A Visit to the Rubin Museum of Art

Last Friday, the AFAM Teen Docent cohort set out on its first offsite excursion together! Bundled up in our winter coats, we headed downtown to West 17th Street to visit the Rubin Museum of Art, which celebrates the art and diverse cultures of Himalayan Asia. Our class was invited by the RMA Teen Guide Council to engage in a teen program summit. This exchange invites teens involved with both museums to share program experiences, discuss artworks on view in our respective spaces, and to think about gallery teaching strategies and techniques.

When we arrived, our group was warmly welcomed by the RMA teens, who took us into their classroom space for introductions and snacks—much appreciated at the end of a long school week! We then broke up into small groups and ventured into the museum galleries. One group learned about the Green Tara, a female Bodhisattva who is associated with enlightenment (a concept which was enthusiastically debated within our group!) We also got a chance to discuss one version of the Tibetan Wheel of Life, which illustrates the six realms of existence and their relationship to karma, which is often studied as part of Buddhist teachings. Our teen guide expertly facilitated conversation while referencing a color reproduction, so that the many, intricate details could be made out more clearly. By carefully studying the Tibetan Wheel of Life, students were able to question how an ancient religious tool has universal relevance today, regardless of one’s culture or belief system.

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After our gallery tours and back in the classroom, the group spent some time reflecting and discussing questions such as, “what allows for meaningful conversation to happen around a work of art? how do we support one another in the process of leading tours? how do you select works of art that are most personally meaningful, and how does that impact discussion with your participants? what techniques work best to keep your participants engaged? as a tour leader, what are your objectives and priorities in leading a conversation around a work of art? how do you set the tone of discussion? how do you keep your confidence up, and nerves at bay?”

We all agreed that our guides had fantastic storytelling skills that really helped to share many of the artworks that had very specific symbolism and layered religious meaning that could be conveyed through narrative. A big thanks to the RMA Teen Guide Council for hosting such a productive exchange in their space! AFAM teens now have lots to consider as they begin designing their own tours.

We look forward to sharing the American Folk Art Museum with RMA teens in April!

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