Preparedness

The recent months have been a whirlwind. With changing seasons, new jobs, and big hopes, I concluded my Davidson Impact Fellowship and embarked on a new journey. I have yet to have time to sit and think about the things I worked on and contributed to over the past year. So as I pause to write my final DIF post, an overwhelming amount of emotion and gratitude floods in.

What had I done in the past year? What can I say I accomplished? The first question is a bit easier to answer: I had worked with the first art museum in North Carolina. I led a team creating programs for young adults to engage with the museum’s collection. I trained a group of almost 80 older adults on touring strategies and special exhibition materials. I contributed to the museum’s newest initiative to bring area teens to connect with and learn from a beautiful collection of art, craft, and design. Frankly, I had been a part of more than I had hoped.

For the answer to my second question, I had to think a little harder. From writing resumes and cover letters for my next opportunity, I knew that I had accomplished a lot professionally: experience, ability, ingenuity, patience, dedication–all made easier by working for a cause I believed in. But what does all of that mean in the grand scheme of things? Yes, I am more qualified now, but why does that matter?

It matters because I am now prepared to move forward in the art world, helping to bring individuals of all ages, economic backgrounds, and ethnicities to an institution that speaks the universal language of culture: art. Art, as I have further discovered in the past year, can do more to teach us critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration. This amazing resource, which is housed in institutions across the world, should be advocated for. Every person should have access to educational programs at museums; everyone should have this chance to learn. This is what I am now more prepared to support because of my Impact Fellowship.

What the Impact Fellowship Program provides young graduates, in its most basic sense, is an unbelievable opportunity for a first job. On another level, it offers the chance to be part of a greater Davidson community that gives back. It provides the basic, yet invaluable, support of someone believing in you. At the highest tier, it provides preparedness–what I have come to learn as the most valuable trait that an individual can possess: the preparedness to jump into the greater community and work for what you believe in.

My Impact Fellowship has done exactly that: fully prepared me to take my next step toward accomplishing my career goals. It has led me to accept a position working for an art museum in New York advocating for free educational programs so that any visitor that might walk through the door–and individuals interested globally!–may have the opportunity to learn from the amazing cultural history we have available. Spending the past year in hands on experience in arts education has given me the material with which to support a wide variety of initiatives.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to The Mint Museum, thank you to Davidson College, and thank you to the wonderful Impact Fellow Program. This incredible opportunity has given me more than I could have hoped for in a first job and has better prepared me to take on the challenges of working for a nonprofit, and a cause that I believe in.

Interdisciplinary Studies in Museums

This month, the Mint Museum will be hosting ArtFusion: NaNoWriMo Write-In. ArtFusions are monthly events geared toward young Interdisciplinary Studies in Museums adults in the Charlotte area that unite art, culture, and community. These events serve as a fun way for adults to experience the museum and connect with the art.

This ArtFusion corresponds with the Mint’s new special exhibition, Connecting the World: The Panama Canal at 100. The exhibition celebrates the centennial of the opening of the Panama Canal. It shows the building of the canal from all angles: the heroic, the harmful, and the scientific. What’s great about this show is not only its masterful design and the multimedia resources available, but the diverse number of interests that it can support: art, history, engineering,
environmentalism, travel—the list goes on. Further, this exhibition has been organized as a bilingual exhibition, meaning that all text panels have been duplicated in Spanish, so that its impact might reach even more people. Finally, in the curating of this exhibition, the Mint Museum commissioned a novella by New York Times Bestseller author Anthony Doerr, uniting the value of art and
Interdisciplinary Studies in Museums
literature as one cultural importance.

The idea of celebrating National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo) with our November ArtFusion is an exciting thing for us at the Museum. This gives us the chance to continue in the tradition of our commissioned novella and further the connection of art and writing. We will guide our visitors through the galleries and encourage them to take the meaningful documentation of the building of the Panama Canal as inspiration for their own stories.

On a slightly different note, I was able to attend last week’s Davidson Alumni event in Charlotte where Drs. Dave Wessner and Anne Fox presented on the art exhibition, Re/Presenting HIV/AIDS, a co-curated show with the Van Every and Smith Galleries at Davidson College. In their presentation Dr. Wessner and Dr. Fox touched on the value they saw and experienced in teaching their cross-discipline designed class: the ability to think “outside of the box” and push boundaries, the challenge in learning something outside of one’s comfort zone and being able to talk about it, and, of course, the connection that students can then make with the surrounding community. Hearing this brief talk reminded me the importance of interdisciplinary learning and made me value, even more, my education.

Dr. Fox and Dr. Wessner’s presentation also got me thinking about interdisciplinary interactions in the real world. With the opening of Connecting the World: The Panama Canal at 100, I realized that this is what the Mint Museum is doing. It is uniting many disciplines in this one exhibition and furthers the unity as it works with National Novel Writing Month to host a Write-In.

The importance of uniting such interests and using interdisciplinary methods is not only to cater to different individuals, but it encourages two groups of people (or more!) to come together and have meaningful conversation in the community. It is exciting to be a part of such a wonderful example of such efforts at the Mint.

 

Engaging ALL Audiences

In the art world, education not only means understanding the historical value of art, but also skills like critical thought, discussion, and even imagination and creativity. In my internship experiences that have led me to this position today, I have learned a lot about arts education and the value that is has in establishing well-rounded individuals who are engaged in their community. Art Education ties my two interests together: art and engaging the community. We typically think of young children and school-aged groups when considering both general and arts education – but I’m sure that we are all aware that learning happens throughout one’s life and that it is important to maintain it.

Here, I will briefly discuss different age groups and the value of their education in the arts while also touching on some challenges that each demographic presents.

