Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

Listen Hear

The Center for Creative Connections (C3) has been working closely with our Manager of Access Programs, Emily Wiskera, to create new sensory activities at each of the Pop-Up Art Spots. This month we have added a new activity to our Pop-Up Art Spot in the 18th-Century European Gallery. The works of art on view in this gallery are so epic they feel like they are straight out of a movie. So, we invited local musicians Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko to compose one-minute “film scores” for four of the works of art on view. Here’s a sneak peek of two of them:

Claude-Joseph Vernet, A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm, 1775, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund 1983.41.FA

Claude-Joseph Vernet, A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm, 1775, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 1983.41.FA

Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust, The Harp Lesson, 1791, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund 2015.10.FA

Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust, The Harp Lesson, 1791, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 2015.10.FA

Stop by the Pop-Up Art Spot on Saturdays between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. or on Late Night between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m., check out an iPod, and listen to these mesmerizing sounds as you look closely at these works of art.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

Mask Mysteries

Before I arrived at the DMA, I wasn’t quite sure what my daily tasks as the McDermott Intern for African Art would entail. I certainly never expected to be sitting in on a biomedical engineering lecture at UT Southwestern studying a CT scan—but this was no ordinary CT scan: it was a scan of the DMA’s helmet mask (komo) from the Senufo peoples of Côte d’Ivoire.

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The purpose of this scan was to discover the contents of the horns that decorate the mask, as well as any other ritual materials that may have been placed within the structure. The scan showed the horns contained many small objects, including animal jaws and a variety of organic matter. With this information in hand, I hit the books in an attempt to understand why these objects would be chosen for use in a mask such as this one. As the Komo society is a secret knowledge society, details of masking traditions are not frequently shared; however, I was able to compile some information from Boureima T. Diamitani, scholar and Komo society member, to help contextualize the mask and the mysterious contents of its horns.

Helmet mask (komo), mid–20th century, wood, glass, animal horns, fiber, and mirrors, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley 1997.24

Helmet mask (komo), Cote d’Ivoire, Senufo peoples, mid-20th century, wood, glass, animal horns, fiber, and mirrors, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley, 1997.24

The komo is believed to be a spirit above humans who possesses supernatural powers and is sent by God (Kle) to protect members of the secretive Komo society. The komo performs a masquerade that today functions as both a divination ritual and a form of entertainment.

The origin of the Komo society is found in a story in which a hunter and his dog encountered and killed a frightening beast in the forest. The hunter brought the beast’s head back to the village to entertain the townspeople, thus becoming the first komotigui, or owner of the Komo. The mask form is taken from the appearance of the beast killed by the hunter. Today, the mask is most often worn during performances by the son of the komotigui or the son of the blacksmith who carved it.

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Blacksmiths carve komo masks from one piece of bugusulu softwood, a tree used exclusively for this purpose. As females and uninitiated males are not permitted to see the mask, the blacksmith must himself be a member of the Komo society and must carve the mask in the forest, out of sight of the village. The mask, carved over the course of three days, is sculpted with small wooden horns, which are then fitted with animal horns. The choice to carve the mask with horns is an important one: since relatively few animals have horns, the addition of horns emphasizes the strangeness and power associated with this creature. Upon completion, the carver relinquishes all responsibilities for the mask to the new komotigui, who may choose to add porcupine quills, more horns, feathers, or any other element he chooses; these additions distinguish particular masks from one another. A competitive spirit between komotiguis is a catalyst for artistic production and the various styles of many komo masks.

Due to the personal preference involved in decorating the mask, we cannot be sure of the significance of each element that was found in the horns. Many komotiguis chose to place powerful substances such as medicine or poison inside of the horns due to the aggressiveness and fear associated with them. This implies that the substances that filled the horns likely held some type of ritual significance to Komo society members and were believed to increase the potency of the Komo society as well as the mask itself.

