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Exhibitions, Programming and Initiatives that Reflect the High's City & Region

The High continues to advance its outreach through exhibitions, programming and initiatives that better align and reflect the richness of Atlanta and the Southeast's depth and history with offerings like.......

● "A Fire That No Water Could Put Out": Bringing together more than 40 works drawn from the Museum's renowned collection of Civil Rights era photography, the exhibition surveys pivotal moments of the movement under Dr. King's leadership, following his death, and through the Black Lives Matter activism of today.

● "Making Africa," featuring contemporary design by more than 120 artists from 22 countries on the continent.

● The next installation of the High's "Picturing the South" series (Mark Steinmetz); the series supports established and emerging photographers in creating new bodies of work inspired by the American South for the Museum's collection.

● The High's ongoing participation, along with four other institutions, in the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program, which provides specialized training in the curatorial field for students whose backgrounds are underrepresented in the museum field.

● The museum's expanding commitment to collecting works by African-American artists and recently introduced wall labels in the galleries so visitors can have greater insight into the creative minds behind the works on view.

● The continuation of the High's annual David C. Driskell Prize, the first national award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of art of the African Diaspora, now approaching its 14th year.

● The Docent diversity committee.

Hope without Hype

Yellowstone Art Museum and Docent Host Alzheimer's Symposium 

A two-day symposium was held at the Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, MT in collaboration with the Alzheimer's Association, Montana Chapter.

The purpose was to bring the health care providers, family members and artists together to widen their understanding of Alzheimer's and related dementias and importantly the connections between the science and art. One of the hardest parts of dementia is communication. Art is one way for someone to communicate their feelings and tell their story when they have lost many other ways of communicating.

Like many art museums that serve school-age visitors, the Walters Art Museum seeks to make connections between our objects and the subjects students study in the classroom. This includes language arts, social studies, and art, but also math and science. The goals of our "Mathematical Masterpieces" tour are to help students recognize the presence and importance of math in the visual arts, understand how people in different cultures and at different times used math in creating works of art. You don't have to be a mathematician, or even very comfortable with math, to use the activities and approaches of this tour to help students – and docents – see even familiar works of art in a different way.

When the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College closed its doors for an approximately three year renovation, they decided to throw a party. A really BIG party. All of the museum's art had been moved to storage for safe keeping, leaving behind an empty museum with lots of space to get creative. The entire community was invited to attend the event. Activities and entertainment began in the afternoon and lasted well into the evening.

Our director, John Stromberg says that "one of the keys to education is making a mess." He and the museum staff saw the empty museum as an opportunity to invite the public to do just that. Over 1600 people came to make art in our now empty gallery space.

A recommendation, some make, for those who are nervous to speak publically, is to imagine everyone in the audience is nude. However, few of us actually ever find out how this really feels. Last fall, one of the docents on the National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC) had the opportunity to do just this when The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presented the exhibition Focus: Perfection Robert Mapplethrope.

The exhibit notes describe him as "One of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) gained renown for his masterful compositions and subjects that have compelled new reflection on questions of gender, race and sexuality." There were close to 300 of his photographs in the exhibition and it was very popular with the public. The exhibit concentrated on the genres of portraiture, the nude and still life.

A gentleman adjusted his glasses to read, one more time, the clue in his booklet that described a work of art in the Taft Museum of Art. With his hands tied behind his back, he cannot see what is happening around him. Who is he?

"By golly, I think I finally found it," he said to himself as he studied the 16th century Italian Majolica plate in the Renaissance Treasury of the museum. He wrote "a blindfolded cupid" on his answer sheet.

This gentleman was a guest attending the annual Docent Fall Social at the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio and was participating in a Treasure Hunt as part of the evening festivities.

Peer review has been an integral part of the Phoenix Art Museum Docent program for over 50 years. Today, with more than 250 active touring and outreach docents, we continue to evaluate and update our review process to ensure full participation and foster best practices. Our interactive coaching style prompted one recently reviewed docent to say, "We always learn from each other. That's what makes the process so rewarding."

From the training of a new docent, to ongoing education and development, docents adhere to a set of standards that allows us to successfully support Phoenix Art Museum's mission to connect people with art. These standards, articulated on a review form along with supporting criteria, serve as a preparation tool for docents as they create and present their tours and community talks. The form is used again as a reference during the docent review, with strengths and areas for refinement noted in writing for the docent's future use. The original practice of numerical "grading" has given way to a system that allows for more discussion and positive reinforcement.

Edith Wharton meets John Singer Sargent. More precisely, aspects of the society that Edith Wharton describes in The Age of Innocence can be seen reflected in portraits by John Singer Sargent of his wealthy and privileged sitters. Edith Wharton and John Singer Sargent, both American artists, were at the peak of their creative energies during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period known as the Gilded Age for the tremendous number of fortunes that were amassed during this time, and the lavish lifestyles those fortunes supported. What relationships do you see between the culture Edith Wharton describes and the culture of John Singer Sargent's sitter—Wharton's illuminated in words, and Sargent's illuminated in oil paints? How are they similar? How are they different?

If the above paragraph sounds like the beginning of a discussion, it is intended to be. It is a sample setting for a 'Book-Meets-Art Tour' as we have been conducting these at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). First, let me explain the philosophy that drives a Book-Meets-Art Tour, why we're calling it a 'creative visitor experience, and how we're implementing it.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) Docent Council celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2016 with many events and accolades. Our organization would like to share our experience with other docent organizations who may want to collaborate with their institution to celebrate a significant milestone.

Docents formed a 50th Anniversary committee and planned special events to acknowledge and publicize this historic event.

* A Golden Jubilee Handbook that included the history of the Docent Council, important Milestones over the years, docent pictures, and images of art works that docents contributed to.

Jen Brown (Oleniczak) is the founder of The Engaging Educator, a NYC-based organization that specializes in improv-based workshops and professional development for educators. Docents at The Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC had a chance to experience her engagement techniques during a recent training session.

We may think of improv as freewheeling comedy or situations where anything goes, but Jen assures us that it is anything but. Improv requires strong listening skills and concern for others.
For improv to work as intended, those involved must support each other so that everyone participating is successful. You can help your visitors feel comfortable by encouraging and supporting their contributions to the tour conversation.

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