“Once upon a time” is one of my favorite phrases—it almost always precedes a magical beginning, the possibility of slightly harrowing adventures, a lesson or two learned, new friends, and a “happily ever after.” I’m not afraid to admit, I’m a sucker for any ole fairy tale!
As we’ve been exploring Art and Nature in the Middle Ages over the past few months, I’ve found plenty of fairy tale inspiration in the art. From stained glass windows I imagine would have fit in just fine in Sleeping Beauty’s castle to beautifully illustrated manuscripts that Belle would surely be found reading in the library, this medieval art has the same fairy tale magic as the stories.
Are you a fairy tale fan too? Even after we say goodbye to Art and Nature, there are still plenty works of art in the DMA’s collection that speak to a fairy-tale loving heart. To find the perfect match for your inner fairy tale hero, take our quiz here!
And be sure to come to this Friday’s Late Night, which will be filled with medieval magic and fairy tale wonder!
Manager of Family and Early Learning Programs
Over the last few months, we’ve been mixing up all kinds of fun and recyclable materials for visitors to create with at the Art Spot in the Center for Creative Connections. When selecting materials, we carefully consider the broad range of artworks from the DMA’s collection featured in the cases amongst the creation tables. Having a variety of styles, influences, and cultures reflected in these works will in turn help inspire unique creations (or re-creations!) from visitors of all ages. From cardboard tubes and popsicle sticks to colorful masking tape and aluminum foil, there are endless ways to be inspired! Check out some of our recent visitor creations inspired by the works of art currently on view:
Next time you’re in C3, sit at the Art Spot for a little while and consider how you can transform these ordinary materials into something extraordinary.
Center for Creative Connections Coordinator
It’s spring time, which means that the Learning Lab is back in session. The Dallas Museum of Art has partnered with Booker T. Washington HSVPA since 2011, providing an ‘ideas class’ for junior and senior year students. This year, students are working on an arsenal of professional writing to grow their careers as artists. By the end of the semester, students will have their first artist statements, resumes, personal essays, and curated portfolios ready to submit to colleges and opportunities beyond high school.
For people who interact with the world primarily through visual means, expressing yourself through words is easier said than done. We’ve taken advantage of the Learning Lab’s time in the Museum to get them thinking and verbalizing their thoughts about art in nontraditional ways. However, these activities aren’t just for artists—anyone can use them in the galleries! Here’s a game for you to try next time you visit the DMA.
This gallery game is a favorite here at the Museum! All you need is paper, a pencil, a friend, and your vocabulary to get started. Before walking into a gallery, choose which person will be the drawer, and which person will be the describer.
The describer will choose a work of art in the gallery to describe, while the drawer, back turned toward the artwork, illustrates their partner’s description. The describer should be as specific as possible! Think about what you’re seeing: is it a portrait or a landscape? A bed or a chair? Is the tree at the top or the bottom of the painting?
Once the describer is finished, the drawer will turn around to compare their drawing to the real work of art. This activity often has funny results, but it also tests your powers of interpretation! As a describer, how well were you able to describe the work of art in front of you? Is there anything you missed or something you could have described in different terms?
As the drawer, what kind of information would you need to more accurately represent the work of art described to you? Did you need information about expression, location, or pose? Sharing feedback with each other expands your art vocabulary and your visual literacy. For both artists and art appreciators, this is a great exercise in expanding your visual literacy! Check out some more examples below:
And don’t miss student work from Booker T. Washington and other DFW High Schools at Young Masters, open through April 16.
Manager of Teen Programs
Each of the McDermott Interns here at the DMA have the opportunity to participate in an approved professional development opportunity. In early February, I took a trip up to Denver to learn from their Education staff and observe some of their Access Programs. I also connected with Access Gallery, a smaller local nonprofit. I had never been to Colorado and was blown away by both the geographical beauty and the warm welcome I received from each of the museum and art professionals with whom I was able to speak.
On my first full day, I met up with three different members of the Education Department at the Denver Art Museum, then observed their Art and About Tour, which is similar to the Dallas Museum of Art’s Meaningful Moments program that serves individuals with early stage dementia and their family members or caregivers. On this tour, we went to the Japanese art galleries and learned about Japanese tea ceremonies and Samurai.
Here are some photo highlights from my trip!
On day two, I met with the Director of the Access Gallery, who gave me a tour of their space and of their current gallery show, Stick’em Up Chuck, a show of artwork made out of donated stickers.
Take a peek at some of the students’ artworks, their work space, and one of the pieces hanging in Stick’em up Chuck!
The Access Gallery is a drop-in style art-making space where teens and young adults can learn about art, develop their skills, and gain economic opportunity. The students all have a chance to sell their individual art pieces in the gallery’s store, as well as contribute to the larger pieces that are on sale as part of the current gallery show. Through these opportunities, mentally or physically disabled students who may not be able to hold a traditional job gain access to valuable skills like teamwork, time management, and listening to a boss.
As a growing museum professional, this trip was truly enlightening and I’m so grateful to have gotten to experience the incredible programming going on in Denver!
Until next time!
McDermott Intern for Family and Access Teaching
As a New Orleans transplant, I wanted to celebrate my favorite holiday with you–Mardi Gras! When most people think of the holiday, they imagine excessive eating and drinking, harlequin masks, and colorful beads. But what is Mardi Gras in New Orleans really like and how did the holiday originate?
Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.
― Chris Rose,
In the Catholic tradition, Carnival season starts on the Twelfth Night, also called King’s Day or the Feast of the Epiphany, and runs through Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras comes from the old French, meaning “Fat Tuesday,” and marks the last day of celebration and indulgence before the deprivations of Lent. Carnival season is celebrated across many cultures with Catholic roots, and was introduced to the Gulf Coast of the United States during the French colonial period. Carnival takes on a local flavor wherever the holiday season is observed, including the Samba parade in Rio de Janeiro and the Volo dell’ Angelo in Venice.
Carnival season festivities in New Orleans include parades and masked balls put on by krewes, private social clubs devoted to charitable work and community involvement with their own special regalia and traditions. Revelers will often celebrate in costume. At one time, masking allowed New Orleanians to escape societal and class constraints.
One of my favorite parades is hosted by the Krewe of Muses, an all-female krewe know for their dazzling, often bitingly funny floats and their prized feature throw—glittering, homemade shoes fit for a Grecian goddess. Speaking of throws, it’s estimated that 25 million pounds of Mardi Gras items get tossed from floats in New Orleans every Carnival season! Parade floats often have a special theme, and are worked on year-round in the krewe’s secret hub, or den, until it’s time for the parade to roll. Along with floats, parades include dance troupes and marching clubs, high school marching bands, and flambeaux, or torch-bearing marchers who have been part of Carnival since the first night parades in the 19th century. While there are more than 80 official krewes, the largest and most extravagant parades thrown by the super krewes kickoff the Saturday before Mardi Gras with the Krewe of Endymion. Their motto, “Throw until it hurts,” reflects the over-the-top spectacle of Carnival.
New Orleans owes many beloved Carnival traditions to its African cultural heritage. During the colonial period, many of the enslaved people and Free People of Color in the city came from the Senegambian region of Africa. Their influence on the Gulf Coast can be seen in the region’s cuisine, music, architecture, and unique culture traditions.
Masquerade and processionals are an important aspect of African culture and the continuum of these traditions can be seen in second lines and marching cultures in New Orleans. Drawing from Nigerian beading traditions, Mardi Gras Indians craft spectacular suits for processionals and performances that take an entire year to create and weigh as much as 150 pounds. While the origin of this tradition is not easy to pin down, Mardi Gras Indians name themselves after American Indians to honor the help they provided for people escaping slavery and to “create an identity of strength and resilience.” There are more than 50 Mardi Gras Indian tribes in New Orleans, and on Mardi Gras rival tribes will meet to compete through costume and song.
