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October 1, 2014  |  Learning and Engagement
Mind Games: In Search of Artistic Inspiration
Jean (Hans) Arp. Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance). 1916–17. Torn-and-pasted paper and colored paper on colored paper, 19 1/8 x 13 5/8" (48.5 x 34.6 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Jean (Hans) Arp. Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance). 1916–17. Torn-and-pasted paper and colored paper on colored paper, 19 1/8 x 13 5/8″ (48.5 x 34.6 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

How do artists seek, find, or create inspiration?

As an artist/educator, I often find myself gathering inspiration for my own work from my experiences teaching in the galleries. Recently I have been thinking a lot about the nature of collaboration, and looking back to art historical examples to inform my own thinking.

Thinking back, I realized that the exhibition Dada at MoMA in 2006 was one of the first times this idea clicked for me. I remember being intrigued by how many of the exercises these artists were playing with over 100 years ago are still so relevant to the kind of teaching experiences I develop today. And after putting those techniques to use in my classes, I was also struck by how inspired I was as an adult to replicate and try out some of those same devices that had brought artists like Jean Arp, Man Ray, and Duchamp such a wealth of creative potential. I was impressed by how human these games made these distant “Artist” figures seem; by humanizing them their work became easier to understand and allowed me to layer some of their creative thinking and processes onto my own.

In my own work, I find it most inspiring to create constraints—mostly with materials, some self-imposed, some borne out of necessity —and work within them. How can I use what I have at hand, or can find for cheap, to realize a vision? Or when I find myself without vision, sometimes just playing with materials and making something– anything– in the studio can generate an exciting idea that then grows into larger concept and artwork later on.

A work in progress by the author

A work in progress by the author made in collaboration on with Alison Kuo, based solely on random materials in the studio and the product of an afternoon of experimenting/messing around

 

When I was asked to come up with a Studio Immersion course for MoMA, I knew I wanted to explore these ideas with other adults, and experiment with how these forced collaborations, set criteria, and new materials might create an interesting dynamic within the class and inspire participants to expand their own practice outside the classroom. For one example, I love the Niki de Saint Phalle piece that was recently on view, Shooting Painting American Embassy (1961)—which the artist created by arranging packets of paint and food on a canvas, covering them with layers of plaster, and then asking collaborators to shoot at the canvas and release the paint—and that work prompted me to research other forms of playful, performative processes artists before and after her have employed.

Oscar Domínguez. Untitled. 1936–37. Decalcomania (gouache transfer) on paper, 6 1/16 x 8 5/8" (15.4 x 21.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Joan and Lester Avnet Collection. © 2014 Oscar Domínguez/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Oscar Domínguez. Untitled. 1936–37. Decalcomania (gouache transfer) on paper, 6 1/16 x 8 5/8″ (15.4 x 21.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Joan and Lester Avnet Collection. © 2014 Oscar Domínguez/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris


The Dadaists and Surrealists fit in exactly with this theme of playful processes. Of course I knew about exquisite corpse drawings and automatic poetry, but, as I researched more, I was pleasantly surprised by the range of materials and techniques they implemented. Paint-based techniques were also used, such as Bulletism—a technique where ink is shot at a blank piece of paper and the artist then develops images based on the marks left behind. I can’t wait to get some willing experimenters involved with this!

This is just one example of many historical processes I’ve dug up for this course, and a few that I’ve created for us to play around with. So for those of you who might be thinking, “I’m not an artist,” or “I can’t draw,” or any other number of doubting thoughts, Mind Games will give you the chance to think like a Surrealist and let your subconscious be your guide. Break some rules and come draw outside the lines with me!

Class starts October 22. For more information, please visit MoMA.org/courses.

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August 27, 2014  |  Family & Kids, Learning and Engagement
Psychedelic Acceptance Hotel and the Rainbow on Pluto: MoMA Teens x Babycastles

This summer’s In the Making program brought an incredibly diverse group of over 85 NYC teens into contact with a range of artists and arts organizations, for a series of six-week intensive art programs. Perhaps our most ambitious project ever, this summer’s collaboration with  Babycastles, a non-profit video game-based gallery and arts collective, saw 23 teens working together on the creation of a fully-functional arcade, mural, and sculptural art installation. Read more

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August 21, 2014  |  Family & Kids, Learning and Engagement
Trance-scendence: MoMA Teens Explore Hypnotism and Performance Art

Even after years of creating weird and off-kilter art courses for teens, one of the darkest and strangest teen art courses we’ve ever offered might very well be last season’s Under the Spell of Mysterious Forces: Magic, Illusion, and Performance Based Art. Taking the young participants deep into a realm where magic, trance, and extrasensory perception mingle with performance art, the course attracted a range of curious open-minded teens, all wiling to take the plunge into the artistic unknown. Read more

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Looking Back at MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me…and Beyond

