Asking the Right Questions

Gabrielle Campbell – Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC – Facilitator

Gaye Anderson – Arkansas Arts Centre, Little Rock, AR

Greta Church – University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Candy Gray – Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH

Margaret Kieweg – Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR

Ginanne Long – Arkansas Arts Centre, Little Rock, AR

Shirlee Maghietta – Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Evelyn Neely – San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA

Gretchen Ostenberg – Cantor Arts Centre at Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Ann Marie Plubell – National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Rebecca Slaven – Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR

Kathryn Stevens – Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX

I. What works best with inquiry-based tours?

  • Those type of questions which are seen to be open-ended and cannot be answered with a yes or no.
  • Different age groups respond differently.


II. Techniques that work to get partipants more involved include:

  • Dividing groups by sex
  • Use of humor
  • If no one answers, direct the question to a specific person
  • Ask a question that has no right answer – have everyone give their thoughts and opinions
  • What do you see and why do you say that? The key questions for deep looking training – looking for lots of details.
  • "I see ....." go around the group – this questions opens door, the leader can repeat the answers each time so the conversation moves quickly.
  • Let students initiate conversation by asking them to look around room and choose a piece of art that grabs their interest.
  • Ask them to explain to the rest of the group why they chose that particular piece .
  • With younger children this works particularly well if they are divided up into small groups and can start the conversation amongst themselves.


III. Object oriented looking:

  • Ask participants to close eyes, (working in space with sound) ask questions about what they hear, what they think they might see when they open their eyes. Have them use all their senses.
  • Questions should have some continuity and be based around the objectives and themes of the tour.
  • Discussion of various questioning strategies including VTS and Feldman.
  • With abstract art is it better to know? (have info on artist and concept) or should the conversation simply grow out of what can be seen? Give control to the group with the question "Would you like to more about this piece or the artist who made it?"
  • Try to do activity if possible. For instance, each student describes a different aspect of the work.
  • We discussed the challenges of working with ESL students and the necessity of moderating language to a level easily understood by the group.
  • We all felt that a good tour is not about teaching, but about discovery. Debriefing what has been said by students very important in this. What inspired you? Why did you like it? Which object catches your eye?

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