While I won’t be celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year, I had to make a king cake, a sweet brioche served during Carnival, for my amazing DMA colleagues to sample. King cake is decorated in the Mardi Gras colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power) to honor the three kings who visited the Christ child on the Twelfth Night. It traditionally includes a hidden plastic or ceramic baby, and the person who finds the trinket must buy the next king cake or host the next party.
After all, in essence, Mardi Gras is about celebrating the sweetness of life with your friends, family, and neighbors.
This Mardi Gras I hope you indulge a little (or a lot!), kick up your heels, and show your community some love. Laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll)!
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs
During the month of February, we’ve been celebrating the legacy, contributions and culture of black persons through our Go van Gogh outreach program, African and African-American Art. With the help of our wonderful volunteers, elementary school children across Dallas have learned about two works of art that were made in Africa and two works of art that were made in the United States by African-American artists.
This African mask and drum are currently on view in the Museum’s 3rd floor Arts of Africa gallery. Come by for a closer look!
Each “quilt” square holds symbols and images inspired by African and African-American art, as well as the cultural identities of the artistic kiddos. Happy Black History Month!
McDermott Intern of Gallery and Community Teaching
Think back to your favorite scene in a movie. Was it action packed? Romantic? Full of suspense? Chances are that the music—the film’s score—helped create the mood of the scene.
Now think about your favorite work of art. How would you describe its mood or feeling? How did the artist convey that mood? When we describe the mood of a work of art, we typically think about visual elements like color, the quality of the brushstrokes, and composition. But sometimes, even with a work of art, music can enhance your experience.
We recently paired up with two local musicians, Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko, and invited them to imagine one minute “film scores” for a handful of works of art in the 18th Century European Gallery. Meet the musicians, learn about their process, and hear a sample of their work below.
Tell us about yourselves-in 50 words or less.
Clint Niosi: I’m a songwriter, film score composer, and audio engineer from Fort Worth. I also work as a Digital Technology Specialist for the Art + Art History Department at UT Arlington.
Claire Hecko: INFP, musician, composer, picture maker, seamstress, cat lover and motorcycle enthusiast, among other things. My primary instruments are viola and bass. I like long walks in the desert and good manners.
How would you describe your process of creating a “score” for a work of art?
Clint Niosi: While I wasn’t really sure how to approach it initially, I ended up using basically the same process I would have used for a film score. I try to find the emotional core of the scene and use the music to help move the story forward. Once I feel like I’ve found the mood I add or take away layers until it feels right with the picture.
Claire Hecko: I have very little education in music theory, so I’m not entirely sure how to best describe my process. I consider the feelings I want to embody in a piece and try to determine how to best represent them musically. Often, this entails picking up an instrument and just playing around on it until I come up with something that will serve as a foundation for the piece. From there, I begin adding layers to build a complete composition.
Were there any challenges?
Clint Niosi: Yes there were. Creating a modern composition outside the historical milieu in which the paintings are set seemed very daunting. Also, the limited duration of the format (one minute per piece) was an additional challenge. Some of the paintings have very complex stories and complicated emotions to convey. Ultimately I just dove in and had fun with it.
Claire Hecko: My biggest challenge was creating the “score” for The Harp Lesson by Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust – I had many ideas, but no access to (or training to play) a harp. Thankfully, technology allowed me to replicate the sound of a harp on a laptop.
What did you enjoy most about this opportunity?
Clint Niosi: It was such a treat to have a chance to collaborate with the DMA. I’m an art enthusiast and a long time fan of the DMA’s permanent collection. The chance to dive into something like this is something I will always remember. It was a learning experience.
Claire Hecko: My degree is in Art History, a subject close to my heart. The opportunity to represent a work of art through music was very exciting for me!
Stop by the Pop-Up Art Spot this Saturday to check out an iPod and listen to the “film scores” composed and recorded by Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko.
Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections
Manager of Access Programs