Cultivating Connections with Art
Marjorie Hurley, Museum Educator and Docent Program Supervisor
Photo Credit

Janelle Rodriguez

Cultivating Connections with Art

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

As the Wellin's museum educator, it is my job to help people connect with art. Preparing for the fall semester and the return of students on campus means constructing opportunities for engagement with the museum, from planned tours to happenstance encounters.

Summer allows us to focus on the students who are the newest to our community. This year, we hosted workshops for three different groups at the museum as part of their introduction to life on the Hill. In July, we spent an afternoon with students in Opportunity Programs, showing them around behind the scenes and creating personal identity collages on the museum's Selch Terrace. In August, we hosted orientation workshops for the Local Arts Orientation group and Refugee Populations Outreach Adventure. In our time together, we slowed down to observe details in Howardena Pindell's print Constellations. Students shared their observations of the work, including that the print reminded them of numbers on a chalkboard, star charts, and zodiac symbols. While all of these observations are relevant to the piece, we focused on listening to differing perspectives rather than trying to arrive at a "correct" interpretation. 

When I ask Hamilton students what would entice more of their peers to visit the museum, I invariably get two answers: opportunities to dress up, and swag. Designing fun giveaway items is central to student engagement. This summer, we created a new suite of nine posters featuring works of art from the collection, which will be given away at an orientation event. For one poster, Summer Assistant Christina Stoll '25 worked determinedly to secure permission to reproduce an image of the print Cats by Kiyoshi Saito. Saito's print features two cats, one of whom is glancing at the other, who turns playfully to look at the first one. The poster giveaway is a casual opportunity for students to encounter the museum while also picking up some new dorm decor. We are also excited about this fall's lineup of Wellin Open Studios, each featuring a different craft project, Art Yoga, and Friday Focus Tours. 

I have also been anticipating hiring a new docent cohort, for students who are interested in engaging with the museum through teaching. In hiring docents, we look for students with a wide range of backgrounds who are passionate about helping other people engage with art. This fall, we will be recruiting students from the class of 2026, and in January 2023, we will be recruiting students from all class years. Student job opportunities at the museum will be listed on Handshake.

Preparations for the fall have also brought multiple opportunities to dive into the Wellin's collection. The reinstallation of the Object Study Gallery features many works of art that I have not had the opportunity to spend time with in the past. I have especially appreciated the display of Egyptian shabtis and Greco Roman vessels curated by alumna Kayley Boddy '22. Her thoughtful arrangement of shabtis offers a focused and detailed look at Egyptian society by identifying the original owners of certain collections of shabtis. 

Assembling resources to help teach the museum's student docents about this year's exhibition, Dialogues Across Disciplines: Building a Teaching Collection at the Wellin Museum of Art, has also provided me the opportunity to learn more about the Wellin's acquisitions over the past ten years. I have always thought that the Wellin had a rich and eclectic collection, but being able to study the exhibition checklist, which includes works ranging from Elias Sime's tableau composed of repurposed electronic parts, to Song dynasty-era ceramics, to ancient Roman glass vessels, enabled me to see how purposeful each acquisition decision has been. Each piece contributes to our teaching mission. I am excited to experience our collection through our visitors' eyes and discover what connections you can make when you see the works of art together in the gallery.

Image Credit: Museum Educator Marjorie Hurley demonstrates a project at a recent Wellin Open Studio program.
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