Posts Tagged 'education'

An American Art Education

Two of our talented McDermott Interns have been busy working on some new projects, both involving our collection of American art.

Alexandra Vargo: As the McDermott Education Intern for Gallery Teaching, I work with school tours, adult tours, teachers, and the volunteer docent corps. Currently, I’m working on a Docent Guide for the Museum’s collection of colonial to modern American art. The guide focuses on creating interactive and versatile experiences that can be presented with any number of objects and age groups. I have been testing these activities with school tours ranging from 3rd graders to high school art students throughout my internship.

The “Make Your Own Profile” exercise has been one of the most fun to create. It is based on Facebook and asks students to think creatively about a portrait of their choice within the American collection. Students use close looking and visual evidence to draw conclusions about the personality and backstory of the subject. Check out some of the examples below:

Pilar Wong: As the McDermott Education Intern for Community Teaching, I work with Go van Gogh®, our art education outreach program. I am currently working on revamping our 5th and 6th grade program titled Picturing American History. The program focuses on artworks in the DMA’s collection that reflect important moments in American history.

Piero Fornasetti, Richard Ginori Porcelain, Le retour (The Return) plate from the "Man in Space" series, designed 1966, porcelain, transfer-printed, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Michael L. Rosenberg

The Return plate from the Man in Space series, Piero Fornasetti, designer, Richard Ginori Porcelain, manufacturer, designed 1966, porcelain, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Michael L. Rosenberg

After discussing the five artworks, students make commemorative plates that capture a modern-day current event or social issue. This activity is based on The Return, a plate from the Man in Space series that commemorates the Space Race between the United States and the former USSR. Check out some of the kids’ responses below:

Projects like these provide valuable contributions to our ongoing educational work at the Museum and remain in use long after our McDermott Interns have left the DMA.

Alexandra Vargo is the McDermott Education Intern for Gallery Teaching and Pilar Wong is the McDermott Education Intern for Community Teaching at the DMA.

The Art (and Archaeology) of Good Cheer

Known as the “Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages,” Dr. Patrick McGovern is a world-renowned expert on the origins of ancient fermented drinks and a leader in the emerging field of biomolecular archaeology. On Thursday evening, he will present the history of wine in a lecture entitled Uncorking the Past, part of the Museum’s Boshell Family Lecture Series on Archaeology. Dr. McGovern tells us more about his unique archaeological research.

Dr. McGovern in his laboratory, examining a 3000-year-old millet wine, which was preserved inside a tightly lidded bronze vessel from a Chinese tomb. Photo: Penn Museum.

You oversee the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology – a leader in this cutting-edge field. What type of research do you conduct at the lab?

The Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory has been at the forefront of the revolution in uncovering the organic underpinnings of our species on this planet. We analyze ancient fermented beverages, foods, perfumes, dyes (such as Royal Purple), and other organics, which could only be imagined from ancient writings, using highly sensitive instruments in the laboratory (infrared spectrometry, gas and liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, etc.). Molecular archaeology promises to open up whole new chapters relating to our human ancestry and genetic development, cuisine, medical practice, and other crafts over the past two million or more years.

Where do you find evidence of ancient food and drink, and what tools and technologies do you use to analyze that evidence?

Pottery, which is virtually indestructible and goes back to between 5000 and 13,000 B.C. in various parts of the world, absorbs ancient organics and is crucial to our research. By using organic solvents, we “tease out” the ancient organics, and then go to work with our battery of scientific instruments. Sometimes we work directly from residues, either deposited inside vessels of various materials or deposited elsewhere (e.g., on bones, textiles, etc.).

Dr. McGovern peers into a wine jar dating to 5400 - 5000 B.C. Photo: courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

In the course of your work, what has been your most surprising discovery?

There have been many, but the discovery of Royal Purple and the earliest resinated wine from Iran (circa 5400 B.C.) are two highlights.

Your academic background is varied, and you have degrees in both chemistry and archaeology. How did you become interested in the history of fermented beverages?

It was very serendipitous. As I moved from inorganic to organic chemical analysis of archaeological materials, we were successful in first detecting Royal Purple, a highly stable compound that had been preserved for over 3,000 years. This gave us the confidence to move on to wine, beer, and other materials. Grape wine was first, and came about when an associate, Virginia Badler, showed us shards of large jars from an early Iranian site (Godin Tepe) with residues inside that she believed to be wine deposits. She proved to be right, and the rest is history.

After the lecture on Thursday, we will have the opportunity to sample wines from Burgundy, as well as an artisan beer called Midas Touch. Please tell us about the beer, which was inspired by analysis you did on objects found in the tomb of the legendary King Midas.