This past May and June, MoMA’s Education and Research Building mezzanine was the site of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me, an interactive space that explored the intersections between art, therapeutic practice, and the ways in which we relate to objects and people through physical encounters. Read more

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Polke Pop-Up Activity Space
MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

If you happen to visit the exhibition Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 on Tuesday afternoons you will notice something different: the sight of Museum visitors making art inspired by Sigmar Polke’s processes, in close proximity to his works of art. This shift toward more hands-on learning experiences is not something that happened overnight. Read more

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July 2, 2014  |  Learning and Engagement, Tech
Five Steps to Making the Art & Activity MOOC
The video crew captures Lisa leading a teacher professional development session in MoMA's fourth-floor Painting and Sculpture Galleries. Photo: Stephanie Pau

The video crew captures Lisa leading a teacher professional development session in MoMA’s fourth-floor Painting and Sculpture Galleries. Photo: Stephanie Pau

On July 7, we launch Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art, a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The course is part of an ongoing partnership with MOOC provider Coursera, to provide free professional development opportunities for K–12 teachers worldwide. Read more

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Playing Games at MoMA Studio: Won’t You Breathe with Me?
From left: Playing Polvo with Michel Groisman at MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me; Playing Sirva-Se in MoMA's Sculpture Garden with Michel Groisman. Photos by Sarah Kennedy

From left: Playing Polvo with Michel Groisman at MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me; Playing Sirva-Se in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden with Michel Groisman. Photos by Sarah Kennedy

We are entering the fourth week of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me and want to share some of the highlights of the artist-led workshops that have activated the space so far. Each one revealed the ways in which Lygia Clark’s work continues to resonate with contemporary artists and their hopes to engage the public in experiences of art that are physical and social in nature. Read more

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Would You Like to Come Breathe with Me at MoMA Studio?
MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me Opening event on Friday, May 16, 2014. Photo by Sarah Kennedy, MoMA staff member.

MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me Opening event on Friday, May 16, 2014. Photo: Sarah Kennedy

Last Friday, May 16, we celebrated the opening of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me, an interactive space that has been organized in conjunction with the exhibition Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988, on view in the sixth-floor galleries through August 24, 2014. Taking Clark’s art as a reference point, the Studio presents a series of drop-in programs, participatory experiences, and artist-led workshops that explore the intersections between art, therapeutic practice, and the ways in which we relate to objects and people through physical encounters.

Like all previous MoMA Studios, MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me is a free, interactive space open to visitors of all ages, and offers experiential learning experiences that complement looking and talking about works of art in the galleries, allowing for engagement with art in hands-on, creative ways. Visitors can experiment, learn, play, and create as they make connections between their lives, their own creativity, and the processes and materials of modern and contemporary art.

Visitors using Lygia Clark's sensorial object called Living Structures, made up of elastic bands connecting participants in a giant flexible web. Photo by Sarah Kennedy

Visitors using Lygia Clark’s sensorial object called Living Structures, made up of elastic bands connecting participants in a giant flexible web. Photo: Sarah Kennedy

The process of putting this particular MoMA Studio together has been a unique experience due to the nature of Lygia Clark’s work, which is often dynamic and sensorial in nature—a quality that is highlighted in the exhibition itself, which has a central component that is about engaging the public in participatory ways within the galleries. This aspect of the exhibition parallels the planning of our Studio programming and has allowed for a fruitful collaboration with the curatorial team and the exhibition facilitators.

In developing the focus and scope of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me, and in the hopes of revealing the profound resonance Clark’s work has had with contemporary artists, we have collaborated with a talented group of artists from near and far, to present an exciting series of programs for this MoMA Studio. These artists include Ricardo Basbaum, Carlito Carvalhosa, Stephanie Diamond and Tamara Vanderwal, Michel Groisman, Jeanine Oleson, and Allison Smith.

Visitors trying Lygia Clark's proposition, Caminhando on the rug at MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me with Allison Smith's Joining Screens project as a backdrop. Photo by Sarah Kennedy

Visitors trying Lygia Clark’s proposition, Caminhando, on the rug at MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me with Allison Smith’s Joining Screens project as a backdrop. Photo: Sarah Kennedy

Perhaps more than previous Studios, this one is conceived as a space that comes alive most with the activation of the workshops and events by willing participants, in collaboration with artists. This week the workshops kicked off with Carlito Carvalhosa’s public action in the The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden and MoMA Studio on May 20 and 21, followed by Michel Groisman’s Polvo and Sirva-Se workshops, which begin tomorrow, May 22 and run through the Memorial Day weekend. We are following Clark’s philosophy, “the work is in the act,” and we invite you all to join us! Visit MoMA.org/MoMAstudio for details.

