By Heather D’Andrea
Every day is different as a museum educator at KMAC, which always keeps my job exciting and rewarding. On any given day I could be teaching in a classroom as part of our in-depth curriculum program offered to area schools, touring students through the Museums’ exhibitions, instructing a hands-on art project in the Education Studio, facilitating a drop-in art workshop or visiting one of our artist in residence at a school. I get the opportunity to engage with people of all ages through art, which is truly awesome! I thought I would give you all a look into a typical day for me at KMAC:
9:00: Arrive, get settled, check my email and run downstairs to clean up a bit from yesterday’s workshop.
9:15: Museum staff meeting!
9:50: Leave the staff meeting early; the kids will be here in 10 minutes, so I quickly get everything together that I need for my lesson.
10-11:30: Teach 4th graders from Lebanon Elementary about the art in the museum. I always try to get the kids to think critically and creatively when looking at art by prompting them with questions and tasks. I ask them to imagine themselves in the artwork and to talk about their adventures or to listen to the sound of the recorded Matthew Ronay performance and think through how that sound was made with his artwork. I also give the kids the opportunity to draw from the artwork and do a few activities. This always leads to new ideas and great interpretations.
11:30: Leave for one of my artist residencies at The Kentucky School for the Blind. (KMAC sends a professional artist to work in schools for a hands-on art project. This is truly an amazing partnership that has been going strong for years). I arrive every Wednesday and help the teaching artist, Suzy Hatcher, with the largest and youngest class at KSB, the K-3 class. Today we make pinch pot monsters. They are awesome!
1:15: Return to KMAC from KSB and help out at the front desk and shop during lunch shift. Everyone at KMAC pitches in to help out.
2:15: Head to the 3rd floor Education Studio and get prepped to facilitate an art workshop at Humana. Fund for the Arts is providing Humana employees a coffee and art making break session to thank them for their generous donations. These donations help to fund the arts in Louisville, KMAC included.
2:45-3:45: Arrive at Humana headquarters and prepare for a fun art drop-in workshop. Today we are doing a printmaking workshop where participants will make their own prints from their own custom designed stamp. So fun!
3:50-4:20: Return to the museum, unload my supplies and quickly run to check my email and make a few phone calls.
4:25-5:00: Prep for my printmaking workshop tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. with La Rue County High School and bring up some new clay for our members of ClayWorks for their next month in the studio.
Todd C. Smith has been climbing trees for a very long time and for the past four years he has incorporated this leisure activity into an art practice. During his residency at Bernheim Forest, he constructed a pod shelter out of recycled materials testing the limits on sustainable living. It was placed in one of the trees there and in a perfomative art sort of way, Todd spent the night in the pod to see if it could withstand the elements. Read more about Todd’s nest project.
The director for KMAC, Aldy Milliken, met Todd at Bernheim during his artist talk and invited him to be a part of the exciting changes the museum was undertaking. Through this connection, Todd saw an opportunity and submitted a proposal to be an artist in residence at KMAC.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to develop work in a public atmosphere within the realm of craft. Usually I work outside, so this challenged me to make a piece within the walls of a museum,” Todd said. “When I was climbing daily, I took hundreds of photos from the viewpoint of looking down. I wanted to convey the depth but the 2-d image is limited. I discovered the 3-D camera and felt this would be a great way to bring my experience inside.”
Todd’s end result, Transport 1, (1 for the first work in this series) is installed on the third floor. The simple white box and plain handles seem to blend into the wall with the exception of the black eye viewer protruding from the top. He says, “this was done as to not give any clue to the viewer before they looked into it.” The piece utilizes multiple senses. Sight, being the obvious, touch-grasping the wooden handles, smell-the scent of the forest is emitted and eventually sound-birds and the open air.
By Heather D’Andrea
KMAC has sent its educators to Fort Worth, Texas for the National Art Education Association Convention. Julie Yoder and I (Heather D’Andrea) will be representing KMAC and sharing our great resources while gaining as much knowledge as we can from our fellow art museum educators. We will participate in discussions, workshops and listen to presenters and panel discussions. We will be at the convention for 4 days, and there are many interesting and beneficial activities that are planned. We will be learning about engaging family programs, school programs, mobile technology in museums, teen programming, educational exhibition planning, interpretations, adult education, and interactive art museum experiences. Easy to say, we will be busy! Sessions run 30-50 minutes from 8 a.m. untl 7 p.m. We hope to learn as much as possible, and bring that knowledge back to KMAC in order to develop new educational programs and ways to create positive and enlightening museum experiences for our visitors! Stay tuned.
By Joey Yates
On Saturday February 23rd KMAC hosted the Aegis 3rd Biennial Symposium on Art History an Visual Culture. Inspired by the collaboration between the museum and Aegis, the association of graduate students from the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville, the title set to this year’s theme was Taking the ‘s’ Out of Craft. The symposium featured six emerging scholars from graduate and doctoral programs throughout the country presenting papers on projects from different periods in history and places around the world that employ the use of craft in the creation of artwork.
The students in Aegis provided a dynamic schedule of events on Saturday and they are to be commended for their work. Aegis president Tracey Ekersley and Vice President Eileen Yanoviak selected the presenters from a national call for papers and spent countless hours organizing Saturday’s schedule of events, including the keynote presentation by Lydia Matthews, Professor of Visual Culture, School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design.
