Monday, July 26, 2010

PERKS OF WORKING AT AIC

So, I'm not sure if it has been quite stressed enough - but I LOVE THIS JOB. In addition to seeing amazing works of art all day, every day - having a back stage pass to the museum is almost worth more than the art itself, metaphorically speaking that is...

Over the course of the last four weeks, we have had regularly scheduled museum practices seminars in which different departments have come to us, as well as welcomed us into their spaces letting us quite honestly pick their brains on the ins, outs, ups, and downs of working at this institution. So far we have met with
  • Mark Pascale, curator of Prints and Drawings, 
  • Bob Eskridge, Executive Director of Museum Education
  • Public Affairs and Marketing
  • Development
  • The Teens and Library Program
  • Kate Bussard and Liz Siegel, curators of Photography
  • Conservation
and that's only the beginning - we have yet to meet with Contemporary Art, Security, Art Packing, and the director of the museum Jim Cuno himself!!! In case you can't tell - I really, really, really like the Museum Practices Seminars. Don't get me wrong, touring has been an absolute blast, so has the research, but understanding how the museum functions is completely fascinating.

Some highlights of our meetings have included:
- Telling PR/Marketing about our twitter and having them in return give our twitter unbelievable press.
- Seeing some of the amazing creative work done by the high school interns through the program After School Matters.
- Going into the refrigerated rooms in photography with the curators (I SAW A BOX OF CINDY SHERMAN'S AND ALMOST CRIED) - they store the black and white photographs at about 60 degrees fahrenheit, and the color photographs at 40.
- Jen receiving a copy of the book published from the Victorian Photocollage Exhibition, because she loved it and Liz Siegel curated it.
- Having Mark Pascale pull out two different editions of rare Toulouse Lautrec posters, a Degas pastel drawing, Bruce Nauman color screenprints, a Charles Ray marker drawing, a Miro print - and we have been invited to come back and have prints pulled out for us (I know I want to see some Warhol!!).
Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Bruant in His Cabaret, 1893
Edgar Degas, Landscape with Smokestacks, 1890
Bruce Nauman, Study for Holograms, 1970
Charles Ray, Untitled, 2003

- Getting a private walk/talk from Mark Pascale at the See America First Exhibition.
- Seeing Manet's Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers both on the wall and up close and personal in restoration mode at Conservation.
Edouard Manet, Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers, 1865
- Seeing the lovely Chagall Windows being cleaned in preparation for their return to display this coming fall!! 
Marc Chagall, America Windows, 1977

- Getting several different scientific and historical private consultations on works being cleaned, restored, and prepared by preparators in Conservation.
    And we still haven't seen it all! We also had the opportunity to attend a Town Hall meeting in the Fullerton Auditorium, which was totally and completely AWESOME. Basically, representatives from various departments present to other employees updates, ideas, new exhibitions, and marketing campaigns. It was really, really, really cool.

    What I'm trying to say is - the behind the scenes aspects of AIC are just as fascinating and interesting at the works in the galleries. Learning day by day all that goes into the functionality of the museum is one of the major perks of interning here, and for that I and the other interns are completely grateful! 

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Best Intern Duo Part II

    David recently published a blog entry about how he and I make the best intern pair ever, which at this point I have to agree with. We both think well on our toes, have great senses of humor, and love talking about art with anyone who will listen.

    Oh and we accidentally wore the same exact outfit to work today.


    Call it fate, or maybe just a real appreciation for salmon colored bottoms - we were all very surprised and mortified to walk into the docent room and realize that we have been spending a little too much time together...

    Tales from the "Plus One"

    The "Plus One" is finally coming out of the woodwork and onto the blog! I know I've been a little slow on this, but am excited to finally write an entry! To clarify, I'm a little separate from the other interns - I'm here as the guinea pig (or "Plus One") for a budding partnership with Randolph College, and are doing other projects in addition to giving tours.

    While my "home" is in Teacher Programs, I've gotten a taste of all divisions of the department. I was trained with the other interns (the whirl-wind two-week department overview!), but have been doing various projects and workshops. One thing I've been doing a lot of is working the Artist's Studio with Family Programs, which is fun. It's so interesting to observe parents work with their children on art projects. Some just sit there and read, or get on their phone. Others help their children and make suggestions. Some try to make the project for them, or tell them how to create it. Others make one themselves, and get REALLY into it. My favorite though, are the adults who come in and are pleasantly surprised by the project. I introduced the activity to a group the other night, and told the adults with the children they could make one too. One woman in particular denied pretty firmly that she would participate ("oh, I'll just let them have fun"), but at the end of the night they were one of the last tables still working. I went over to tell them it was getting time to clean up, and the same woman looked up at me (surprised that the time had gone by so quickly, I think) and said exasperately, "Creativity takes time!" Why yes, yes it does.

