When chatting with my mom this week, she asked the usual question,: ‘how is school?” “How is work?” “How’s your internship at the Nasher Museum?” While the first two questions got an automated response of “fine,” the third inquiry was responded to excitedly.” “Great! I got to spend four hours on Pinterest!”
Part of my job as an educational intern is to help coordinate activities for children after they have toured our exhibitions. This process begins with the educational department exploring the exhibition, coming up with plans and emphases for our tours and programs. Then the department decides what they might like to focus on for follow up with our young visitors.
With the Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist exhibition, we decided to focus on the clothing accessories in the Bronzeville paintings, and the theme of one particular painting, Carnival. After the determining this, it becomes my job to find ways we can engage with children in these particular areas. If we want to focus on accessories, what kind of activity can both kindergarteners and pre-teens participate in in meaningful ways? We came up with different materials for our youth to use for their papers hats, and different kinds of beads for jewelry making, so that each child could make their craft as simple or as ornate as they wanted. For our carnival theme, we plan to have a range of games and crafts that will appeal to kids of all ages (and hopefully their parents too!)
In addition to scouring the Internet and activity books for ideas, I also track the logistics of each craft. What supplies do we have, and what do we need to order? Do we need to prepare anything beforehand? How can we make these activities high-quality, but cost-efficient?
After acquiring materials, my next task is to create easy-to-follow instructions, and examples of each project. (So while last week I spent my internship time on Pinterest, this week I get to play with scissors and glitter glue!) While the preparation certainly is a wonderful part of my job, nothing beats sitting and working with the children, decorating hats and hearing one say, “Mine looks just like the painting!” They don’t have to mimic the painting’s style, but are encouraged to think about what they would want on their own hats. My hat was covered in sequins, which was not a feature of Motley at all.
A museum is not just for eager art history majors to display their knowledge. It is an opportunity for everyone to engage with the art, and it is the job of the education department to support this engagement. So the next time my mom calls and asks about the museum and why what I do is meaningful, I’ll have to invite her to come make a paper hat with me.