Although we do not yet have all of the answers regarding the materials contained in this mask, or the reason that each specific item was chosen, we are on our way to a better understanding of the context of this mask’s creation. Further, this experience has immensely broadened my outlook on the ways in which science, technology, and the arts can work together to draw important cultural conclusions.

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Megan Zembower is the McDermott Intern for African Art at the DMA.

References:
Diamitani, Boureima Tiekoroni.  1999.  Identities, Komo Societies, and Art Among the Tagwa Senufo of Burkina Faso (Doctoral Dissertation).
Diamitani, Boureima T.  “The Insider and the Ethnography of Secrecy:  Challenges of Collecting Data on the Fearful Komo of the Tagwa-Senufo.”  The African Archaeological Review 28, no. 1 (2011):  55-70.
Diamitani, Boureima Tiékoroni.  “Observing Komo among Tagwa People in Burkina Faso:  A Burkinabe Art Historian’s Views.”  African Arts 41, no. 3 (2008):  14-25.

Let’s Dance

We’ve been lucky over the past year to partner with Dance for PD® on a collaborative program offered each month here at the DMA in which members of the local Dance for PD/Movement Disorders class have been immersed in gallery discussions, interactive dance, and movement. To facilitate the program, DMA educators team up with Misty Owens, a Dance for PD® founding teacher at the Mark Morris Dance Group, who has been teaching the specialized classes since 2003 in Brooklyn, New York, and locally throughout the Dallas Metroplex since 2011.

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Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects up to one million people in the United States. Someone with the disease may have tremors, slowed movement, rigid muscles, and impaired posture and balance. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, one of the most important recommendations is to stay active, focusing on balance and flexibility. Dance for PD® engages the participants’ minds and bodies, and creates an enjoyable social environment that emphasizes dancing rather than therapy. Owens’ expertise in dance allows for active demonstration to inspire participants to recapture grace, while guided improvisation inspired by works of art in the collection fosters creativity and experimentation with movement. Participants not only have the chance to learn and talk about art, but to move their bodies and dance in the galleries!

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Pat Goukler, one of the Dallas dancers, said of her experience, “I don’t have PD, but my husband does, so I do this with him. I’ve seen him develop a creativity that I hadn’t seen in 48 years of marriage. He looks at a piece of art and interprets it with his body. It is phenomenal; he has developed rhythm. It has been a joy to watch him experience a new way of expressing himself through art.”

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Another member of the class said the Dance for PD program at the DMA “gave us all a new lease on life WITHOUT Parkinson’s. Yes, that’s possible!” Another stated that the experience “made my body feel so free. There were moments (quite a few, actually) when my body and mind felt so graceful and calm. The beauty of art and movement go together so well—I was surrounded by a joyous feeling!”

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The opportunity to collaborate with Owens has allowed the DMA to engage with people from the Parkinson’s disease community in a way that we’ve never done before. The participants in the program are already focusing on movement, flexibility, and balance, which are essential to those with Parkinson’s disease, but having the class in the DMA galleries enables them to connect their dancing to visual works of art, providing them another avenue of inspiration—a meaningful experience for all involved!

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Amanda Blake is Interim Director of Education and the Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences at the DMA.

In Collaboration

The Center for Creative Connections (C3) has a long history of partnering with artists and organizations to create meaningful experiences for our visitors. These partnerships have taken many forms, from interactive installations and performances to hands-on workshops and classes. In fall 2016, we did things a little differently—we invited artists to propose to us programs and projects for collaboration. The education team voted to work with Janeil Engelstad, Christopher Blay, Lisa Huffaker, and the collaborative pair xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman in 2017. We’re excited to introduce them to you here:

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Janeil Engelstad, January–March 2017

Collaboratively and independently, Janeil Engelstad has produced exhibitions and multiform projects throughout the world. Her creative practice and community advocacy work often dovetail into work that addresses political, social, and environmental concerns through writing and the visual arts. She is the Founding Director of MAP – Make Art with Purpose, an organization that produces projects at the intersection of art and other disciplines including science, technology, education, and social justice activism. Engelstad’s projects have been supported and produced with a variety of partner organizations, including 9e2 Seattle, Art Margins/MIT, California Museum of Photography, Central European Foundation, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Dallas Museum of Art, International Center for Photography, Kunsthalle Stanica Žilina-Záriečie, Oboro/Montreál, San Francisco Camerawork, US Department of State, and others.

