One of the many perks of being a museum educator here at the DMA is having the opportunity to connect with amazing people in our North Texas community and beyond. Thanks to Tanya Krueger, one of our superstar volunteer docents, I’ve learned about the important work being done by The Stewpot, a community outreach program dedicated to serving homeless and at-risk populations here in Dallas.
Tanya volunteers for the Stewpot Art Program, a special program that provides class time and art supplies for individuals looking to express themselves creatively, grow as artists, and support themselves through the sale of their work (be sure to check out opportunities to support the program by donating supplies or purchasing artwork – the artist receives 90% of the sale and the remainder goes back into the program for art supplies and field trips for the artists.) The Stewpot artists themselves are a remarkable group of people. Plan a visit to the studio and you’ll be struck by each artist’s individual style, creative drive, and kind spirit.
Together with Cynthia Brannum, Stewpot Art Program Director, we’ve launched a monthly program for the Stewpot artists here at the DMA that includes a gallery discussion and lots of art-making activities. Speaking for myself, working with the Stewpot artists has been one of the highlights of my summer. Take a look at our first two visits!
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs
Adult coloring books are all the rage right now, and the perfect relaxing activity to take a break from your spreadsheets at work, the laundry piling up at home, or that never-ending to do list. If you don’t really want to share your coloring books with the kids, here are some creative, easy ideas that go beyond the coloring book.
Graph Paper Drawing
A couple years ago, one of the few things on my nephew’s Christmas wish list was graph paper. He was genuinely thrilled to open up a gridded white board, and got to work right away creating all kinds of designs. If a blank piece of paper is too overwhelming for your child, graph paper drawing is a great alternative. The preprinted lines and shapes provide just enough structure while still allowing for open-ended expression. You can download and print your own graph paper in all kinds of designs, from regular squares to triangles, circles, hexagons, and more, here.
Scribble drawings are still one of my very favorite ways to doodle. Simply scribble a line (or two or MANY) on your paper and then fill in the spaces with color for a fun abstract design. Or, step back, take a closer look at your doodle and see if any images materialize. Can you see a face? A tail? Fill in the appropriate spaces to finish out what your imagination sees in the lines.
Back and Forth Drawings
Turn coloring time into together time by playing simple drawing games together. Tangle Art & Drawing Games for Kids has tons of creative ideas. We tried “Horizon Drawings” here in the office. I drew a wacky horizon line on a piece of paper, then handed it off to Jennifer, who turned it into these delightfully kooky characters. Can’t you just imagine the story that is happening here?
Surreal drawings are another imagination-builder. Start off with an everyday object—clip pictures from recycled magazines or print images from the internet. Challenge your child to transform that object into something new by drawing. Characters are an easy place to begin—a carrot turns into a basketball player, an egg beater becomes a charming friend.
Pokemon Go Unplugged
When it’s time to unplug and disconnect, your kids can still burn off their Pokemon Go steam with a little old-fashioned drawing. Have everyone in the family invent and draw their own Pokemon Go character and hide it somewhere in the house or yard. Call “ready, set, go” and race to see who can collect the most characters.
For more great drawing ideas, check out these links:
Manager of Family and Early Learning Programs
I’ll be the first to own up to my pretty serious bias, but I think summer camp is the most wonderful time of the year! The DMA offers unique camps throughout the summer which feature different themes, artworks across the Museum’s collection, and new teachers and campers every week. We wouldn’t be able to manage so much change and excitement without our six camp constants: our 2016 Summer Art Camp Interns! It is my pleasure to introduce Kristin Wright, Clare Mills, Annabella Boatwright, Shannon Bentley, Julia Dotter, and Vanessa White.
Each Monday, these all-star interns greet a new group of campers and put their hearts into creating a friendly, fun, and safe environment for our young artists. They support our teachers, plan lunchtime projects, encourage and challenge campers in their art-making, and are the fastest exhibition set-up crew in the west. Take a look at some of the fun they’ve helped make happen!
I recently embarked on a two week road trip to see parts of America I’ve never seen before. As my family and I drove across the country–through the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico–the landscape and sites constantly reminded me of works of art from the Museum’s collection.
We saw expansive flat lands transform into rolling hills, then the rough and brittle Badlands. We saw Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills. We saw purple mountains and red rocks in Colorado and camped among tree filled peaks. We were even visited by a moose in the Rio Grande National Forest.
We drove past mesas, buttes, and Glen Canyon Dam. We kayaked in the clearest fresh water at Lake Powell and jumped off cliffs. We visited the (inaccurately named) Aztec Ruins left behind by an Ancestral Pueblo society. We saw the adobe houses and desert landscapes that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe. And then we made our way back home though west Texas.
Take a break from the Texas heat and take your own journey across the world and through time in the DMA’s permanent collection galleries this summer.
Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections
For any visitor, going to a museum has the potential to be an overwhelming experience. Large crowds, new sensory experiences, an unknown environment, and expectations of best behavior can act as barriers to enjoying a day at the museum. This can be especially true for visitors with special needs. But is that a reason to avoid museums altogether? No way!
In this series, we’ll explore tips and tricks for creating a great Museum experience for visitors with special needs. First up in our All Access Guide to the Museum series is Autism!
- Reviewing a social story before your Museum visit may help your child understand what to expect. This can meet a need for structure and predictability, and help to reduce the stress or confusion your child may experience throughout their visit. Find a social story for your DMA visit here!
- Make your visit child-sized and focus on just a few works of art that spark your child’s curiosity. Don’t feel like you need to see everything in one day. General admission to the Museum is free and you can return again and again!
- Pass the reins to the kids and follow their interests! Let them choose where to go and what to see, then give their imaginations a workout. You might search for favorite colors or animals, act out a story you see in the artwork, or play a game of I Spy.
