On a rainy, late-winter afternoon, the Teen Docents trekked out to Long Island City, Queens to visit AFAM’s offices and to meet with museum staff, including archivist Mimi Lester and registrar Lauren Arnold. Mimi and Lauren showed them a Henry Darger manuscript, two small Sister Gertrude Morgan works, and Ralph Fasanella’s painting pants and cap! They learned a little bit about the inner workings of the museum and heard about arts careers they may not have known about before their visit.
When class is back in session, they’ll get to see new exhibition, When the Curtain Never Comes Down, for the first time!
On March 3rd, the Teen Docents worked in groups to lead tours of the exhibition A Shared Legacy for teens from programs at the Rubin Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Jewish Museum. They worked in groups to facilitate conversations on themes like “Capitalism,” “Family,” and “Tradition.” The teens grew more comfortable with each other as the experience progressed, culminating in spontaneous musical performances, spoken word and a lot of laughing. See pictures here.
Today, at the museum, we began to write our outlines for the tour on March 3rd. This will be our first tour in which we are presenting to teens from other museums. For our outlines, some groups began coming up with scripts including introductions, and questions we were going to ask throughout the tour. We also walked around to our pieces to see if we could gather up more information about them. Lastly, we took the final minutes to tell other groups how we were going to present and in which order we were going to do it. This allowed us to gain feedback on some things we should do and some things we shouldn’t do. We also got advice on some things we all should do as a team, like making sure we speak up, and making eye contact. This helped us prepare not only for this tour, but times after as well.
Today at the American Folk Art Museum we got to experience the new installation entitled “A Shared Legacy” independently and with our peers. The artwork depicts the growth of new cultural and social norms in 19th century America. New traditions, values, and ways of everyday life began to develop, which forever altered the country as a whole. We were given the task of identifying the main themes that the artwork presents and then themes were chosen to base our final tours around. Some themes that were identified by myself and my fellow interns were: capitalism, a growing middle class, death, farming/food, sickness, religion, and family. All of these themes can be seen in the family portraits full of symbolism, the often used trade figures, the intricate furniture, and so many more interesting pieces that are a part of this fascinating installation. The class today was very successful and many very interesting points were raised regarding “A Shared Legacy” which is why I can’t wait to see everyone’s final tours!
In class, we separated from the group with the partner we previously had chosen. The class as a whole jotted down possible themes we could use to classify the art. Each group had many overlaps with the themes. Some major themes we came across were family, death, tradition, political affairs, etc. Each pair was limited to four pieces of art, which had to be categorized into a theme of their choice. Specifically, my partner and I used the themes of death, family, entertainment, and tradition. We had a hard time trying to choose a theme from the beginning so we had to work backwards, we first chose the painting and then categorized it into a theme. Overall, we had a very good time and enjoyed categorizing the art into a theme, as well as learning more of the pieces of art as a whole.
After everyone showed up and we settled down, Laura told us to to go to her and listen to a varied selection of music to see, in our mind, what artwork we associate with the music and why. One song by Nirvana was called Smells Like Teen Spirit and I thought of Burning the Old South Church by John Hilling because I thought the people in the painting were like teenagers in the sense that they had the energy and the motivation to burn a building down. Other songs reminded other people of a boat on fire and more. After that, we were told to choose groups and go to a work of art after Nicole showed us how to ask questions that are not yes or no. They made the person really think about the artwork, like for example she asked what do you see, get closer and does it look different or not and why, what symbols or shapes do you see. When we were done, our groups went into the galleries tried it ourselves.
When everyone arrived, the first activity was that we listened to music and tried to make comparisons with the art around us. Then Nicole had us ask some questions that would be posed by a tour guide working at a museum. These questions were questions that actually made the audience think about the art. For example “What do you see here?” or “What does this remind you of?” This was a fun class because everyone had a chance to feel like a tour guide for people we are comfortable with and know well.
The American Folk Art Museum currently is closed for installation, so the Teen Docent Program went on the road to visit The Jewish Museum this week. Because this class was a late addition to the schedule, only a handful of the students were able to join the trip, but those who attended had a fantastic time exploring artwork by Lee Krasner and a traditional Russian-American quilt with Jewish Museum educator, Rachael. Rachael conducted engaging conversations around the artworks, connecting them back to folk art and the students’ experiences. She modeled inquiry techniques as well as told the students about the Jewish Museum’s teen programming, including how their teen interns execute their Sunday family programs. After a lively discussion and sketching activity, we joined Jamie Auriemma, Associate Manager of Teen Programs, to talk further about the roles that teens play in the museum. Based on the feedback we heard after the tour, the Jewish Museum staff loved having us there as much as we loved visiting them.
After a month long break, the students returned to the museum this week. They were each charged with leading a conversation around one work of art, either by Ralph Fasanella or Willem Van Genk. Many of the students had done research on their works of art and were able to put into practice many of the inquiry education strategies they’d experienced in the program so far. It was a great exercise for them because, when March rolls around, they will be leading full tours for their peers!
At the end of class, the students said goodbye to the two exhibitions they’d been working with all semester. When they return to the museum in January, it will look completely different!
Today in class we drew sketches of the pieces we are presenting. It helped us analyze and better understand our art. It will help us when it’s time to present because we will see things in the panting we’ve never seen before. Also we got to watch the teacher, TDP intern Laura, present and that helped us get some tips on what to do and say while presenting.