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Christopher Blay, April–June 2017

Christopher Blay is an artist, writer, and curator with a BFA from Texas Christian University. He runs the Art Corridor Gallery at Tarrant County College Southeast and reviews art for the Fort Worth Weekly Magazine. His work incorporates video, sculpture, and performance. His most recent work, KWTXR, is based on the fictional character Kara Walker – Texas Ranger and responds to historical violence against African Americans by law enforcement officers. Other recent projects include Cos N!&&@^$ Can’t Breathe at the Lakeview Gallery, The Seven Deadly Things at 500X Gallery, Satellites at CentralTrak Gallery, and two ongoing public art projects in Dallas’s Coombs Creek Park and East Rosedale Avenue, Fort Worth. In 2013, Blay received the SMU Meadows Museum’s Moss/Chumley Award.

Lisa Huffaker, July - September 2017

Lisa Huffaker, July–September 2017

Lisa Huffaker is an opera singer by training, but her creative practice has exploded into poetry, visual art, and bookmaking. She founded White Rock Zine Machine, offering tiny books by Dallas writers and artists, sold in whimsically repurposed vending machines. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Southwest Review, Measure, and Poet Lore. She sings with the Dallas Opera and teaches creative writing in museums, art studios, youth shelters, and libraries.

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Sabrina Starnaman and xtine burrough, October–December 2017

Dr. Sabrina Starnaman is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Literary Studies and the Acting Director of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her research focuses on Progressive Era (1880–1930) American texts about social settlements and women’s activism, urbanism, and disability. Central to Starnaman’s research agenda is exploring how 19th-century activists remediated exploitative labor practices, racism, and poverty. She is interested in finding ways that their historical solutions, often implemented locally, can be brought to bear on similar problems in the 21st century.

xtine burrough is a new media artist, author, and educator. She has authored or edited several books including Foundations of Digital Art and Design (2013), Net Works: Case Studies in Web Art and Design (2011), and The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies (2015). She is the Editor of the Visual Communication Quarterly, and an Associate Professor in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas. Her awards include a Webby Honoree, a Terminal commission, and grants from the UK Big Lottery fund and California Humanities. Her recent projects recover feminist texts through mediation and reimagine virtual crowd workers as bodies with agency.

Upon meeting at UT Dallas in fall 2016, Starnaman and burrough discovered a shared passion for embodiment, literature, and the working class. The two became fast friends and quickly set forth to merge burrough’s interventions with crowdsourcing platforms with Starnaman’s expertise in literature, history, and labor. Together they are working on “The Laboring Self,” a project funded in part by Humanities Texas.

Check back next month for a highlight of Janeil Engelstad and the project she is undertaking during her time as a C3 Visiting Artist.

Applications for 2018 will be made available later this year.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

2016 in a Flash

It’s been a busy year at the DMA. From the opening of Eagle Family Plaza to the hiring of Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the new Eugene McDermott Director, my cameras have not taken a break! Now, I get that this is pictures of the year, but before we get to the photos, let’s run some numbers (Because who doesn’t love math when you’re trying to look at pictures).

Since January 5, 2016, I’ve photographed between 140-150 assignments. After a quick scan of all my folders from 2016 and some elementary-school-level math, my approximate total for photos taken this year is give-or-take 20,000.

With a little help from accounting, factoring that we work about 260 days a year, that’s an average of 77 photos every day. It’s also about 150 gigabytes of data for our computer savvy audience.

Clearly, a small fraction of the frames I take actually end up being used for our publications, ads, blogs, and more, but still, that’s a lot! In those 20,000 photos are celebrities, artists, politicians, dignitaries, and of course our amazing visitors. But, as corny as it may sound, nothing makes my day more than taking a photo of a group of kids creating art in the C3, a new mom holding her baby in the Young Learners gallery, or someone with their eyes glued to a painting in the DMA’s galleries.