    Another program I've participated in recently was the Digital Storytelling workshop with Teacher Programs. This was tons of fun - I went up into the galleries with them the first day, and listened to some of their insights on contemporary pieces. It was good to hear some new voice, and since many of them were art teachers they weren't afraid to approach (at least not that I could tell). I also helped to answer technological questions when they were creating their own Digital Stories. (as a side note: if any future interns are reading this I hope you have some experience on a Mac; if not get some ASAP). Surprisingly it took a good deal of time, as many had never used a Mac computer before so that was a challenge. Nonetheless, it was rewarding to see how creative and nicely done their own digital stories were, especially for only having a few hours to work on (and some had never used the programs!).

    One similarity I have with the other interns is that I'm also giving tours. I've given a total of 2 (one student, one adult) with two more of the same type to go! As I've only given two, I'm not sure which audience I like better (I should probably have a bit more experience before I judge that), but my adult tour today went pretty smoothly. The tour was on Asian Art, something that I have no formal training or background in. Yikes! Luckily, the audience was very engaged and made my job pretty easy. Annie was also a great support, and I learned a lot just from watching her interact with the audience.

    Next week, amidst all the craziness (another teacher program and more on-going projects), I also have an ABCs tour with little kids with Kate. I am SO EXCITED! After hearing all the other interns talk about how adorable the younger crowd is, I can't wait to see for myself!

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    ¡Olé! A Spanish Victory on Two Fronts...

    Photo: Me, presenting the "Old Guitarist" with Natalie

    This past Sunday, it just so happened that the national soccer team of Spain—the birthplace of Penelope Cruz, Ferdinand and Isabella, and a slice of heaven known as “Tortilla Española”—won the world cup, or shall we say, Copa Mundial. As a student who recently returned to the United States after spending nearly six months in this country, I was so ECSTATIC by this win that I just about grabbed the nearest ham leg hanging above me at a Spanish bar and swung it 'round my head in celebration.

    Coincidentally, I have also been working to include Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso’s, Old Guitarist into one of my tours. I began researching this piece when I was developing my mock student tour. I impulsively picked it from the museum’s “highlights” list, not having any lesson plan in mind or concept as how to structure a tour. After presenting Old Guitarist and considering the valuable feedback from my colleagues, I realized that, were I to include the piece in one of my tours, I needed to do some careful thinking about how to present it. I understood that I needed to discuss the emotion of the piece with students, without assuming Picasso’s intention.

    I knew I didn’t want to give up on Pablo just yet, but including the work in our first week of touring seemed a little ambitious. Instead, Natalie and I led tours on nature, animals, and dance. Truth be told, I was deathly afraid of tackling the blue painting and I was intimidated by the discouraging and gloomy old man it depicted...

    Meanwhile, Spain was quickly advancing in the world cup! After starting off with a loss to Switzerland, they won games against Chile and Honduras. By this time, Natalie and I had practically perfected our nature tour. I became so confident leading the nature tour that I used a shorter version of it for my family gallery walk—also very successful!

    Spain wins to Portugal—Sergio Ramos and Christiano Ronaldo share a hug—some kid tells us he wants to "marry the museum"—progress on all fronts…

    Around the date of the Spain/Germany game, I decided it was time to give the Old Guitarist another shot. I developed a lesson plan (with the help and advice of Robin) that tried to identify how the painting made us feel—not the feelings of Picasso himself. With some open-ended questions and kinesthetic teaching strategies under my belt, I felt ready to work the piece into my gallery walk. After a few hours of research I thought I should reward myself by watching the first half of the game at lunch (well, considering it was the semifinal, I probably would have watched it even if I had spent those research hours just eating from the docent cookie jar). At 1:30 I headed over (alone, due to lack of interest from fellow interns) to Bennigans and sat with the rest of the American soccer fans—and by that I mean the ONE other person watching the game, and he was from Sweden….