It all started over fifty years ago with a tomb, the Midas Tumulus, in central Turkey at the ancient site of Gordion, which was excavated by the Penn Museum in 1957. Within that tomb, buried deep down in the center of a large mound, excavators found the body of a 60- to 65-year-old male, who had died normally. He lay on a thick pile of blue- and purple-dyed textiles, the colors of royalty in the ancient Near East. The excavators had found what would become one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of the 20th century – they had located what has since been identified as the tomb of Gordion’s most famous son, King Midas.

“King Midas” laid out in state on piles of purple- and blue-dyed textiles inside his coffin, from the northwest, with the large bronze drinking set in the background. Photo: courtesy of the Gordion Project, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Inside the tomb, surrounding the body, were 157 bronze vessels, including large vats, jugs, and drinking bowls that had been used in the final farewell dinner for the king outside the tomb. The body was then lowered into the tomb, along with the remains of the food and drink, to sustain him for eternity.

Surprising, none of the 157 drinking vessels were made of gold. Where then was the gold if this was the burial of Midas with the legendary golden touch? In fact, the bronze vessels, once the bronze corrosion was removed, gleamed just like the precious metal. The real gold, as far as I was concerned, was what these vessels contained – the remains of an ancient beverage, which was intensely yellow, just like gold. Chemical analyses of the residues – teasing out the ancient molecules – provided the answer: the beverage was a highly unusual mixture of grape wine, barley beer, and honey mead.

Jars filled with the spicy stew, served at the funerary feast of King Midas, can be seen inside one of the large vats. They were placed there after the fermented beverage, which they initially contained, had been served at the funerary banquet. These “left-overs” might have been intended for sustenance for the king in the afterlife. Photo: courtesy of the Gordion Project, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

You may cringe at the thought of mixing together wine, bee,r and mead, as I did originally. That’s when I got the idea to do some experimental archaeology. In essence, this means trying to replicate the ancient method by taking the clues we have and trying out various scenarios in the present. In the process, you hope to learn more about how the ancient beverage was made. To speed things up, I also decided to have a competition among microbrewers to try to reverse-engineer and see if it was even possible to make something drinkable from such a weird concoction of ingredients. Soon, experimental brews started arriving on my doorstep for me to taste – not a bad job, if you can get it, but not all the entries were that tasty.

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery ultimately triumphed. The beverage has since gone from one triumph to the next. Dogfish is the fastest growing microbrewery in the country, and “Midas Touch” has become its most awarded beverage.

Original Dogfish Head Brewery label for Midas Touch beer. Photo: courtesy of Dogfish Head Brewery

Be sure to watch Dr. McGovern and the team from Dogfish Head Brewery on The Discovery Channel’s Brew Masters, which chronicles their travels around the world searching for exotic ingredients and discovering ancient techniques to produce their award-winning beers.

Patrick E. McGovern is Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. His books include Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture and Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages. His research on the origins of alcoholic beverages has been featured in Time, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Nature, and numerous other publications.

A Foot in the Door

 

2009 - 2010 McDermott Intern Stacie Jackson leads a tour of "The Lens of Impressionism"

 

What do Madeleine Albright, Frank Lloyd Wright, Sylvia Plath, and Conan O’Brien have in common? They all started on their career paths as interns, just as many museum curators and educators do. Internships offer invaluable opportunities to try a potential profession on for size; for those who wish to explore a career in museum work, internships provide a great way to gain firsthand experience and insights.

 

Leticia Salinas, 2009 - 2010 McDermott Intern for Family Experiences, leads a family workshop in the galleries.

 

Over one hundred people have participated in the Dallas Museum of Art’s McDermott Internship program since its inception, including many current DMA staff members as well as colleagues working at other institutions in Dallas, throughout Texas, and across the country. Each year, eight interns work closely with the Museum’s curators and educators on a variety of projects, including doing research for upcoming installations or exhibitions; writing labels, catalogue entries, and other materials; and developing and facilitating programs for Museum visitors of all ages.

The program was founded in honor of Eugene McDermott, who had a passion for learning and the arts, and the interns have the remarkable opportunity to visit with Margaret McDermott to inaugurate their internship year. Our current interns recently had lunch with Mrs. McDermott, and she encouraged them to “work hard, learn a lot, and have fun” during their nine months at the DMA and in Dallas.

Shannon Karol worked with Dr. Roslyn A. Walker, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art, as a McDermott Curatorial Intern in 2005–2006, and she returned to the DMA as Coordinator of Museum Visits in 2007. I asked Shannon about her experience as a McDermott Intern, and she said:

The best part of being a McDermott Intern is that you are truly a member of the DMA staff.  Even though I was a Curatorial Intern, I was able to collaborate with staff members in the Collections and Education departments on projects and installations. I also love the sense of camaraderie that you feel as a McDermott Intern. My fellow interns from that year are still some of my closest friends!

