by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Dickinson's Trout Gallery is buzzing this summer with new and expanded programming, exhibition-enhancing technology and its most extensive summer camp yet—all powered by talented student interns who are helping gallery visitors find new ways to engage with art.
“As an art museum, our mission is to inspire creativity and support the study and experience of the visual arts through direct contact with art, and Dickinson students working at the Trout do just that," says Heather Flaherty, curator of education, who oversaw 12 paid and unpaid education assistants and interns during the 2014-15 academic year. "So while we’re thinking about how to meet community needs by supplying students [to create educational materials and run community programs], we’re also meeting students’ educational needs by supplying them with the hands-on professional experiences while they are still students.”
At the heart of the gallery’s 2015 summer offerings are its community-outreach programs—many held within the gallery’s Mumper Stuart Education Center. These include six weeks of youth programs and a weeklong summer camp, presented in partnership with the Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC); an Open Arts Lab, inviting community members to stop by during lab hours to learn about and make art as well as relax in the gallery’s community library and play area; participation in local festivals; and educational materials and multimedia, tailored to each exhibition currently on display.
Rising juniors Taylor Hunkins (classical studies, art & art history) and Lexi Tobash (art & art history) researched and wrote the educational programs for the Schofield: Impressionist Landscapes exhibition, and both are helping to teach these programs throughout the summer while also working as Dickinson tour guides. Tobash additionally has designed a soon-to-be-released Family Guide for the exhibit, a new gallery feature that presents exhibition-specific background information in an engaging way and includes art trading cards that kids can cut out and collect.
“The goal of these programs isn’t just to teach the kids about art history; it’s about trying to teach them how art can relate to other disciplines and subjects,” says Tobash, explaining that local children in fourth through eighth grade will not only learn the history of impressionist painting, but also the science behind the ways their eyes see color, how different color schemes can affect the way we experience an image, and the chemistry of color-mixing, while younger students will learn about the symbiosis between colors, moods and the four seasons, as well as the relationships between visual and performance arts, like music and dance.
Hunkins came to the Schofield project with some expertise in the field, having served an internship last summer at the Michener Art Museum, which focuses on American expressionism. That base knowledge came in handy as he researched and wrote The Trout Gallery’s Schofield audio guide, which is bundled with a student-designed app to enrich visitors’ experiences.
“The Trout Gallery is really excited about this app because it has lengthened the time visitors spend in the gallery and has really just boosted the popularity of the Trout overall,” says Hunkins, who wrote, narrated and recorded a guide for each painting in the Schofield exhibition, which is currently on display.
As language docent, Guilia Pagano ’17 led beginner and intermediate language classes at The Trout Gallery for two semesters, and she plans to tap that experience while pursuing teaching certification in Spanish and French. During the summer, she works as Flaherty’s assistant, helping with teacher workshops, summer programs for kids, and other community events.
“Every day I learn something new, whether it's related to the exhibits on display or learning the details of what it takes to plan a workshop,” says Pagano, who reports that she’s picked up valuable skills in software application, public speaking and event planning along the way.
Pagano’s lesson plans springboard from an ongoing exhibition of ancient Greek vessels curated by Sarah Eisen ’15 (archaeology classical studies) and accompanying educational materials by Christina Errico ’15 (archaeology, classical studies) that include a Kids’ Tour, which can be accessed online or via preloaded iPads, available free of charge during gallery visits.
“I really loved being able to connect the objects to ancient Greek daily life and show people that while life back then may have been very different, there were also many similarities between modern life and ancient Greek culture,” says Errico, who notes that the experience taught her how to write and break down complex concepts effectively for different age groups, while also opening a window to current trends in museum education—all useful to a new graduate pursuing a master’s in the field.
Hunkins anticipates that he, too, will benefit from his Trout Gallery experience when it comes time to apply for a job—no matter what that job might be.
“I mean, it’s pretty special to be able to say that as an undergrad I researched, wrote and recorded a museum audio tour, and it’s cool to be able to see something you worked on being used by the public,” he says. “In an age where technology is a part of every corporation, organization and institution, these are unique projects and opportunities, and they really make students stand out.”
Published July 1, 2015