    Finally, Natalie developed a “Music and Dance” tour theme just to include my presenting of the Old Guitarist. Our first tour group with this theme consisted of 1st and 2nd graders, so for this work I mostly discussed the piece’s color. We discussed how blue makes us feel. Everyone responded especially well to my question: “If this work were painted in all red, how would our feelings change?” Students shared a variety of responses, but all seemed to become aware of the fact that artist’s are conscious of how colors can elicit emotional reactions. We also talked about how the man in the painting might feel. Since gallery 391A was empty (awesome!) we had the opportunity to all mimic the old guitarist’s body language. The group decided that he might feel rather uncomfortable...

    That Sunday, the Spanish national team played in the world cup final against the Netherlands. After a nerve-wracking 90 minutes with a stagnant score of nil-nil, the game moved into overtime. I bit all of my nails I had so carefully tried to grow out so as not to look totally childish leading my upcoming adult tour. During the many pauses in play due to fouls, I couldn’t help but think about whether Picasso might have enjoyed a casual, barefoot game of fútbol every so often on the beaches of the French Riviera. And then, in the last six minutes of play, Iniesta SCORED! The Dutch were devastated. I began to imagine the Dutch painter, Gerard Terboch’s, Music Lesson painted in sad blue tones… Finally, the world cup was over and every Spaniard at Café Iberico took over LaSalle Street screaming “¡Olé!” And so, my first student tour of Picasso’s Old Guitarist was over as well. And once again, SPAIN PREVAILED! I hope to continue using the Picasso painting in future tours: student, adult, and family. Interns even considered putting together a tour of Spanish art in honor of the world cup—proving that even the artsy folk here in the United States can appreciate a well-played soccer victory.

    Well, we’ve still got a ways to go before we become true soccer fanáticos. Apparently Christiano Ronaldo just made an appearance at a Chicago restaurant and someone thought he was the “Situation” from Jersey Shore

    Best. Intern Pair. Ever.



    Over past few weeks the more Sandy and I gave tours the more we realized that we were not only the coolest intern pair ever, but that we also had a lot in common. Behold the similarities:

    Royal Lineage


    Sandy and I have both descended from a long line of Chicago High School Kings and Queens. Sandy was voted Prom Queen and unsurprisingly lists this major accomplishment on her resume. I believe this is what separated her from other applicants during the interview process and the main reason she was able to land this internship. I was voted Prom King when I was in high school. Coincidence? Don’t think so. The AIC knows all.

    We are both Mexican*

    * I am 31/32nds Mexican. Sandy is 1/4 Mexican. Together we make nearly 1 and ¼ Mexicans.

    We both love bagels.

    Plain bagels, raisin bagels, everything bagels, onion bagels, cheese bagels, cinnamon bagels, plain bagels, shrimp bagels, shrimp stew, shrimp and rice, bagels with chives, bagels with cream cheese, bagel sandwiches, You name it, we love it.

    We both love fashion.

    Cool kicks, shades, hats, shirts, the list goes on and on.

    We both love animals.

    We love them as pets, we love eating them, we love wearing them, we love talking about them in art...

    But most importantly, we both love art.

    We love to create it, study it, and share our love for it with others. That's the main reason why all of the interns are able to work so well with each other and why look forward to coming in to work everyday. The last three weeks have featured a great run of touring in pairs with students of all shapes and sizes, from the littlest and most adorable 4 years olds to the slightly more “intimidating” middle schoolers. But next week that will all come to end as we will both be sent off into the world to tour on our own. I can already feel the separation anxiety…

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    From overbearing chaperones to touring solo!

    Jen and I had quite the interesting tour this afternoon. Our group consisted of 4th through 8th graders, but a majority of the students were in the 6th to 7th grade range. They were a particularly smart group, but for the first half of the tour, while Jen and I were asking what we thought were interesting and engaging questions, we were met with crickets! They looked interested in what we were saying, but the students seemed intimidated to say anything at all. This was particularly evident when we got to Seurat's Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Not only is this painting one of our most famous pieces, but the teacher/lead chaperone of the group also told us before the tour that the kids were very excited to see the pointilist piece that they had discussed in class.

    Jen & I used the same "Technology & Innovation" tour that we blogged about before, and we noticed that the lead chaperone began to hijack our tour towards the end of our discussion of Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day. We're on a fairly tight 1 hour schedule for student tours, and we normally plan to talk about 6 pieces for about 10 minutes each. When we got to the end of the Caillebotte, and Jen was about to tell the kids to pick up their stools to move on to the Monet painting, the chaperone stepped in with, "I just want to say a few more things about this piece before we move on." My first thought was, "Sure! Why not. Maybe they're learning about something in particular in class." About three minutes later, after a *riveting* discussion of repetitive shapes, we moved on.


