Day #3: March 12, 2013

Day Three of the Teen Docent Program was Quilt Day! Because there are no quilts currently on view, the students observed large color images of four different quilts from the museum’s collection.

LOG CABIN QUILT (COURTHOUSE STEPS VARIATION) / Samuel Steinbeger (1865-c.1934) / New York City / 1890-1910 / silk / 58 x 69 1/2 in. / American Folk Art Museum, gift of Cyril Irwin Nelson in honor of Robert Bishop, American Folk Art Museum director (1977-1991), 1990.17.8

LOG CABIN QUILT, COURTHOUSE STEPS VARIATION, Samuel Steinberger (1865–c. 1934), New York City, 1890–1910, silk, 69 1/2 x 58 in. (framed), American Folk Art Museum, gift of Cyril Irwin Nelson in honor of Robert Bishop, American Folk Art Museum director (1977–1991), 1990.17.8. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Through a lengthy discussion about this Log Cabin Quilt, students learned about quilting traditions, construction, and design. The longer they observed this quilt, the more patterns they found it contained: pre-Colombian pyramids, lanterns, bow ties, hallways, barbells, and more. The conversation also revealed that, by studying quilts, one can learn about social and political history, gender roles, and the lifestyle of the artist, among many other things.

After examining the collection images and discussing quiltmaking traditions, the students created their own quilt blocks. Using collage elements for a border and colored pencils for the image in the center, they illustrated a tradition that was meaningful to them.

IMG_0009 (4)

Dianitza recounted how fireworks played a part in two important periods in her life. Selena drew her family’s barbecues. Karina depicted her school’s annual event in which seniors parade to the post office to mail their college applications. Here are the finished quilt blocks all together!rotated

Day #2: March 5, 2013

The Teen Docents began the second day of the program by sharing collages they’d made to express their personalities. They were inspired by everything from skateboarding to the colleges that rejected them and everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Kim Kardashian.


Next, they studied the portrait of CHARLES C. HENRY by Sturtevant J. Hamblin in order to create lists of objective and subjective observations about the painting, which depicts a (subjectively) handsome firefighter in front of an (objectively) ongoing firefighting operation occurring outside a window. During the course of the conversation, the students developed sophisticated theories about the relationship of the portrait’s background to its foreground. Positing that a responsible, decorated firefighter would not sit for a portrait while a fire raged behind him, several students suggested that the view out the window was actually a view into the sitter’s past.


The third activity of the day involved another extended observation, this time of a group of works by the artist Nellie Mae Rowe. The students were asked to each write a question about the images on an index card. After spending several minutes working on answers together, they considered which questions might be answerable through research (“Was Nellie Mae Rowe African American?”) and which questions might not have concrete answers (“Why are the figures’ heads so big?” “What do the backgrounds symbolize?”).


Last on the day’s busy itinerary was a whirlwind tour of the exhibition Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed. The students responded to Prior’s range of styles and subjects with enthusiasm and lots of questions. The hour and a half of class flew by!

The Teen Docents answer the question: What are your initial concerns about leading a tour?

“I fear I will accidentally give false information on an artist.” —Cassie

“One of my biggest fears is not being able to answer someone’s question.” —Jania

“Some of my initial concerns about working in a museum and doing a tour are knowing what to expect: an interactive group, a serious group or quiet group. Along with that, I want to learn how to accept their different behaviors so that I can do my job well.” —Karina

“I am concerned that the students I give tours to may seem bored or uninterested.” —Dianitza

“I am open minded to the ideas that are going to be provided to use so I don’t have concerns about working at the museum and doing a tour.” —Maziel

“Letting my nerves get the best of me is a weakness I have.” —Delilah