by Emma Boulding
I distinctly remember the first time I met with my fellow interns. More specifically, I remember how I felt. What’s the opposite of knowledgeable? Yeah, I felt that. Here I was, a student so undecided on a major that I’d taken courses on natural disasters, cultural anthropology, American history, contemporary writers, child psychology and statistics, now surrounded by Art History and Visual Media Studies majors. Notice how in my list of courses above I didn’t mention a single course related to either department. That’s right, I’ve never taken a course while at Duke that is related to art. Yet here I was, an intern at the Nasher Museum of Art for the Education Department. I felt intimidated to say the least.
Now don’t start with the name-calling just yet. I’m not an impostor…well not exactly. I do love art museums. I did attend an arts school (okay, I admit it, I studied chorus…so what!?) Being from Durham, I did volunteer at the Nasher Museum during my high school years, but no, I didn’t take an art history class. No, I didn’t choose to major in Visual Media Studies, but I do love art. I love art’s ability to cross boundaries of communication. The truth is, you don’t need to have an excessive knowledge base in order to enjoy and find meaning in a piece of art. No matter what your background it is possible for you to interpret and appreciate a piece of art in your own way. Sure, your interpretations are bound to be different from mine, but that’s part of the beauty of art. Indeed, part of the reason museums exist in the first place is to make art accessible to the general public—to those who otherwise may not have access.
Despite my initial qualms, I found interning in the Education Department to be the perfect fit. During my time as an intern, I primarily developed educational materials for children, whether for an upcoming Family Day, a teacher workshop, or a school tour. I have always loved children. I love their carefree attitude, their eagerness to learn and their endless appetite for knowledge. While my lack of formal art training initially caused feelings of anxiety and embarrassment, I was later able to use my own viewpoint when creating educational materials. As it turns out, I actually have quite a lot in common with children. I come to art with an equally blank slate. While I might not be well versed in the technicalities of ancient Roman art, I can relate to children. I can put myself in their shoes and, to be honest, a lot of the time I am in their shoes. I tried to keep this in mind while creating educational materials. The most memorable moments during my internship included seeing children interact with and experience art. To see children—children who have previously never stepped into an art museum—practically leap off the floor to answer questions during a school tour is truly inspiring. Like these children, I came to the Nasher Museum knowing very little. Like these children, I left with a newfound knowledge and a deeper appreciation for art.
Photo by J Caldwell