    When we got to the Seurat piece, all of the kids got excited and took their seats. They sat patiently and listened to Jen talk about Pointilism and innovations in optics during the late 19th century. The students all seemed a bit too intimidated to say much about the piece, even though they had already discussed it in class. I began to notice that the chaperone was looking impatiently at the kids, and leading some of their answers to Jen's questions. Finally, Jen got the kids to open up by talking about the different animals in the painting, namely the monkey on a leash in the front right corner, which a few of the kids had made curious comments about. Toward the end of the discussion, yet again, the chaperone said that she wanted to say a little something. She stood up and asked the kids, "Where does your eye go first when you look at this painting?" One little boy said enthusiastically, "the monkey!" and a few other students nodded. The chaperone then said, "No! Look at the little girl in the white dress. That's where your eye should go first."

    Watching this lady tell her students that they were experiencing Seurat's iconic painting incorrectly really upset me. The last thing that we want to do on our tours is tell kids that there is a right and a wrong way to talk about and experience art. Everyone should be allowed to look at things differently, and our discussion of each piece allows the students to listen to each other's different points of view. A little girl next to me turned and whispered in a downtrodden tone, "My eye went to the monkey..." I reassured her (fairly loudly) that everyone sees different things, and that it was perfectly fine that she saw the monkey first. I tried not to belittle the chaperone's comment, so I asked the little girl what she thought about the girl in the painting, and got her to talk a bit about that. The chaperone then proceeded to tell the kids "facts" about the painting that were just plain wrong (ie: "The little girl in the white dress is the only figure painted not in a pointilist style." ...excuse me?). Jen and I looked at each other and mutually understood that we had had enough.

    We quickly moved on to the Modern Wing, and discussed the Bonticou and Richter pieces. Since the chaperone didn't seem to know much about either of these objects, she sat back and let the kids talk more. These two pieces, by *far*, were our two most successful pieces of the day. We got the kids to talk about the different materials in the Bonticou, and how its context within the Vietnam and Cold Wars added to its symbolic meaning. We talked about photography and painting in Richter's Woman Descending the Staircase, and got the kids excited about glamorous celebrities and digital photography's role in pop culture today. It's amazing how far these kids pushed these pieces' meanings on their own, without needing much help from the chaperones (or us!).

    In these past five weeks, I've learned some valuable lessons. Here are a few of the things that I would like to pass on to future interns about school group tours:
    • When you prepare a tour for a group of thirty 5th-8th graders, don't be shocked when a group of forty 3rd-6th graders show up. Flexibility and improvisation are invaluable skills in this job, but they also make it much more fun.
    • Be prepared to lengthen or shorten your tour at will. Not only do groups rarely show up on time (sometimes half an hour early, sometimes half an hour late), but you also may end up spending 15 minutes having kids pose as characters from the Seurat painting, and end up with minimal time to spend talking about O'Keefe.
    • Note the attention span of the group and go with it. Sometimes kids will think that every word coming out of your mouth is pure gold, and other times, you may as well be speaking Latin. If they look engaged, stick with it. If they look bored, either spice it up or move on.
    • When invited to happy hour with the staff....go!
    • Make your intern team a collaborative one. I can't tell you how helpful it is to have a group of 7 people to bounce ideas off of!
    • Don't let the first two weeks of training scare the crap (and fun) out of you. Touring with real kids (as opposed to your peers and supervisors pretending to be kids) is much less nerve-racking and intense.
    • Use your lesson plan as a loose guide. Don't be upset if you've created a series of elaborate open ended questions meant to uncover the great ideological mystery behind Hinoki's tree...and you just don't get to it. Adjusting to the types of things that seem to interest the group and making sure that they take something valuable away from it is much more important.
    Now that we all have our 2 weeks of training and 3 weeks of partnered touring under our belts, I think that I can speak for all of the interns when I say that we are all equally nervous and excited to start touring solo. It's been pretty nice having a right-hand-(wo)man who can keep track of time, help corral the little ones and, of course, make sure to jot down the ever-entertaining comments from the kids.

