Friday, July 9, 2010

Family Gallery Walks, Open Questions, and the Magic of Name Tags

On Sunday I was able to give my first Family Programs Gallery Walk and despite it not being what I expected, I would consider it a learning experience if not a success.

The theme I chose, Families in Art, was comprised of the set of John Singleton Copley portraits, Doris Lee’s Thanksgiving, and Hockney’s American Collectors. I spent days prepping for it, learning each of the artist bios, each of the pieces respective histories, and generally preparing for the unexpected from what I hoped would be inquisitive kids.
John Singleton Copley, Daniel Hubbard 1764

John Singleton Copley, Mrs. Daniel Hubbard (Mary Greene) 1764

Doris Lee, Thanksgiving 1935

David Hockney, American Collectors 1968

I quickly learned however that the families on my tour were accustomed to taking part in tours where they were they would simply listen and not be bombarded with questions. As a result the first few minutes were what I feared: dead silence as adults and children simply looked at me expecting me to answer my own questions.
Alas, I remembered an important tool I had at my disposal: the almighty nametag. Referring to someone by their name helps foster a sense of intimacy in which people are less likely to be afraid to participate.
I started off by calling on the parents, who were more than willing to participate. Once the children saw their adult actively engaging with both the art and myself they slowly began participating as well. As the tour progressed they quickly gained a level of comfort with answering questions after learning that there were no wrong answers.
By the time it was over I was actually sad that it had only been half an hour as the families were more than willing to continue looking at art. The majority of the children had never been in the Modern Wing and were excited to go off and explore on their own. The moral of the story: make use of the nametags!!!

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