Rather than spending this class period focusing on close observations of works of art, as they are learning to do, the Teen Docents were able to go in-depth with four members of the American Folk Art Museum community to learn about various museum careers.
Hope Bodwell, manager of special events; Tanya Heinrich, director of publications; and Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice, the museum’s executive director, joined the teens around a table to share the ins and outs of their daily responsibilities and the paths they took to their current positions.
Hope Bodwell discussed how the skills she learned through her past experiences as a ceramics major in college, a corporate interior designer, and a library director came together at the American Folk Art Museum, where she manages special events, takes care of third-party space rentals, coordinates the volunteers, and runs the exciting “Make-It Thursday” program, in which local artists and crafts people conduct workshops for participants on everything from jewelry-making to embroidery. The students appreciated her candidness and humor.
Tanya Heinrich’s first job in New York City was in the American Folk Art Museum’s shop. She fell in love with folk art, and through hard work, long hours, and on-the-job training, eventually was able to move up into her current position where she is in charge of ensuring the quality of all of the museum’s printed material, including wall text, flyers, catalogs, the website, and this very blog! She spoke about how radically technology has changed since she began her career, when everyone used typewriters, and how important it is to anticipate change. The students admired her ability to manage her time effectively.
Executive Director Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice shared her impressive history with the students. Although she has been appointed to national positions by the likes of President Obama, perhaps the most gripping story she told was about arriving for her first curatorial job to find it given away. She was told not to worry because there were other jobs at the museum “girls could do,” such as being a secretary or receptionist. Not satisfied with these options, she took a job with the Sears Catalog instead. The women she met in her position at Sears, who felt that museums weren’t for people like them, inspired her lifelong dedication to making museums accessible. About this issue, she said, “What difference does it make if you can’t excite people?” She told the Teen Docents how important their job was in bringing their peers into the museum and thanked them for being a part of the American Folk Art Museum community.
Finally, the Teen Docents had an abbreviated, but inspiring, introduction to the Women’s Studies exhibition with Curator Emerita Lee Kogan. She spoke about how the four artists in the show expressed fantasy in their work. The students were drawn to her enthusiasm and ability to engage them in lively conversation about the art.