    Here are some photos of the interns from the past few weeks:

    David, Maya, Meghan, Adrienne & I at the Taste of Chicago

    Natalie, Sandy & David at lunch in the Lurie Garden

    Jen & Maya enjoying lunch in the Lurie Garden

    The "lazy river"/"best place to eat lunch ever" in the Lurie Garden.

    Maya getting comfy and researching in the docent room

    Jen & I hamming it up for the camera

    Sandy, Me & Natalie at a Caribou concert @ Pritzker Pavillion

    A Day In The Life of a Museum Ed. Intern

    (Mary H. using our powerful Prox card)

    (click on the pictures for a larger view)

    9:00 AM: Our day begins in the Student Programs and Docent Room in the basement of the Modern Wing - we lovingly refer to our windowless domain as "the dungeon" - though it's quite nice and comfy inside.

    Our 'Prox' cards are the magic keys to the Staff Only doors. Forgetting your Prox card makes for a miserably tedious day of inaccessibility... I learned this the hard way.

    9 - 10:15 am: Here in the Docent Room we conduct a lot of SERIOUS RESEARCH to come up with great tour ideas such as: Storytelling in Art, Travel and Transformation, Technology and Innovation, Movement and Music, Ritual and Celebration and of course, my tour partner Mary and I's favorite, EXTRAORDINARY TRANSPORTATION!

    (NOTE the breakfast muffins in the foreground - early on we realized that something about this job made us hungry as soon as we stepped in the door regardless of how large our breakfast was - thus, we instated a breakfast schedule.)

    At 10:00am we also have a morning meeting so we know where everyone's tour is going - though even with this kind of preparation we still find ourselves in traffic jams every now and then.


    10:15 - 10:30 am: We meet our little tour participants (who are not always as little as seen here - the group here is Pre-K and ADORABLE!) in the orange floored Ryan Education Center just off the Modern Wing Entrance.

    Here we introduce ourselves and introduce them to the museum rules. The question, "Does anyone know some rules we have here in the museum?" has produced a wide range of odd and adorable answers such as:
    "No hurting" or "No choking" or "No stealing"

    (left to right: Jen leading the little ones through Griffin Court, Maya and Natalie going into the closed Modern Wing galleries in the morning)

    10:30: Annnnd...we're off! At 10:30 we can officially let our groups into the museum. A guard tails each group so that we can bring them into the galleries that are closed due to the rotating closures.

    (left to right: Mary D. and I (Adrienne) going to the Alsdorf Galleries; David and Sandy in the Rice Wing; Mary H. and Jen in the Alsdorf Galleries)

    10:30 - 11:30:
    Chaos in the museum! Ok, not really - but for an hour there are multiple student tour groups weaving in, out and around galleries.

    (left to right: Me (Adrienne) have an impromptu story time, Mary D. in front of the Seurat, Jen using her teacher tricks in the Chinese galleries)

    We try to see 6 works on an Art From Many Places tour (meant for student groups above 1st grade) and 4 works of art for the ABC's Tours (meant for the little ones with a shorter attention span) - but sometimes you have to improvise.

    Pre-K kids are adorable, but if they aren't paying attention to the artwork as much as you'd like, sitting them down for a story might help corral them in.


    (left to right: Mary D. using the key to get back into the Modern Wing, Mary D. and I about to take kinds into the Sagmiester, Natalie leaving the modern galleries)

    Mary and I took the Pre-K tour to "Being Not Truthful Always Works Against Me" by Stefan Sagmeister - this is an interactive piece which kids LOVE.

    They jumped, they played, they ran, they yelled - they pretty much broke every rule we introduced to them that morning and they loved every second of it.

    (left to right: Maya and Picasso, Natalie with Shiva, Natalie and Mary H. talking to groups in the same room, Mary H. at Doris Lee's "Thanksgiving")

    One problem we occasionally encounter is the tour traffic jam - however a skilled docent can maneuver through this problem with ease like Natalie and Mary H. did today. By crouching down with their groups and keeping their voices low they masterfully engaged two young groups in an American art gallery.

    (left to right: Sandy and David leading their group down the Grand Staircase at the end of the tour)

    "Oh my god, there are so many stairs! I'm going to be so tired! (after 3 stairs) I'm already SO tired" - 7 year old boy
    - Quotes like these and many others on our intern Twitter: Overheard at AIC


    12:00 pm: We like to attend the noon-time gallery walks led by other experienced docents in the museum. We went to a Highlights tour to get ideas for future tours.