- Children may prefer to sit and participate in quiet activities, such as drawing or playing a game. Find places within the galleries that allow for quiet time, such as one of the benches found around the Museum or open spaces to sit on the floor. Bring along a sketchbook and colored pencils to experience the art in an interactive way.
- Take a break! Adding breaks to your Museum visit may help children spend more time touring the galleries and increase their overall enjoyment. Find a quiet place to take a break that is free of auditory, visual, and tactile stimulation. For example, the walls in the Ancient American galleries are a calm, muted grey tone complimented by low lighting. This creates a more soothing atmosphere for children who are sensitive to bright light or may become distracted with too much visual stimulation.
- Children are welcome to wear noise canceling headphones or listen to music during their time at the Museum. This may be helpful if they respond negatively to unexpected or loud noises, hold their hands over their ears to protect them from sounds, become distracted around a lot of sounds, or can’t work with background noise.
- Allowing children to carry a small object or favorite toy during their visit may enable them to focus more fully.
- Children who have sensory seeking tendencies may display a need to touch certain surfaces or textures. Providing them with opportunities throughout their Museum visit to touch and interact with exhibits may be helpful in increasing their enjoyment. Although the majority of items in the Museum should not be touched, a few galleries do include interactive elements, such as the playable thumb piano in the African gallery. For more interactive experiences, head down to the Center for Creative Connections on the first floor where you can visit Arturo’s Nest and the Young Learners Gallery. Both are “please touch” spaces where kids can crawl, explore, and play.
- If you prefer to plan your visit during non-peak hours, you may want to come September through May (Tuesday-Friday, after 1:00 pm). If you are planning your visit during Summer, Spring Break, or holidays, you may want to visit Tuesday-Friday, 11:00 to 1:00 pm.
- Visit the Museum during our next Autism Awareness Family Celebration, when we open two hours early for children with autism and their families to enjoy art together! Families can participate in art-making activities in the studio, enjoy an interactive performance by our music therapist, listen to an in-gallery story time, or relax in our quiet sensory room facilitated by occupational therapy students from Texas Woman’s University.
We hope to see you soon!
McDermott Graduate Intern for Family and Access Teaching
Last night, we wrapped up our annual summer partnership with the South Dallas Cultural Center’s six-week Summer Arts at the Center program, where students learn about African history through writing, photography, art-making, and performance. This summer, students learned about post-colonial West Africa, with a focus on Ghana.
Some of our favorite works of art at the DMA come from Ghana – like the Sword ornament in the shape of a lion! After a field trip to the Museum to learn more about Asante gold, teens illustrated and gilded proverbs from their lives with gold leaf, then brought them into three dimensions with clay.
After their projects were finished, we invited families from the Center to visit us for a family night! Roslyn Walker, the DMA’s Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific, lead tours for families in the galleries. Students and their loved ones also made thumb pianos in the studio and explored the Center for Creative Connections during their visit.
Big thanks to the South Dallas Cultural Center for another summer of awesome art making and fun. We look forward to seeing you at the museum again soon!
Manager of Teen and Gallery Programs
I first met dance instructor Misty Owens last summer when she partnered with some of my colleagues to present movement-based workshops for visitors with special needs here at the DMA. She brought pool noodles, scarves, inspiring music, and a mesmerizing grace into the galleries, and it was so fun to watch her work with our visitors.
This past spring, I saw her in action once again when she brought her Dance for Parkinson’s Disease class to the Museum for regular visits. Her ability to communicate ideas through movement and encourage even the least-coordinated person (me!) to attempt some dance moves in the galleries is inspiring. The culminating performance for Misty’s Dance for PD group just happened to fall on the same day as a Toddler Art class I taught. As the children trickled out of our classroom space after class, they literally stumbled upon the dance group’s dress rehearsal. The toddlers were mesmerized! They spontaneously sat down on the carpet and became an impromptu audience as the dancers practiced their steps. There were huge smiles (on both the toddlers’ and the performers’ faces), and it sparked an idea—what would it be like to have Misty work with our littlest visitors?
Lucky for me, Misty is willing to try just about everything, and earlier this month, she was at the DMA once more, this time as a special guest teacher for the Art Babies class. The Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty exhibition served as our inspiration, and Misty led caregivers and babies in a lively exploration of Penn’s photography through movement.
We began by looking at Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black. Misty and I were both taken by the fabric and thought that the peek-a-boo playfulness to the image seemed to be begging for some baby dance moves! Using lengths of stretchy white fabric, we experimented with making shapes with our bodies, played peek-a-boo, and created living sculptures around the babies. One little guy could not stop giggling as his mother wrapped him and unwrapped him in the fabric, surprising him with silly faces.
For our next stop, we took a closer look at Frozen Foods (one of my personal favorites from the show!) This time, Misty focused our attention on the different textures in the photo—we noticed the long, straight shoots of asparagus, the rounded pops of frozen berries, and the crackling frozen lentils. Using pool noodles, shakers, and maracas, the babies and parents created their own soundscape for the photo, and moved and danced in rhythm to bouncy melodies. It was a ruckus, but so much fun!
I loved watching the parents and children experience the art in an entirely new way. When the music came on, the babies couldn’t seem to help themselves, and their little legs and arms would start bopping in time to the music. Parents were all smiles and gave themselves permission to be silly as we jumped and reached and swooshed around the galleries. And for me personally as an educator, Misty helped me to approach these works of art with a new eye and gain an even greater appreciation for Penn’s artistry and talent. I noticed textures, shapes, movement, and stillness where I hadn’t really seen them before.
Lesson learned—a little dance is good for everyone, no matter how big or small!
Manager of Family and Early Learning Programs