To my extreme sorrow (and no doubt that of any number of my colleagues at PEM), our Museum Action Corps internship program is drawing to an end. To celebrate some of the incredible work of the program’s coordinator, Rosario, and her many teams of impressive interns, I thought I would use a few BrainPopcorn posts to highlight my favorite recent intern projects.
Exploring Personal Connections Across Artworks, Curators, and Visitors
Exhibit openings usually have a number of common denominators: VIPs, staff with shiny nametags, refreshments, people mingling with more or less conversation focused on the art. Maybe there’s some music, there are pretty much always a few minutes of speeches–it’s a fairly predictable pattern.
Which is why, when the museum staff was invited to an intern-created temporary exhibition event, “Connecting Cultures,” I was beyond pleasantly surprised to see the pattern rearranged.
First, we were invited to pick up a name tag–not with our name on it, but instead with a noun we found appealing, or which we felt applied to us. There were lots of choices: hard work, creativity, entertainment, emotion, etcetera. Unsurprisingly, I chose
And with our name tag came an accompanying envelope with instructions and a slip of paper inside. The instructions suggested that we consider and then do these things:
1) Why did you pick your name tag? (Easy, that. I don’t think they had ‘Hello, my name is Imagination’ or that would have been more of a battle.)
2) Find the artwork listed on our initial slip, talk to the intern who picked it, make connections between his or her experience and our own, as well as that of any other person visiting the artwork at the same time (This turned out to be very cool, as I learned things about my coworkers which would never have come up in everyday conversation.)
3) Pick another word associated with that artwork from the group on the table and follow it to the object indicated. Then think about how that word applied to both artworks.
4) Repeat step 2 until you’ve gone full circle or the time runs out and it’s time for speeches.
As you can see from my list, there were any number of neat themes to choose from: some had to do with the ideas expressed in each artwork chosen, others to do with the physical aspects of the artwork itself. I did find myself redirected to the same object once or twice, so deliberately picked other words instead so that I’d have the opportunity to talk to different interns about their choices and experiences during the MAC semester.
My favorite take-away thoughts from this activity were these:
1) The level of staff or ‘visitor’ participation in this exhibit was very high, and conversations tended to be more on point than I’ve seen in some other intern exhibitions or final project presentations.
2) People tend to clump with others from their department or with whom they usually work closely, but the unusual name tags were a fun way to start a conversation with someone new. (Or to stare surreptitiously and wonder why someone picked a certain term as their new ‘handle.’ Some were glaringly obvious, others were more of a head-scratcher, and that was fun. It’s a great ice breaker and one I’d definitely like to re-use when I get an opportunity.)
3) Some of the staff members found the directions confusing or convoluted, presumably because they missed one of the group introductions to the activity which were provided by the interns themselves. A little more signage outside the exhibit might have helped those who didn’t realize they had instructions in their envelopes as well.
4) The idea of ‘tagging’ a group of artworks with similar ideas or physical aspects would be a great way to talk about themes and looking at art with kids, either using examples from museums or their own artworks generated in class.