    She was great! What I learned: Doing extensive research really helps to keep people engaged on a tour. The public (and we interns) LOVED the little anecdotes found in original letters and other obscure research material that the docent shared with us.

    Some of the regular docents have been doing this for as long as 30 years! So, needless to say, we have a lot to learn from them.

    LUNCH (1:15 pm): We tend to rotate our lunch locations depending on the weather - which in Chicago can change dramatically in seconds. On nice days we like to sit outside at the museum cafe, sometimes we dip our feet in the river at the Lurie Gardens and on miserably humid days we admire the view from inside one of the studios in the Ryan Education Center.

    2:15 - 5:00 pm: (Imagine more research and tour planning here - it pretty much looks the same as the morning except we may be spread amongst The Education Resource Center, Ryerson Library or walking around the museum)


    5:00 pm: On our way to have happy hour drinks with some other Museum Education staff. One of the best parts of this job is liking the people we work with.

    5:30 - whenever: Drinks at Midtown Bar.

    The day is DONE...well not really...most of us are doing multiple things this summer - whether it's another job, school, one of the many Chicago summer festivals or just making sure we see our non-museum friends - we all keep pretty busy.

    After a long day, we go home, sleep and do it all over again tomorrow :)

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #1111: A Metaphor For Interns in Training

    Though I will admit this post is long overdue, it's about time we noted that Sol LeWitt's installation ran perfectly parallel to our crash course in Museum Education.

    Upon our arrival here at The Art Institute of Chicago, we were greeted by a fantastic work in progress: none other than one of the many carefully instructed Sol LeWitt's dotting the art world today, including Wall Drawing #63 on display in Gallery 294. For those of you who aren't familiar with Sol LeWitt, a large body of his work consists of conceptual and minimalist pieces. Wall Drawing #1111: A Circle With Broken Bands of Color like much of his other work is strictly directed based upon drafted up plans and schematics as well as predetermined colors and materials. The idea is at the core of these works, and the plan and execution follows second - revealing an often times large scale, geometric, and minimal image in the wake of work and preparation.

    Wall Drawing #1111 took about three weeks to complete. When we arrived at AIC for our first day of work, the layout and colors had been determined. Day by day, tape was added, then color, layer after layer in a hard to follow pattern.

    One of the artists executing LeWitt's work

    Each day, more and more of the colors were painted in place filling in the grand scheme of the circle upon the wall. The wall drawing mirrored our own budding experiences here at AIC. We began the internship with an idea of what this opportunity was, what this institution was, but over the course of our training and the first we weeks of touring, the idea of this internship really came to life. With each color added to the wall drawing came one more day of experience, whether it was finding where the elevators are, mock touring, or learning everyone's names.

    Sections of color systematically added to the wall

    I like to think of the primary colors coming to represent the three facets of museum education that we are working for: Adult, Family, and Student Programs. Each one stands alone, yet together they function as a wonderful whole that works toward the unifying goal of bringing the museum and the art within to the diverse range of visitors. The secondary colors are what comes when you combine the primary colors - the result being the way in which the different departments work together training us on all facets of museum education and the inner-workings of this institution. With each day came more paint, and more information, as the circle began to fill in, we began to feel comfortable in our roles as museum educators. At the end of our final day of training the tape and paper was removed from the wall, revealing the finished product, a wall drawing for our intern class to call our own.

    (interns left to right) Natalie, Mary D., David, Adrienne, Mary H., Maya, Jen, Sandy

    To read a full interview with one of executors of Wall Drawing #1111 and to see more photographs of the installation, visit the AIC blog. The first two photographs were taken by Jason Stec. 




    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Exciting Experiences

    After two weeks of touring I still was a bit anxious about my first adult tour. Lucky for me the tour required two interns so I signed up with Sensational Sandy. We would be discussing Belgium Surrealism with David Stark; focusing on René Magritte and Paul Delvaux.In preparation for the tour Sandy and I went to the Ryerson Library and had the opportunity to access the stacks. That in it's self was a pretty awesome experience, as few privileged people are able to check out materials.

    The day of our tour I was a little nervous... and then a bit more when I saw all the people that began to gather around our starting point. Surprisingly I relaxed once we actually got started and had a really great time talking about one of my favorite artist, René Magritte. I think the crowed really enjoyed it as quite a few of the patrons stayed after to further discuss some of the artwork and also to let us know that they really enjoyed our presentations.

