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Cross-Cultural Connections

June 7, 2016

Hi, I’m Taylor Strander, a senior from McKinney Boyd High School and a DMA Teen Advisory Council member. As the school year draws to a close and graduation looms near, I thought it was a perfect time to reflect on my busy year at the DMA! I have spent a great part of my school year exploring the DMA collection and collaborating with staff on a project for my ISM class.

What is ISM? ISM stands for Interdisciplinary Study and Mentorship – a program specifically designed for high school students who have an idea of the career they want to explore beyond high school. The goal of the class is to develop interpersonal and networking skills in the hopes of obtaining a mentor that can offer their expertise in the creation of a final product. As someone interested in studying art history in college, I immediately sought to find a mentor who worked in a museum and was immersed in art every day. I distinctly remember growing quite fond of the DMA after my first visit with my elementary school class, and since then I have seized every opportunity to learn more about the Museum by participating in the Teen Docent Program and serving as a Community Engagement Volunteer.

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Due to my prior experience, I thought it would be most fitting to select a mentor from the place that catalyzed my passion for art. So I began my weekly commute to the DMA to meet and brainstorm with my mentors, Jessica Thompson and Whitney Sirois, on my final project for the class. Working with them has offered me a deeper understanding of the field of museum education and has strengthened my desire to pursue a career in a museum one day. My final project turned out to be something greater than I ever could have imagined and best of all, it is something that can be implemented in the Museum today.

So, what did I create? In order to gain a better grasp on the role of a museum educator, I designed my very own Bite-Sized Tour and Art-to-Go Family Tote Bag complete with four different activities.

During my first meeting with Jessica and Whitney, I was inspired by the DMA’s exhibition Spirit and Matter: Masterpieces from the Keir Collection of Islamic Art, which features a variety of Islamic works from the internationally renowned Keir Collection. It was important to me to reference this collection for my project because Islamic art seems to be misunderstood and its influence on global cultures is often forgotten. After some heavy research, I used my newfound knowledge of Islamic art to create a Bite-Sized Tour entitled “Cross-Cultural Connections.” This guide highlights Islamic works and directly compares them to other objects in the DMA’s permanent collection in an effort to encourage visitors to notice similar qualities or influences across cultures.

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The second component of my final project is an Art-to-Go Family Tote Bag, which is meant to reinforce visitors’ understanding of Islamic art through different activities that highlight specific artistic elements. Family Tote Bags are great because they offer fun, on-the-go activities for a variety of different age groups and learning styles. For the tote bag, I came up with four separate activities – write, make, draw, and talk.

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The writing activity asks visitors to reference Islamic calligraphy to create their own epic poem. The make activity allows visitors to make their own astrolabe, a navigational tool that revolutionized Islamic culture. The drawing activity invites people to design their own geometric patterns inspired by Islamic textiles and ceramics. Finally, the talk activity encourages visitors to discuss Islamic art influences within the Museum’s permanent collection. Islam’s holy month of Ramadan has just begun, so take a moment to explore the many connections you can make to this world religion and its artistic traditions on your next visit to the Museum.

A special thank you to my mentors, Jessica and Whitney, for giving a young person like me an invaluable experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Your words of wisdom and constant support will not be soon forgotten. And finally, thank you to the DMA for transforming before my eyes into a place that I know all too well, a place that feels like home.

Taylor Strander
Teen Advisory Council Member

One Comment leave one →
  1. Brenda Gasser permalink
    June 10, 2016 5:48 pm

    Well done Taylor!

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