by Fran Megarry, Docent, Minneapolis Institute of Art; Midwest Regional Director, NDSC (August 2018)
The Hermitage in the Rain (All Photos by Fran Megarry)
Some people may think that rain coupled with avid soccer fans from all around the world gathering in Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup would cause fewer visitors at the State Hermitage Museum. It is heartening that neither of those conditions deterred crowds from packing in to see this world famous art collection. Although truth be known this visitor would have enjoyed a closer and longer view of the two magnificent da Vinci pieces: The Madonna with a Flower, 1478, and The Madonna Litta, 1490.
By Barbara Baker, NDSC Regional Director; Docent, Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and Steve Weisman, NDSC Secretary; Docent, Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (September 2018)
In June 2018, twenty-eight Museum of Anthropology (MOA) volunteers journeyed 1500 km (930 miles) north from Vancouver to the interior of British Columbia for five days of enrichment activities. Organized by the Volunteer Associates Continuing Education and Enrichment Committee, in collaboration with MOA Curator of Education Jill Baird, the trip focused on Indigenous groups that had not previously been highlighted in our activities, and included the traditional ancestral territories of the Nisga’a, Gitksan, Gitanyow, Haisla, and Tsimshian First Nations.
MOA Volunteers and Staff at the Nisga’a Museum/Hli Goothl at Laxgalts’ap Wilp Adokshl Nisga’a
Accompanying the group were two MOA staff members: Associate Director Moya Waters, and Curator of Education Jill Baird, whose extensive relationships with First Nations people and artists enabled the group to interact with a number of culturally knowledgeable Indigenous leaders.
By Rhonda C. Lyle, Docent, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) and Guide, National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) (September 2018)
I had a glorious trip to Dakar, Senegal on the West African coast, where the people are warm and friendly. My most memorable and difficult time was a visit to the House of Slaves museum on Gorree Island (a 3km ferryride from Dakar) which is a memorial to those unwilling participants of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It originally housed the slaves before they were loaded onto ships for the Americas. It was an eerie place that caused a pit in my stomach. I’m not a crier, however, I cried there, thinking about the slaves who came through this place. The curator said that when President Nelson Mandela visited, he wept! There were also photos of Presidents Obama's and Clinton’s visits to the museum. My visit triggered something in me, in that space, deep in my soul that I cannot shake.... black bodies being crammed into ships and sent to America. Just being there was haunting but also allowed me to see up close and personal the story of slavery that both the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of African Art tell so well.
The Goree Island, House of Slaves, Museum and Memorial
By Bonnie Jensen and Carmen Mahood, Docents, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (August 2018)
“Life was meant for good friends and great adventures” might be the motto of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) docent travelers who take our art education worldwide. The FAMSF Docent Council offers docents, family and friends the opportunity to expand our understanding of art through shared experiences locally, nationally and internationally. An appointed docent serves as Travel Coordinator to design surprising and enriching, often unfamiliar, monthly art adventures. Pack your love of art and join us on our recent annual overnight trip to Los Angeles.
We began at the Annenberg Space for Photography where we viewed the Library of Congress exhibition of classic American photography. It featured the first “selfie” done in 1839, a signed photo of a young Harriet Tubman, and very moving photos of Abraham Lincoln before his Presidency and another shortly before his assassination.
The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Broad to see a comprehensive Jasper Johns exhibition that included his iconic American flags. Johns’ art influenced many of the postmodern artists. It had us questioning the meanings of symbols and the preconceived ideas that many of us bring to contemporary art. As Johns said, “One hopes for something resembling truth, some sense of life, even of grace, to flicker, at least, in the work.”
Three Flags, by Jasper Johns
Shelagh Barrington, Docent, Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Canada) (August 2018)
Photo: Shelagh Barrington between Indian Princess and Stampede Queen
The city of Calgary, in the Province of Alberta is found in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains between British Columbia on the west coast and the golden wheat fields of Saskatchewan to the east. A three-hour drive to the south is the Canadian-US border and the state of Montana. Calgary is the heart of Canadian cattle country and the financial hub of the western Canadian oil and gas industry.
For a couple of weeks in July, Calgary becomes a western cowboy town centered around the annual Calgary Stampede. The focus is fun and entertainment highlighting history, music and cowboy prowess! Roping, steer wrestling, bronco riding, horse and chuck wagon racing are the daily events on the fairgrounds next to the Bow River. There are midway rides an authentic Indian Village and animal contests and judging. Much of the fun is sponsored by the oil and gas industry and the numerous businesses that have grown up around the Alberta tar sands projects.
By Gail Uilkema, NDSC Advisor, Docent, San Francisco Asian Art Museum (July 2018)
The Iran National Museum consists of two large buildings, one dedicated to pre-Islamic art and the other to Islamic art. The pre- Islamic building was designed by the French architect Andre Godard and completed in 1937. The complex dedicated to Islamic art was completed in 1972 and recently renovated. The architecture of both buildings reflects Persian culture. The vaulted entrance to the pre-Islamic building is designed like the entrance to many mosques and the cool white marble of the Islamic museum is reminiscent of the beautifully peaceful interiors of many Persian historic buildings.
Photos: Iran National Museum Buildings (courtesy of Wikipedia)
By Linda Oidtmann, NDSC Regional Director; Docent, Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College (May 2018)
In February, when icy winds blow snow across the grey-brown landscape of New Hampshire, I pack my bags and head to Qatar for my annual month-long sojourn to visit family.
Qatar is a thumb-sized peninsular Arab country sticking out into the Persian Gulf from the eastern side of Saudi Arabia. Qatar is a multi-hued sandy, sun-warmed land of arid desert, high dunes, stony beaches and fascinating contrasts. Walking along Doha’s Corniche, a four-mile promenade on Doha Bay, you can begin amongst the futuristic skyscrapers and end up at the Souq Waqif, a busy market area of shops selling traditional garments, gold jewelry, household utensils, spices and handmade souvenirs. You’ll experience a glorious assault to your senses from the fragrances and cooking aromas wafting out of the many restaurants featuring Middle-Eastern menus and Shisha lounges.
By Judith Weitzman, Docent, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland (May, 2018)
Recently, twelve art enthusiasts, including nine docents from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, made a week-long trip to Venice with an art historian and teacher, Dr. Aneta Georgievska-Shine. Dr. Shine is on the faculty of the University of Maryland. The tour was privately arranged: several docents heard Dr. Shine speak about Venetian art and took the initiative to ask her to lead a group tour. One traveler described her as a “Pied Piper of art” as she led us on a “Slow Art” journey. Spending a week in one location allowed us to “go deep,” to concentrate on new restorations and re-installations, and to appreciate special exhibitions and hidden treasures. As another docent described it, “Six and one half days filled with Byzantine and Renaissance art, in the company of caring people, restores, revives and uplifts. Venice is a treasured gift.”