The Not So Ideal
So I’ll start with the bad news because it’s always better if you start off with the bad news. I did not give any student tours this week. Our studio tour? No shows. Our high school tour? Terrible mess of a day–their bus broke down in the morning and after a series of miscommunications and exhaustion for every single person involved, the tour was officially cancelled at 1:30pm.
Adult Tour Goodness
I had my very first adult tour with Kate Kelley, who was really supportive and let me do 2.5 pieces which have become very dear to my heart. Our theme was “process,” which was interpreted in very different ways. We started off in the African gallery with the Nkisi Nkondi, which Kate presented on, and her style of touring really calmed my nerves and helped me get an idea of the group’s vibe. Some of the Road Scholars came onto our highlights tour, and there were some adults who were very inquisitive and contributed to the discussion. My wonderful team partner Carey came to shadow my presentations on my tour, which were on a Navajo textile and Izumi Masatoshi’s Islands. After watching me fret allll day long in the docent room about being ready, her presence definitely calmed me.
I ended up surprising myself by being able to answer questions thrown at me about the process of creating the textile, and what its use was because the information on the work itself was quite sparse. But after much reading and researching I learned enough about Navajo weaving to answer in a way that I felt comfortable–comfortable in that I was very sure of my answers and very happy to share such information.
As for the Masatoshi piece, I loved researching for it because it led me to untraditional sources. I reconnected with Michael Reback, a former Museum Education Intern from last year who attended Vassar as well, who gained curatorial permission to touch the Masatoshi piece for his tour for visually challenged students. He wrote a blog post about the experience and it came up in my google search of Masatoshi’s name. To be honest, at the very beginning, I was not really sure about this blog. I do like to record my daily goings on in a personal journal, but a blog? But after my post last week and this experience, I’m realizing quickly that this is more than just a fun way to remember good times–it’s also a way for me to track my progress and also can be a great resource for future interns who may go through similar obstacles with research or tour ideas. I’ve really enjoyed reading the past years’ blogs and the various themes and pieces they used, and hope that the next group of interns will feel free to reach out and ask for any help 🙂
Also, in researching about Izumi Masatoshi, I also was able to meet Janice Katz, curator of Japanese art. After having an existential crisis about the library not having any Masatoshi-specific resources (“But how can this be? It’s the Ryerson library, it has everything!” went my little panicked mental voice), I asked Kate what to do. She told me to reach out to the curatorial department and see if perhaps an assistant could help me out. I did not expect that Janice Katz, the curator herself who must be so busy with her work, would so eagerly reach out! Ms. Katz graciously let me borrow all of her Masatoshi catalogues, one of which had a very cool piece of granite attached on the cover (Poetry of Stone), and her full write-up of the Islands acquisition form. I am so grateful to the amazing community at the museum–former interns, educators, the circulation desk workers, and curators–who really help me in crafting my tours to the best they can be!
For our museum practices seminar this week, we met Jennifer Oatess and George Martin of Development, and Michelle Lehrman Jenness of Protection Services. Both sessions were really interesting and fruitful, and I truly learned a lot about both fields that I have never been able to beforehand. It seems like the major trend between all of the people we’ve talked to and met the last four weeks (eek) is that there is a lot of passion given into their work to support the Art Institute. Each and every person is dedicated to art, and more specifically, to the Art Institute’s mission and collection. What surprised me most, and yet in some ways not as much as it could have, was Ms. Lehrman Jenness’ description of how she wants her gallery guards to be happy, approachable, engaged, and appreciative of the art and the people who come to the museum.
I have had my share of bad experiences with unapproachable grumpy gallery guards, but I have been noticing a much friendlier and engaged vibe amongst the guards at the Institute. One particular guard aided with my and Carey’s presentation of the Calder mobile to students, telling us that sometimes if the doors open and close enough, it will make the mobile move and even chime. He proceeded to help us by opening and closing the doors while our students blew upward. It was a magical moment and I really appreciated the guard for his input and help. Talking to the guards at any given moment has been a series of great conversations about Chicago and the collections, and I am really glad and pleasantly surprised to know that this is what the Art Institute looks for in all employees: passion and appreciation for art. We all may be in different departments with different daily tasks, but our main goal is one and the same: to share and support the amazing collection within the walls to those coming in either for the first time or the millionth time.
Also this is the best finding I’ve made in my research: