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So you want to… be an arts educator.

Have resumes and cover letters become your (least) favorite new hobby? Times are tough out there for recent graduates and young professionals – competition is fierce and you can’t be an intern forever.  In our new blog series, So you want to…, our museum staff offers advice and inspiration for pursuing an arts career. Don’t worry– all those applications will eventually turn into an interview!

Laura Thompson has worked as the Director of Kidspace for over ten years and now oversees all the educational programming at MASS MoCA as Director of Education. She holds a doctorate in arts education from Columbia University Teachers College and also serves as a visiting assistant professor of art history at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

From my dad: “Keep plugging away.” From my mom (said with a thick Queens, NY accent): “Oh, just get thicker skin.”

What was a formative arts experience for you as a young person?

My family is big on art; in fact, my grandfather was a WPA and an Ashcan artist and my dad, a writer who also loved to draw on just about anything, napkins, paper plates, newspapers. We always went to museums and art galleries. As a kid, my family would make an annual pilgrimage to the Berkshires to visit the Clark Art Institute and Tanglewood.

One of the most lasting impressions I have of a museum visit is when my dad took me to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1984. On view was Jonathan Borofsky. I remember it so clearly – I was excited to see his large men sculptures and I got to play Ping-Pong at a game table in the middle of the galleries. It seemed so weird to have a contemporary art installation in what were typically such formal gallery spaces. My dad and I had great conversations that day, too, talking about our favorite subjects: art and politics. It was here that I realized that I loved talking about art and hoped that I would have a career in the field.

What is the biggest shift you’ve witnessed in the museum field?

I’ve been in the field since 1990. In past jobs, we had “facilitators” stationed in galleries to talk about art or “gallery interpreters” and “docents” who lectured, and now “educators” or “learning specialists” who ask a whole lot of questions. I have seen a lot of changes that have gone on in terms of funding, physical spaces, registrarial work…Collections used to be cataloged on small index cards!

The biggest shift I have seen has to do with the use of technology. Back in my day (here is Granny again!), we had very few computers; no museums had websites, let alone Smartphone applications, QR codes, and podcasts. Everyone was worried about how their images would be misused if they were digitized.

If you could work in any other field, what would it be? Why?

I can’t imagine working in any other field and definitely not someplace corporate with fluorescent lights and cubicles! I would open a holistic art gallery and meditation center.

Fill in the blank: The future of the arts depends on good arts education.

Of course you would expect me to say that! Children need art because it’s good for their social, emotional, and cognitive growth as a stand-alone subject, not because it can help improve test scores or support the core curriculum and learning standards.

Do you have questions for next week’s So you want to…? Tweet them @MASS_MoCA !

Posted November 27, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns, Museum Education, Staff
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So you want to… be an arts marketer.

Have resumes and cover letters become your (least) favorite new hobby? Times are tough out there for recent graduates and young professionals – competition is fierce and you can’t be an intern forever.  In our new blog series, So you want to…, our museum staff offers advice and inspiration for pursuing an arts career. Don’t worry– all those applications will eventually turn into an interview!

A native of Washington DC, Katherine Myers has worked as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the past fourteen years. In December, she will return to her alma mater as Director of Donor Relations at Williams College Museum of Art.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

When I was just out of college I whined to my dad, “I just want to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.” Instead of telling me to stop whining (as he should have) he said, “Relax, I’m 60 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  At 49, I’m still not sure.

What was a formative art experience for you as a young person?

When I was about seven, I discovered the Rococo rooms at the National Gallery (in Washington). There was a cushy couch, facing the Fragonard painting “The Swing.”  Even into high school I would park myself there and daydream about being in that painting. That made me want to work in a museum and I was so happy when MASS MoCA installed the swings under the overpass!

What is the biggest shift you have witnessed in the museum field?

I think museums have been forced to take themselves less seriously.  People can connect with an institution in so many different ways. We have to embrace that. It’s great to watch museums who are having fun and welcoming everyone across many platforms.

What is your favorite social media platform or current web obsession?

I’m a big fan of podcasts and Stitcher99% Invisible, Radiolab, How to Do Everything, and the Slate Gabfests are my favorites.

If you could work in any other field, what would it be? Why?

If I could not only work in another field but also be gifted with some talent, I’d want to be a product designer or engineer. I get the greatest satisfaction in life when I figure out how to make things work or craft a better solution. I appreciate good user-focused design.

Fill in the blank: The future of the arts depends on finding sustainable ways of funding.

Posted November 20, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns, LeWitt, Museum Education
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Artist Spotlight: Emily Johnson

Performing Arts intern Julia and Marketing/Public Relations intern Elizabeth team up for a chat with our artist-in-residence, Bessie-award winning choreographer/performer Emily Johnson (founder of Catalyst Dances) to discuss Johnson’s artistic background and the inspiration for her new work Niicugni (Listen).

Describe your dance and artistic background.

I grew up in a very small town in Alaska. I was an athlete growing up, mainly basketball, long distance running, and softball. Those were my absolute loves. Either sports instilled a love of movement or I had a love of movement going into it.

Dance was not in my life until I got to college. There was a great confluence of teachers at the University of Minnesota when I got there with a heavy focus on improvisation. I loved that suddenly there was movement that wasn’t connected to the game or the race. I could move fully; I could be feeling and thinking. My thoughts could change my movement and my movement could change my thoughts.

What inspires your movement vocabulary?

Movement always comes from an internal thought or feeling first. I’m always trying to get it out of my body, past the skin. In a way, I don’t care if people watch me or my dancer’s arm moving. It’s about what can be communicated between my arm movement and the audience. What is communicated in that space?

There has to be such intentionality in the movement. It’s not that any moment is more precious than the next but, in every moment, we have to know where we are in our story. We have to stay connected with that story and that effort in order to communicate it.

What were the conceptual seeds of Niicugni (Listen)?

A few thoughts crossed paths when I was looking into beginning a new piece. I saw an exhibit at a gallery in Homer, Alaska. It was an exhibit of work made entirely of fish skin. Salmon has always been part of my family’s life but I had never worked with the skin before. This image of 50 fish skin lanterns hanging in the stage and in the house, creating this secondary diagonal, was the first visual image of this piece before I even knew how to work with the skin.

Around the same time, my dad laid out a map on the counter in my parents’ house in Alaska. He had just received land from the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Though the Settlement Act was created in 1970s, his land just finally came through. It just really very suddenly struck me that we would have to figure out how to build a relationship with that land.

I was struck with “What does this mean?” This land is now my father’s. It will eventually be passed to my brothers and me. How do we get to know land that is ancestral land? I was looking at this piece of paper that did not give me the information I needed. Maps tell us how to get somewhere, not how to live with land and what’s really there or who has been there before or who will be there after. This piece really started with all of those questions.

What about the vocal storytelling that is woven through the piece? How do those moments connect to the choreography?

To me, it’s all part of the dance. The stories are as much the dance as we are. Making these lanterns is as much the dance as anything. It’s not that they are just parts that are important; they are dance.

I like to work with the similarities and differences in how bodies and minds respond to stories and movement. What happens for someone listening to a story? How does a body take in a story? What images are created in your mind? Where does your mind go with that story? Then, how does your body take in movement? It’s the conversation between those two forms of communication that I find really interesting.

How your work evolved during your residency at MASS MoCA?

Very specifically, being here has allowed us to work on our rigging. We were able to work with all the crew here and our crew to create two improvements and a whole rigging system. That will have a profound impact on this work in terms of its touring life.

In a broad sense, the piece is always informed by the place we’re in because we think very specifically about the building and imagine feeling the ground beneath our feet. We think about how the ground moves in all directions. It’s the support for us here. It’s a new kind of mapping as we work to experience many places at once.

See Niicugni (Listen) in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA on Friday, November 16 at 8 PM. Find tickets here.

Posted November 14, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Dance, Interns, Theater, Work-in-progress
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Revamped Hardware brings MASS MoCA home for the holidays!

It’s never too early to start thinking about holiday shopping. MASS MoCA’s online Hardware store can help. The site now features a much wider selection of products, including past and present exhibition catalogs and new MoCA gear which is not available anywhere else.

Dedicated MASS MoCA fans might see a few familiar faces as employees and interns model apparel. Retail Manager Phyllis Criddle says, “All the photos of MoCA employees have such wonderful life and character- it wouldn’t look nearly as good if we had used professional models!” We couldn’t agree more; Derek and Marissa look great in MASS MoCA and Michael Oatman t-shirts, respectively.

 

Hardware has something for everyone on your list and even a few things for your own holiday wish list. Criddle shares her favorite items below.

Upside Down Grass Kit:  Grow your own version of Natalie Jeremijenko’s iconic Tree Logic.

The Fresh Egg Cookbook: Written by local author, chicken keeper, and Director of Development Jennifer Trainer Thompson.

Sol LeWitt Yarmulke: Designed by Sol LeWitt for his temple, Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, in Chester, Conneticut. Just in time for the holidays!

Speaking of the holidays, Hardware will extend an additional discount to MoCA members on Black Friday 11/23/12. Members will receive 20% off instead of their usual 10%.

Posted November 2, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Design, Exhibitions, Hardware, Interns, LeWitt, MASS MoCA by Design, Staff, Tree Logic
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Artist Spotlight: Jerry Gretzinger

Long before Minecraft and Sim City, there was Jerry Gretzinger

Marketing/Public Relations intern Elizabeth sits down with Jerry Gretzinger to discuss the evolution of his monumental mapping project and his exhibition at MASS MoCA (Oct 5-14 in the Hunter Center).

This must be really exciting for you. The whole map is going to be laid out for the first time, all together.

It is exciting! The first time in 30 years.  When it was last laid out, because it’s always growing, it was only 578 panels. Now we’re going to do almost 2,700 (panels). It’s five times as big.

How do you hope visitors will experience the map? Is there anything they should look for?

They’re going to have several options. They’re going to see the object itself; they’re going to see me working on it. With a camera Greg (Whitmore, the director of a documentary about Jerry) has set up, they’ll be able to see close up what I’m doing. And then, Greg has an elaborate plan for hands-on manipulation of the details, projected on a big screen. Everyone’s fascinated with the random card process so we’ll have some of the cards up on the screen.

I wanted to ask you about the cards. How did that process develop? When did you decide you wanted to have structure and rules to govern this world?

Before the cards, I had a stack of panels and I would go through the stack one panel at a time and work on every single one. That became unwieldy and started taking me way too long to get through the stack. I wanted a way of just randomly jumping ahead. A deck of playing cards was a simple solution. A Jack is 11; I would go down 11 panels.

Does a card or direction ever come up and you’re a little bit sad to see the change that has to be made? Do you ever feel attachment to one of the panels that looks particularly interesting?

You know about the Void (The Void card covers a panel with white paper, blocking out whatever was previously on it). When that comes up, if it’s just any old panel, that’s fine. But when it’s a major city, which happened recently, that makes me nervous. I wish it didn’t happen. But I stick to the rules.

Each panel itself is a work of art. The panels are so richly detailed with many different materials.  I think I spotted a cereal box and a crossword puzzle on one? How did you choose collage with found objects?

The first step, leading into where I am now, was to take old pattern pieces. My wife and I had a business of making women’s clothing and we had leftover patterns. Pattern paper is stiff and it’s manila colored on one side and green on the other. I started cutting up old patterns. That led me to using the cereal boxes, beer cartons, pretzels… You’ll see lots of Snyder’s pretzels!

Recently, in the process of moving from New York to upstate Michigan, we were going through boxes in our attic.  I found letters that I wrote in the 1960s.

How great! Will those make an appearance soon?

Yeah. I’m slitting them. There are strips of old letters and envelopes. I’m putting them on the blank panels, the ones I start painting on. I’m hoping I’ll get to them while I’m still here (at MASS MoCA). They’re in the middle of a big stack of blanks; I don’t know when I’ll get to them. That’s one of those things that keeps me going!