 

Shannon leads a tour of "All the World's a Stage"

 

Logan Acton worked with the Teaching Programs staff last year as a McDermott Education Intern, and he accepted a permanent position as Assistant to the Director of Education this summer. Logan said, “As an intern, I was able to explore the Museum’s collections and share my growing knowledge of them, and particularly my passion for contemporary art, with students and other visitors.” You can read more from Shannon and Logan on the DMA Educator Blog.

 

Logan discusses contemporary art at a Teacher Workshop.

 

Eight new McDermott Interns began their nine-month tenure at the DMA in September, and they will all contribute to Uncrated in the months to come. We look forward to sharing their experiences and insights about life and work at the DMA. You can join the interns, along with other members of the DMA staff, to explore the Museum’s collections and exhibitions during weekly gallery talks on Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m.

 

Welcome to the 2010 - 2011 McDermott Interns!

 

Lisa Kays is the Manager of Adult Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art

Finger Painting

Imagine visiting the Dallas Museum of Art to see your favorite painting by Claude Monet or Jackson Pollock. Now imagine how you might experience those works without your vision. How would you “see” them? That’s exactly what I did at a workshop with artist John Bramblitt, and this is what visitors to the Museum’s Center for Creative Connections will have a chance to experience in October when John rejoins us as the Artist of the Month.

John as our guest artist during a summer camp this year.

October is Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month, organized by Art Education for the Blind to make art and culture a part of life for adults and children affected by sight loss. At the DMA, we’re planning some cool programs for kids and adults with vision impairment, but we’ll also repeat a family workshop that I took with John that shows how we can make art using our other senses.

John leading a family workshop last October.

Always passionate about art, John didn’t begin to paint until he lost his sight almost ten years ago while in his late 20s. His work is intensely personal, taken from real people and events in his life. And his art-making workshops are unique, spanning the gap between beginning and professional artists, and including adaptive techniques for people with disabilities.

DMA campers learning more about John's method for sightless painting.

He’s developed a method of sightless painting that centers on the textures of paint in order to distinguish the color of it. When I worked with him, we mixed flour into the red paint, birdseed into the yellow, and sand into the white, and added nothing to the blue. We put on a blindfold and were asked to imagine what we would be painting, to “see” it first in our mind’s eye. Then, touching the colors and using our fingers, we painted.

The texture of the paint lets the families know what color they are using.

This workshop, and many more exciting hands-on activities with John, will be held at the Museum during October. For more information, visit http://www.dm-art.org/Family/AccessPrograms/index.htm . To learn more about John Bramblitt, visit www.bramblitt.net.

Amanda Blake is Manager of Family Experiences and Access Programs at the Dallas Museum of Art

Q&A with a DMA Docent

We have a corps of over one hundred volunteer docents who lead tours for students K-12 as well as for our adult visitors. They play an important role at the DMA, introducing our collections to museum-goers and sharing their passion for the beauty and importance of art. We are proud of their hard work and dedication and would like to introduce you to several of them over the coming months.

First up, meet Tom Matthews. Who knows, you might even run into him the next time you’re in the galleries. Rumor has it that he and his fellow docents spend a lot of their free time enjoying the art.

Number of years as a docent at the DMA: 10

A little bit about me: When I was a boy, my father piqued my interest in art by taking me to the Art Institute of Chicago. Though not trained in art, my father – an attorney – had a keen eye and did much reading on his own. His comments about art and artists stirred a life-long fascination for me. In my adult years, this interest continued. On family vacations, we usually stopped – often despite the protest of our daughters – at museums. My understanding was deepened by a twenty-five-volume series the Met in New York did for the public on art history and appreciation. While I was serving as pastor of a church in the coal fields of western Pennsylvania, a highlight of the month would be the arrival of one of these volumes. My wife alerted me to the docent program by referring me to an article in the Dallas Morning News.

My favorite experience as a docent at the DMA: I feel I have succeeded as a docent when I have “opened” a piece of art for the viewer. What does it feel like to be a griever in Jacob Lawrence’s Visitors or to “walk” as one of the figures in Giacometti’s sculpture? Assisting others in engaging with a work of art brings me satisfaction.

My three favorite works of art to share with visitors at the DMA:


Shiva Nataraja, India, 11th century: The dancing figure, holding strange objects and surrounded by a ring of fire, mystifies and entices.


Oedipus at Colonus, Jean-Antoine-Theodore Giroust, 1788: The story of Oedipus always commands attention. Giroust captures the pathos of the final moments.


Genesis, the Gift of Life, Miguel Covarrubias, 1954: Viewers are fascinated by the colors, imagery, and technique of mosaic making.

If you would like more information on the docent program at the Dallas Museum of Art, click here.


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