 

Early Childhood (ages 0-5): This age group is very important to connect with and not often recognized. Working with young children is a tough task and requires much manpower, but the benefits of exposing this age group to new settings, artistic representations (color, shapes, three dimensionality), and social interaction prepare children for learning in school. Not to mention such activities make a museum a place of familiarity, comfort, and security – things necessary for later involvement with the museum!

Youth (6-12): Youth involvement in the arts is probably the most common among education programming at museums, as it is made easier with partnerships with schools. And it is a very very valuable time in a child’s life to make connections to culture and creativity. The activities that engage students with art help develop skills necessary in the 21st century include critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, and communication and collaboration, among others. The challenge presented here is the decreased funding for the arts in schools: schools no longer have the money to send students to museums. Museums, therefore, are making the efforts to reach out to schools and train teachers on how to incorporate arts into the classroom.

Families: Working with families is very important because it encourages the strengthening of familial bonds within the community. It is important for children and adults, from the same family or not, to interact in a fun and beneficial way; it helps develop refined social skills and creates a place where parents and children can have fun together. Activities geared toward families are moments that individuals can take home with them and reflect on later. This continued engagement is a way to bring consistency to cultural awareness and family bonding.

Teens: This is the group I feel is most important to connect with when it comes to art. Teenagers have a special relationship self-expression, a primary concept in art, especially modern and contemporary. Art institutions can easily harness that energy and put it to good use, helping teens develop professional skills and encourage their youthful creativity at the same time. The challenge with this age group is connecting with them in a “cool” and nonacademic way. Teenagers, I have learned, often want to be responsible for their own choices, a characteristic that needs to be respected if a program is to connect with them.

Young Adults: I feel very connected to this group as well, as I am a young adult myself. Connecting with the young adult population within a community engages a demographic that is often caught up with work and adjusting to the real world to take serious interest in cultural activities. However, engaging this age group is not only an important part of a culturally aware community, but it interests the world’s next leaders in the importance of art education and museums, and therefore, ensures the future success of the arts. Plus, just because we are “adults” now doesn’t mean that we don’t like to make art!

Older Adults: This age group is an interesting one. Many retired individuals establish hobbies, some of which include visiting or volunteering at art museums. We often see higher numbers of attendance and membership from this age group. But beyond cultural involvement, exposing older adults to the arts is beneficial for sustaining activity of the mind. Many programs are being developed around the world that provide space for individuals suffering from dementia and their caregivers to interact with one another and the art before them. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has conducted a pioneering research initiative on this type of programming and its benefits. While these programs are incredibly valuable, these programs are run with a “therapy-like” quality to them and therefore require a higher amount of resources and energy.

 

What I’m getting at with this post, and what I’m learning in my position at the Mint Museum, is that there are a wide variety of audiences that we should reach out to – for the benefit of the museum, for the benefit of the individuals, and for the benefit of the community. But I am also learning that these things take resources that are not always available. No one wants to choose between groups of people to help, but ultimately it can come down to that. Hopefully that choice is only temporary and that eventually, museums can help everyone.

My Place at The Mint

Wow! It is incredible how quickly the time passes. I cannot believe it has already been a month and a half at my new position of Davidson Impact Fellow with the Learning & Engagement Department at the Mint Museum.

My Place at The Mint

The Mint Museum Randolph, the site of the original branch of the U.S. Mint

Brief history: the Mint Museum was the first art museum in North Carolina and is so named because it was first installed in the original branch of the U.S. Mint. In its two locations, it is home to collections of African, Mesoamerican, European, and American art, as well as a vast collection from the Craft and Design movement.

This year, Davidson has broadened the Impact Fellowship Program with a “Build Your Own” option, an addition that I believe is an incredible way to encourage graduates to pursue uncommon fields and to ensure that they can get started in a great way. Because of this opportunity, I was able to seek out the non-profit organization that spoke the most to me and work for them. With this freedom, I am able to channel my passions, art education and the greater community, into an amazing postgraduate opportunity!

Now, just over a month in, I have found myself taking a step back and asking a few questions: What on earth am I doing? What do I hope to accomplish? and of course, Will there be enough time? I had all of these questions answered in my mind when I started the fellowship in August, but as a typical Davidsonian, I have made my goals much larger than 28 weeks can handle.

The Mint Museum Uptown, home to the Craft + Design Collection

What am I doing?

As I am the first fellow at the Mint Museum, this is a very valid question. I have signed on to be the Learning & Engagement Fellow, meaning that I assist anyone and everyone in the department with all features of their public programming to ensure their successand impact on the public. I work most closely with the Learning & Engagement Programs Coordinator on the museum’s Docent Program. I help organize training materials, am researching and reorganizing the structure of the program for efficiency, and I facilitate training sessions. Further, I am helping kick-start the Mint’s new Teen Initiative. Quite the exciting job!

 

What do I hope to accomplish?

Before starting this program, I came in with the intention of leaving with a complete and stable teen program series planned, a well trained and energized docent class, and nothing left to be done. Clearly, all of this is not possible. My overarching life goals of making art accessible to the community in a fun and engaging way, however, might be! In the next two weeks, I will help facilitate a teen program and an adult program, both of which are educational with the goal of engaging a hard-to-reach demographic, so I’m on the right track!

 

Will there be time?

Six and a half months is not a lot of time, especially to make the changes I envision. But, in these short 6 weeks, I feel as though I have accomplished a lot. I am already making great connections with the Mint Museum Docents, a group I believe is the face of the museum, relaying educational information to visitors and making their experience that much more fulfilling.


My Place at The Mint

Taking a step back to reassess is always good. Sometimes we get caught up in the now and forget to remember our goals in each thing we do. Though my time at the Mint Museum is short, I hope to make even the smallest difference in bringing the Charlotte community to the amazing world of art.

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