Untitled (Gate)’s crate to secure the chains for travel; the charms that hang in the center of the web are further protected by a Tyvek-covered foam sheet.

Gate packing

Jim Hodges, on the way between places, 2009, charcoal and saliva on paper, Collection of the artist (No. 8-21)

Jim Hodges, on the way between places, Nos. 8-21, 2009, charcoal and saliva on paper, Collection of the artist

Due to charcoal’s fragile “friable” (the tendency to flake) nature, it is best that the medium travels flat. These 14 pieces in the series from the artist’s collection are each wrapped and ride inside a
foam slot.
On the way between places packing

Jim Hodges, With the Wind, 1997, scarves and thread, Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman NY, Courtesy The FLAG Art Foundation

Jim Hodges, With the Wind, 1997, scarves and thread, Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman NY, Courtesy The FLAG Art Foundation

To minimize the possibility of wrinkles and protect the fibers of the artwork, With the Wind is wrapped in tissue and rolled around a tube. With the Wind packing

Reagan Duplisea is the associate registrar, exhibitions at the DMA.

A Year of Launches, Anniversaries, and Free at the DMA

The year 2013 has been an exciting one at the DMA. We’ve welcomed more than 540,000 visitors, launched new programs, and hosted 11 exhibitions. Below are a few of the Uncrated team’s favorite highlights from the past year.

      • Going free!
        We returned to free general admission on January 21 and have loved every minute of opening our doors for free to the North Texas community.
      • Getting more than 41,000 new friends
        In January we launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program, and our new friends have been earning points on their visits and redeeming them for unique rewards for almost 12 months!
      • DMA sleepover
        Speaking of unique rewards, we hosted our first DMA Overnight in November. Ten DMA Friends redeemed 100,000 points to spend the night at the Museum with a guest while exploring the galleries after hours, participating in new DMA games and sleeping under the watchful eyes of Tlaloc.
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      • C3 got a facelift
        Come by and see new works of art and activities for all ages in the front gallery of the Center for Creative Connections on Level 1.
      • A sky of denim
        The DMA co-organized exhibition Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take (on view through January 12!) is full of beautiful and interesting works of art, but we had the privilege of being the first venue to ever show his denim work Untitled (one day it all comes true). It was amazing getting to witness Jim Hodges viewing his completed work on display for the first time.
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      • Happy Anniversary!
        This was the year of anniversaries here at the DMA, including the 110th birthday of the DMA, the 80th anniversary of the Dallas Free Public Art Gallery becoming the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the 50th anniversary of the merger of the DMFA and DMCA, the 30th anniversary of the DMA Sculpture Garden opening, the 20th anniversary of the Hamon Building opening (which includes Level 4 and the Atrium), Arturo’s 10th birthday, and the 5th anniversary of C3.
      • From Greece to Dallas
        We had a year of amazing exhibitions, from a celebration of President Kennedy in Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy to the colorful world of Chagall’s sculptures, drawings and costumes in Chagall:Beyond Color, from the famous Discus Thrower from the British Museum in The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece to welcoming the local art community in DallasSITES: Available Space.
      • Art/Arte
        This fall we launched our first-ever bilingual (Spanish and English) guide for visitors, written by members of the Dallas community through a partnership program with AVANCE-Dallas and Make Art With Purpose. Pick one up at the Visitor Services Desk on your next visit.
      • Texas hops and barley
        This summer we had a Texas beer social for Museum staff and sampled brews that come from the Lone Star State. Uncrated team member Melissa Nelson Gonzales out- sipped the competition and won the beer tasting contest!
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      • Eyes of the  Ancestors
        In June we celebrated the publication of our catalogue Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art and welcomed special guest Dhalang Purbo Asmoro, who hosted a public gamelan and wayang performance with musicians from Java, Bali and New York. This month, the book was named the winner of the 2013 International Tribal Art Book Prize.
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      • Creative rest stop
        We launched a new program this year, the Pop-Up Art Spot, taking C3 into the galleries and inviting visitors to enjoy a creative break while exploring the Museum. Over 12,000 visitors of all ages have participated in drawing, writing and other creative activities!
      • New digs
        In 2013 a portion of the south end of the building was under renovation for the new DMA Paintings Conservation Studio (watch the transition here). Visitors can see into the DMA’s Conservation Studio and explore the conservation process in the adjacent gallery for free during Museum hours. A recent conservation project, Daniel Buren’s Sanction of the Museum, hangs in the Concourse and leads the way to the studio.
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      • A Texas-size howdy!
        Our Visitor Services Team, which greets every guest of the DMA when they walk through our doors or visit the galleries, also got a makeover. You may have noticed their friendly smiles and new outfits during your visits this year.
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Thank you for helping us make 2013 a great year. We wish you a very happy new year!

Kimberly Daniell is the manager of communications and public affairs at the DMA.

Our Living Christmas Tree

Last week, we introduced you to Russell Sublette, mountmaker extraordinaire, who is usually happy to be the invisible hand behind the displays at the Museum. But once a year, during the holiday season, he comes out from behind the scenes to become the “Living Christmas Tree.” He adorns himself with garlands, lights, and decorations, and then recruits helper elves (oftentimes unsuspecting McDermott Interns) to carol and spread holiday cheer throughout the DMA.

The tradition started in 1989, when one of the DMA registrars was upset that she had forgotten a Christmas tree to decorate the office. Sublette wanted to cheer her up, so he said, “How about I become a tree?” Since then, the annual event sees co-workers pushing him on a flat cart, toting armloads of cords for the lights and music, around the office hallways, spreading holiday cheer.

“Whenever I do it, I picture myself as Charlie Brown,” Sublette says.

Below is a video of 2013′s “Living Christmas Tree” roaming the DMA halls.


Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Reagan Duplisea is associate registrar of exhibitions at the DMA.


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