Reflections on Education

Our delightful education coordinator Cortney Tunis had her last day at MASS MoCA on Friday. (She moonlighted as our t-shirt model too as you can see.)   She shared this blog about her memorable MASS MoCA moments from the last few years here.

The past two and a half years have been filled with many triumphs during my time here at MASS MoCA. I haven’t written a blog since I was an intern here, but I figured my last duty as MASS MoCA Education Coordinator could be to share what I consider to be my “Personal Best Of” list: the highlights of my time here at the museum. So, here goes (in no particular order):

A moment that really stands out in mind was a project created by the Stearns Elementary School 5th grade based on Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings. Following the lead of amazing and enthusiastic teachers, Stearns students were given a wall space in the hall of their school to create their own Wall Drawings based on geometric instructions provided by their math teacher. The Stearns 5th grade came to the museum to learn about LeWitt’s process so they could create a great educational art piece in their school, and even created a segment for public access television documenting their project. I had the pleasure of being one of the guides for this great class, and was invited to see the final results on the walls at Stearns. The students were so proud of their work, the walls looked fantastic, and art had truly been incorporated into the classroom experience. It was an utter triumph.

This past spring MASS MoCA hosted a High School Invitational Art Show in our galleries. Students from five are middle and high schools got to see their work hung on the walls of MASS MoCA, win juried prizes and share their experience with their family and friends. It took A TON of work to get the show up (it was installed in one day!) but the results were truly special. Seeing the students swell with pride over having their art on display in the museum made all of the hard work more than worth it.

On a less academic note, Halloween Gallery Quests are always a total riot. The costumes that kids arrive in (and that the staff members cobble together at the last minute!) are always amazing. One year we had a family of three boys arrive in the most amazing costumes. The middle one, around 5, was a character from Star Wars, Boba Fett if I remember correctly. The oldest, around 7, was Ulysses S. Grant, and the 3 year old was Ray Charles. Apparently the youngest had come up with that costume idea on his own, and his grandma made him a little red blazer to add to his sunglasses to bring it all together. So precious.

Every once in a while some of my fellow coworkers and I get a hankering for something greasy and delicious for lunch. And when we do, there is no better fix than Jack’s. For those of you not familiar, Jack’s is a lunch counter style hot dog joint in North Adams, boasting a ridiculously cheap menu, the tastiest chili dogs, and staff that always remembers you. The thought of a midday trip to Jack’s will always make me smile.

By now most people who know MASS MoCA also know about Solid Sound, the fantastic music and art festival curated by Wilco. For staff, Solid Sound is a hectic, fun, and exhausting three days spent bouncing from one duty to another, sometimes without seeing a single band—despite live music playing all day, every day. This year, I was lucky enough to get a lunch break in the middle of the day on Sunday and during a delicious meal of crayfish and catfish po’boys by Joe Thompson Field, my friend Marissa and I noticed that we could hear the crowd singing along to the band playing over in Courtyard D. We wondered what band could get these rain-weary festival goers, coming up on 36 hour of music, so amped up in the middle of a Sunday. The answer was simple: J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound. The electric energy of this post-punk, soul band is infectious, and the audience had caught the fever.

We followed the ecstatic sounds to Courtyard D to find a super smooth, hyped up front man rocking out to brassy, funky tunes. In fact, they were playing their cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and Jeff Tweedy has just made his way to the stage. This was unscripted Solid Sound at its best. J.C. Brooks had no idea Tweedy was there, and when he turned around to see whose extra voice it was backing him up, the shock of seeing Jeff literally knocked him onto his back. They proceeded to share the stage, and (in my opinion) bring down the house. Absolutely my favorite moment from Solid Sound (’10 and ’11!).

Finally, I have given roughly 470 tours in the course of my time at MASS MoCA. I have lead groups of the very young to the very old, art historians to amateurs, contemporary enthusiasts to skeptics. And I must say, above all else, the people who come to MASS MoCA have made my experience here amazing. From a truly heartfelt “thank you” for opening their eyes to what contemporary art can be, to a challenging question that made me rethink my own understanding, the patrons of MASS MoCA never ceased to surprise me. So, if you were on one of my tours (and you probably were.  470? That is A LOT!), thank you for taking the time to spend an hour with me. I’m glad we could share that time together.







Posted August 16, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Gallery Quest, High School Art Show, Museum Education, Staff, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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One Comment on “Reflections on Education”

  1. Erica Manville Says:

    Thank you Courtney for your help! You were an invaluable resource and a great promoter of how awesome museum education can be. Thank you for all your hard work.

    Art Teacher in North Adams

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