    An epic moment was when a patron pulled out a wooden pipe and ask Sandy to take her picture with the famous painting The Tune and Also the Words. Then she asked if she could take a picture of Sandy and I. Too bad we didn't get her information as it would be nice to have those pics.

    Now that I know what to expect, I can't wait to give another adult tour!

    The following Monday seemed to be a very busy morning however there was nothing really new going on. My partner Maya and I were tasked to set up the studio prior to our tour which turned out to be a bit more stressful then originally thought. We had to connect a laptop to a projector in one of the new studio classrooms in the Ryan Education Center. There was a bit of confusion as to how it is all connected and more importantly how to get it to work. So FYI to next year interns, make sure you go over how everything is set up etc. at least a day or two before your studio class.

    Once we got everything organized our students arrived. They were a very lively bunch ranging from ages 9-13 yrs old. Maya and I planned a music and dance tour which turned out to be a big hit for the older children. We related music and dance to what our students are listening to today. I think when you can explain artwork in a way that relates to a younger viewer as to what they are currently experiencing in everyday life they appreciate it more, and are over all more interested.

    The rest of the day we spent researching for our future tours and also tweeted about the funny things we heard in the museum. The twitter account that Sandy created on June 30th is getting larger and larger every time we look at it. It's pretty exciting... actually so far this whole experience has been pretty exciting; it's gonna be a really sad day when it's all over.

    Major (Okay, Minor) Fail

    After three false starts, Mary H. and I (Jen) still have not completed our Art from Many Places: Ritual and Celebration tour as initially intended! The game plan for this tour has been to start at the Mummy Case; then on to the Persephone Plate, which is officially - and creatively - titled Knob Handled Dish (one of our personal favorite titles, by the way - right up there with Millet’s Peasants Bringing Home a Calf Born in the Fields. Really, Millet? Really?!).


    Coffin and Mummy of Paankhenamun, c. 945–715 B.C.


    Knob Handled Dish, 1864


    Jean-Francois Millet, Peasants Bringing Home a Calf Born in the Fields, 1864


    American Gothic comes next, followed by the lovely dancing Shiva. We then fast-forward a few (thousand) years to Robert Watts’s Auto Series from 1971 - 3, ending at On Kawara’s Oct. 31, 1978.

    Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930


    Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Nataraja), Chola period, c. 10th/11th century




    *imagine Robert Watts's Auto Series here*




    On Kawara, Oct. 31, 1978, 1978


    Last week was our first attempt at this tour, and it began without a hitch. Soon, however, we began to notice a trend: dragons. The kids were wanting dragons. A lot. They had been studying Asian art, and dragons in particular, and had been hoping to see one or two on their trip to the Art Institute. Well, far be it from us to stand in their way. Luckily, I had an ancient Chinese dragon plate lesson handy from our Animals in Art tours, so we quickly revised our plan. But as a result, both of our contemporary pieces - Auto Series and the On Kawara date piece - got the shaft.


    Later that week, we eagerly awaited the arrival of our Ritual and Celebration tour-goers... We waited... and waited... Unfortunately for all of us, the group didn’t show up until 11:30! The time that the tour is supposed to end! Well, they were forced to tour themselves around the museum (sorry, guys!) and we were forced to wait another week to give our much-anticipated R&C tour.

    Today we got our third (and probably final!) chance to give our elusive tour. Everything was going great until we marched up the American wing stairs to find Terrah - AIC's Kress Fellow - surrounded by an eager group of her own at American Gothic. It was ours no longer! Major fail!

    The good news is that we finally made it to both of our contemporary pieces. We started with the Watts Auto Series photographs, which were initially met with some sideways glances. As the kids began to talk about what they saw, however, it was clear that they could grasp the ritual content of the piece. The celebratory aspect, however, was a bit trickier.

    Heading up to the On Kawara date painting, I was pretty worried that we would have a rebellion on our hands. And not to disappoint, the first question I got was, “How is this art?” Good question, kid. Let’s talk about that... We discussed the artist’s process of daily creation, and the group, again, was able to see the ritual aspect rather quickly. More than with the Watt’s piece, I wanted to impress upon them the celebratory aspect of this work, so I pushed a bit harder with my questions. All of a sudden, their faces lit up with recognition and they seemed to see it: the work is a celebration of living, of the simple act of being alive one more day.

    Well, with a success like that, I think we can both live with a little bit of tour-giving failure. I, for one, would take that compromise any day!