posted on 12 Nov 2012 14:18 by Elena Pinto Simon
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EPS: Hello, Rebecca, and welcome to the Learning From Things Blog! Can we start by your telling us about the mission of the Education Department at the BGC ?
RA: I see Gallery Education at the BGC as the portal to a more comprehensive appreciation of our stellar exhibitions. The work that we do in education programming brings together the views and voices of scholars, curators, designers, artists, and other specialists to enrich the dialogue that begins on the gallery walls. Through our programs we cultivate a unique community of thinkers who look to our exhibitions for a deeper understanding of the world as it is manifested in all forms of material culture, design, and the decorative arts.
EPS: How have the events and activities of the department changed since your arrival?
RA: Since I arrived in 2006 we have established a vibrant program for schools and educators that comprises the Outreach Suitcase Program, professional development opportunities for teachers, and of course exhibition tours led by BGC graduate student docents. In addition to a full spectrum of lectures, study days, panels, and gallery talks, we have added music and performance programming that provide a broader context for the objects and histories within each exhibition.
EPS: You are an accomplished artist in addition to being our Head of Education. How does your other work feed what you do at the BGC?
RA: Painting and its accompanying research have been the organizing principles of my life for 25 years. My work centers primarily on issues of landscape and the diminishment of the natural environment, and the studio practice allows me to approach exhibitions and program development at BGC from a unique perspective—as a generative artist. I am deeply interested in the social, political, and cultural, and geographic forces that surround works of art and design, and in the transformation of both ordinary and precious materials into objects that “live” lives and embody meaning. The disciplines of making, writing about, and exhibiting work for me have always found a parallel in the pursuit of ideas and research conducted by curators, faculty, and students here.
EPS: BGC Students now play a vital role in the activities of Education. Tell us about the opportunities that students now have within Gallery Education?
RA: BGC students are essential to Education in that they serve as docents within and beyond the Gallery. Student docents go through extensive training and mentoring to learn best practices in museum education while studying the core ideas of each exhibition in great depth. It gives me enormous pleasure to observe tours given by graduate student docents because I am witnessing how their complementary training in academic research and museum education shape their teaching and I’m enjoying the unpredictable conversations that unfold as they interact with visitors across all ages and backgrounds.
EPS: In the spirit of the title of this blog, can you talk about an object or thing that has particular significance for you?
RA: I’ve been collecting hanakago (Japanese Bamboo baskets) and drawing them for about thirteen years, ever since I saw Lloyd Cotsen’s remarkable collection at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. These remarkable woven sculptures embody the most refined economy of material in creating space. They have played an integral part in the tea ceremony and flower arranging for hundreds of years and their makers—including Rokansai and Chikunsai—are highly regarded. The early twentieth-century ones were easier to come by when I lived in Seattle I and used these baskets to teach drawing. Following a line of bamboo as it undulates and twists within and through a basket is my way of keeping the eye and hand in tune.
EPS: What is upcoming for the rest of this academic year in Education?
RA: Lots of really interesting programs including “Practical Fractals: Chaos Theory in Architecture and Design” with Paola Antonelli and Jimena Canales; “Suspended in Thin Air: The Future of Circus in America with Dominique Jando, Keith Nelson, Matt Wittmann and Amy Cohen; as well as a whole range of programs connected with the upcoming exhibitions Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Confluences: An American Expedition to Northern Burma, 1935