 The artist’s materials. Can you spot the Future Predictor card deck?

How did you find out you had a sort of “cult” following among the gaming community? Are you into those worlds at all?

No, not at all. I did, years ago, play the old Sim City. I played it a few times and had fun with it but I never even owned a version of it. But on my blog, I can see the sources of the hits. I saw the Reddit thread come up. I read and I thought, “Holy cow! Wow.”

Then there was reference to the Jerry’s Map mod (or modification) of Minecraft. I didn’t know what Minecraft was but my young cousin, who’s eleven, showed me Minecraft last year. And he’s building things, blocks are flying around… Which is what prompted me recently to write a segment on the blog called “Slow Map.” I know you guys are all into things happening instantaneously and (my map) is something that just creeps along.

It’s true. Yet even though your project is so different than virtual world-building, both reflect an innate human desire to build and construct. It’s like Legos and Lincoln Logs when you’re little but on a much, much larger scale. Can you speak at all to the pleasure in creating your own world?

I’ve met other map-makers in this process and I’ve heard them say… it’s an escape to create something, to build something. I’m a big time gardener when I’m out at the farm. And that’s the same process. Put a seed in the ground, water it, watch it grow. That’s so human, I think. It’s been built into us through the millennia.

We encourage visitors to take pictures of the exhibit! Share your best shots with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (massmoca). #JerrysMap #MASS MoCA

Jerry’s Map will be on display, Oct. 5-14, in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA. Admission is $5 and FREE for members. 

Posted October 5, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns
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Flash Mob for FREE Day

Emily, our superstar performing arts intern, and Tim, whose 100-watt smile you see at Hardware everyday, talk about how they teamed up to bring a day full of dance to FREE Day, which took place on February 11, 2012.

REHEARSAL

We spent a few days during the weeks leading up to FREE Day using the rehearsal hall space, listening to 80s music and coming up with an arsenal of funky dance moves to put together in a sequence that would be both visually appealing and easy to pick up. We had a lot of fun goofing around in the studio and perfecting classic dance steps like the cabbage patch, the running man, and the Molly Ringwald. Check out our rehearsal video here.

DANCE CLASS

On FREE Day, we taught lots of different people—toddlers, college students, grandmas, ballerinas, and football players alike—the dance we created. We taught about 20 people in each of our classes throughout the day. We danced Michael Jackson’s P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), because it was upbeat, light-hearted, and makes you want to move! We also asked the people who took our dance class to dance with us later in the afternoon, as part of a surprise flash mob in the galleries. Check out our dance class video here.

FLASH MOB

Our dancers milled about through The Workers: Precarity, Invisibility, Mobility exhibit, blending in with unsuspecting, art-viewing patrons. Suddenly, Michael Jackson music started playing through the galleries, and spontaneous dancing broke out! We definitely surprised a bunch of patrons who got caught in the middle of the flash mob. There was a lot of talent, but the best movers were by far were the 2 little nuggets (they must have only been 3 or 4 years old) decked out in pastels and mermaid gear from Kidspace who got their groove on right in the middle of the flash mob! Check out our flash mob video here.

PRE-SHOW DANCE INSTRUCTION                          

To end the night, we taught a dance class on the Hunter Center stage, immediately before Gordon Voidwell and his band played some rockin’ music for a psychedelic 80′s synth funk dance party. We wore headset microphones (affectionately called the Madonna mics in the performing arts department – check out the photo below, taken backstage!) to broadcast our voices to the crowd on the dance floor. Since we faced the crowd in the Hunter Center, dance instruction was trickier because we had to reverse all of our instructions so that the audience could mirror our movements.

FREE Day 2012 was so much fun—music, dance, theatre, art-making activities, a mermaid parade, face painting, a hilarious photobooth, and great deals at Hardware! We were psyched to get to collaborate with the community and with each other. We can’t wait for you to come back to hang out next year and dance with the two of us at FREE Day 2013! - Emily and Tim

Posted February 17, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Dance Parties, Free Day, Hardware, Interns, The Workers, Uncategorized
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