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“Is This a Social Experiment?” Performing John Cage
Serra Sabuncuoglu and Robert Barry participate in Performing John Cage, The Museum of Modern Art, February 18, 2014. Photo by Sarah Kennedy

Serra Sabuncuoglu and Robert Barry participate in Performing John Cage, The Museum of Modern Art, February 18, 2014. Photo by Sarah Kennedy

Twice daily, from February 7 to 20, MoMA staff and invited artists performed John Cage’s score 4’33″ in an area just outside the exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33″. Over the course of those two weeks, 28 renditions of 4’33″ were performed by 20 staff members and eight guest artists. Read more

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March 5, 2014  |  Learning and Engagement
Tours for Fours: Experimenting with New Formats

One thing you’ll never hear me say about working in MoMA’s Department of Education is “I’m bored.” In fact, what I love most about my role as a researcher and evaluator in this department is the constant interest on the part of my colleagues to experiment, innovate, and try new things. There’s always the desire to find ways to improve and/or to assess the current offerings. No one is ever comfortable with just leaving things as they are. It’s this collective dynamism that drives a lot of what the Department of Education does.

Recently, two of my colleagues in Family Programs expressed interest in trying out some iterations of their successful Tours for Fours program to see what tweaks would make that experience even more engaging for four-year-olds and their caregivers. Kristin Roeder, one of our amazing MoMA educators, was also keen to be a part of the experimentation and came up with variations on the more typical Tours for Fours tours. All of us were interested in looking at length of tour, number of works included, art works chosen, theme, activities, and variables in the group (size, ratio of children to adults, inclusion of younger siblings, etc.) to see if there was an ideal mix for this particular age group. In February we tried out three different variations of MoMA’s Tours for Fours.

Using Materials and Techniques as a theme and focusing on artists’ gestures, the three variations were:

1) Comparing and contrasting two works in the galleries
2) Focusing on one work in the galleries and doing a complementary activity in the classroom
3) Engaging with three works in the galleries and receiving a related activity at the end that families can do together at MoMA

Photo: TK

Kids talking about how Pollock put paint onto canvas: “He made it crazy!” Shown: Jackson Pollock. Number 31, 1950. 1950. Oil and enamel paint on canvas, 8′ 10″ x 17′ 5 5/8″ (269.5 x 530.8 cm). Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange). © 2014 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jackie Armstrong

Each of these was documented through observational notes and photographs. Prior to the start of the tour, I collected e-mail addresses from parents so that we could send a follow-up survey to find out what they thought about their experience. Following each tour, Family Program staff, the lead educator on the tour, and myself sat down to debrief (what worked, what didn’t) and to consider what might be worth trying going forward.

While listening to Jazz music, Educator says: “Make your fingers jump when you get to a square.” Photo: TK

While listening to jazz music, our educator says: “Make your fingers jump when you get to a square.” Shown: Piet Mondrian. Broadway Boogie Woogie. 1942–43. Oil on canvas, 50 x 50″ (127 x 127 cm). Given anonymously. Photo: Jackie Armstrong

What we know so far based on observations, educator reflections, and feedback from parents is that:

• Tours should include at least three works during the 45 minutes. Adults expressed an interest in exposing their children to a variety of works and four-year-olds lost interest if too much time was spent on one work. For future iterations of this tour we may experiment by including four or five works during the 45 minutes.
• Including works that are familiar and unfamiliar to most adults is a good way to keep families engaged
• Themes that inspire curiosity and enable families to get into the head of the artist/be an artist are really effective (e.g. gesture)
• Hands-on activities are appreciated and present teaching opportunities that children will not only enjoy, but also remember
• For gallery-based programs like Tours for Fours, activities that take place in the galleries are best as getting to the classroom and getting an activity underway takes too much time away from the tour; families also expect to be in the galleries as classrooms do not offer the unique or immersive experience they are looking for
• Involvement of the adult caregivers is key to a successful tour; ideally, adults and children should be thinking and talking about art together
• Younger children (particularly siblings) who come along on the tour often distract the four-year-olds and/or cause disturbances that upset the tour, however we realize that families generally like to stick together so we need to find more effective ways of addressing these realities
• Providing a little activity for families to take away at the end of the tour is an appreciated gesture, and for families that do the activities it really adds to their time at MoMA

 Parent: “I thought someone who could talk to children would talk to her about art. Instead, someone talked to her about how people make art, allowed her to imagine and practice it, and sent us on our way. We went home and made our own Jackson Pollock. It was beyond awesome” Photo: TK

In a MoMA classroom one parent noted, “I thought someone who could talk to children would talk to her about art. Instead, someone talked to her about how people make art, allowed her to imagine and practice it, and sent us on our way. We went home and made our own Jackson Pollock. It was beyond awesome.” Photo: Jackie Armstrong

In March, we are planning to test out more variations of Tours for Fours. We hope that this loop of iterative testing will help us create a tour that best matches the needs and abilities of four-year-old visitors (and their adult caregivers).

Have you been to a MoMA Tours for Fours program? We’d love to hear from you!

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SLIDESHOW: See what the MoMA education team has been up to.