These images range from some of the most momentous occasions we’ve had in 2016, to some fun behind-the-scenes moments and even just some of my personal favorites. Either way, I can’t wait for the next 20,000.

Greg Castillo is the Multimedia Producer at the DMA

Sights, Sounds, and Smells

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Recently, the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections team and our Manager of Access Programs, Emily Wiskera, put their heads together to develop a new Pop-Up Art Spot with sensory-based activities. On Saturdays in December, pop in to the Museum to see Passages in Modern Art: 1946-1996 for FREE in the Barrel Vault Gallery on Level 1 and enhance your art experience.

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With these Sensory Squares, you can explore what works of art might feel like if we were allowed to touch them. Look at nearby works of art as you feel each square and consider which works you think relate to each texture.

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Check out a bag of scent bottles and a ring of art cards. Sample the scents and reflect on what memories or images come to mind when you smell them. Find each work of art on the cards provided and compare the scents to the artwork. Which scents do you connect with each work of art?

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Interested in origami? Pick up a piece of paper and try your hand at figuring out the folds Dorothea Rockburne made to create the form in Locus Series #6.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

Sensory Sensation

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At the DMA, you can currently visit Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, featuring works from the extensive holdings of the Brooklyn Museum. The appeal of an exhibition about both cats and ancient Egypt seemed like the perfect opportunity for the DMA to experiment with a multisensory interpretive space within an exhibition setting, essentially creating a satellite, smaller-scale Center for Creative Connections (C3). While C3 is an experimental space focused on innovative and diverse ways of interpreting a selection of DMA artworks, the Divine Felines Creative Connections Gallery is intended to contextualize the exhibition through a variety of interpretive interactives. In this space, visitors can step up to a listening station and hear tales of the Egyptian deities, sniff incenses that would have filled ancient temples, or see a real mummy and watch a film about mummification.

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This diagram shows the layout of the 1,600 square feet of gallery space at the back of the Divine Felines exhibition.

This educational gallery also provides DMA staff with insight into our visitors’ interests and preferences. The more we know about our visitors’ expectations and interests, the more equipped we are to provide them with meaningful gallery interactives. First, we keep track of the number of visitors who enter the Divine Felines Creative Connections Gallery and compare it to the total number of visitors to the exhibition. In October, nearly 70% of visitors to the exhibition entered the Creative Connections Gallery. And, interestingly, Thursdays saw the highest percentage of visitors entering the space.

Additionally, three days a week for two hours at a time, we observe visitors in the gallery to determine which activities they interact with and how long they engage within the space. To structure our observations, we created a tracking sheet (see image above) where we note participation in specific activities and the total duration of their visit to the space. Our system of tracking notes depth of engagement within an activity. For example, in relation to the short film about mummification we are curious to know if the visitor:

  • Reads the label outside of the film room.
  • Enters the film room.
  • Sits down on the bench.
  • Watches the whole film.

Finally, we ask half of the visitors we observe if they are willing to take a quick survey on an iPad. The questions we ask relate to visitors’ motivations for entering the educational space and what components visitors would like to see in future educational spaces.

So far, we’ve noticed a few interesting trends. In October, for example, the majority of observed visitors spent time looking at the mummy or Thoth sculpture and visited the scent bar. Here is the breakdown of how many visitors participated in each activity in October.
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Other data points to date:

  • Visitors spent an average of 10 minutes in the space.
  • Over 70% of visitors entered the gallery with a group; 30% were alone.
  • On average, visitors smelled 8 out of the 10 fragrances at the scent bar.
  • On average, visitors listened to 2 out of the 5 stories at the listening station.
  • Slightly more visitors picked up the all-ages self-guide than the family guide.
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*Note: Visitors were able to choose more than one response.

We would love your feedback, too. What educational tools would you like to see at the DMA?

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA. Andrea Severin Goins is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.


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