We also want to acknowledge Slade Stumbo, Taylor Crush and Nick Hartman, each from the Critical and Curatorial Studies program at U of L, who organized the accompanying exhibition. When Tracey Eckersley and I were talking one evening about a potential collaboration between KMAC and U of L it seemed a perfect time to take the past year’s efforts of our director Aldy Milliken to expand the definition of craft as it is presented at this institution and frame that in the academic excellence and thorough research methods of Aegis and the like minded, forward thinking presenters that they have consistently delivered to this symposium. Within the mission of this museum there are many avenues and topics available for the type of discourse we heard on Saturday, but it seemed the right opportunity to summarize the changes that have occurred here in the last year and punctuate that with a discussion from scholars around the country on the wider shift in views on the nature of craft in the 21st century. At the root of this change is reclamation of the word craft by young artists as a fundamental strength in the making of their work rather than as a negative distinction for objects that are void of a conceptual basis. The symposium and the Taking the ‘s’ Out of Craft exhibition are a part of a succession of programs here at KMAC that have been expanding the discussion for how we define art and craft. This was fully explored in our exhibition Storytelling As Craft from last Fall where craft was presented as an idea that reaches beyond the physical nature of objects and into the realm of the spoken word as well as sound, music, and performance. We also hosted a lecture by writer Glenn Adamson on November 5, 2012 on the subject of craft and the need to separate the term from associations to the rural and to objects created solely from traditional methods.
The presentations began with Traversing Boundaries: Cultural Philanthropy and the Craft of Mary Seton Watts by Kate Tuft. The paper explored Watts’ work as an artist and her non conventional approach to navigating the limitations of the 19th century woman.
Justina Lee presented her research on the Bilum the “head bag” from Papua New Guinee as a cultural bridge or artefact linked to the past and its current relevant contemporary manifestations in the paper Traditional and Modern Bilum in Papua New Guinea: A Shift from Bodily Extension to Cultural Bridge
Why Clay by Elizabeth di Donna illustrated several examples of contemporary craft artists commenting on conceptual practice and how Theaster Gates is giving meanings to materials and labor.
Chad Alligood spoke about an influential artist from Cranbrook in Wallace Mitchell and the Challenge of Craft. He charted the artist’s transition from abstract painting to several large commissioned rugs in the more collaborative atmospheres of architecture and design.
Haptic Rainbow: Installing Craft in the Work of Gabriel Dawe by Zoë Samels discussed the artist’s reactions to gender bias in his native Mexico. The use of installation art or a series of objects within objects questions the idea of craft as an object. She also notes concepts surrounding process and labor for the artists.
Sara Christensen Blair’s research in More is Less: The Domestic Sublime in Liza Lou’s Kitchen looked at the 3 year project of artist Liza Lou to bead and entire kitchen, the central nerve center of modernity, as an example of philosopher Jean-François Lyotard’s definition of the sublime.
Lydia Matthews, the keynote speaker, delivered an engaging talk titled Craft Matters: Exchanging Knowledge in the Wake of Globalization, which navigated both the concepts and traditions of craft practice. Through international teaching, curating, and publishing, she consistently explores how artists, artisans, designers, scholars and students can work together to foster democratic debates in the public sphere, and focuses on critical craft practices that inspire intimate community interactions. As a 2012 Fulbright Fellow, she co-curated various socially-engaged projects in Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Georgia, highlighting and catalyzing local responses to social and ecological crises resulting from globalization.
Lydia Matthews is Professor of Visual Culture and Director of the Curatorial Design Research Lab at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, where she served as Dean of Academic Programs from 2006-2011. Trained as a contemporary art historian at UC, Berkeley and the University of London’s Courtauld Institute, she worked as a cultural activist in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years, founding the graduate program in Visual Critical Studies and co-directing the MFA Fine Arts program at California College of the Arts.
Photo from left to right: Sara Christensen Blair, PhD Candidate, Institute of Doctoral Studies in Visual Arts
Chad Alligood, PhD Student, Art History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Zoë Samels, MA Student, Art History, Williams College, Williamstown, MA
Elizabeth Di Donna, MFA Student, Florida State University
Justina Yee, MA Student, Indiana University (Bloomington)
Katie Tuft, PhD Student, University of Washington
and Aegis President, Tracey Eckersley, PhD Candidate, Byzantine Art and Archaeology at Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville
When we hear the term “crafts” we generally think of little artworks that involve pipe cleaners and tissue paper and a huddle full of boys and girls. If you’re trying to be mature about it you might reference the Arts and Crafts Movement and their elaborately decorated handcrafted household goods. “Crafts” is such an ambiguous little word and to complicate things even further if you omit the “s” it becomes something entirely different, in the art world anyway. Craft implies work/labor that is done by a skilled person. Think Stradivarius violin, the opposite of mass produced. Some contemporary artists use craft methodology to make objects for aesthetic reasons rather than functional ones. This studio craft tends to align itself more with the critical theory that occurs in fine art. And this is where things get fuzzy.
A recent statement by University of Louisville graduate students from the Hite Art Institute says this. “Art. Craft. At some point in history, a hierarchical distinction was made between these two terms. While both are used to describe an object created by a skilled person, craft is often allocated to functional products that seemingly lack the creativity of art. This distinction is amplified by adding an “s” to craft.” This is part of Aegis’ Third Biennial Symposium on Art History and Visual Culture titled Taking the “s” out of Craft hosted by the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft on Saturday. The discussion will be focused on distinctions being made between craft and fine art and how these terms are reunited in select artist’s works. An exhibit featuring local and national contemporary artists who employ media or techniques traditionally associated with “craft” will be on view on the first floor gallery. The exhibition is curated by the University of Louisville graduate students from the Hite Art Institute.
On Friday (Jan 4), a new exhibit, Home Away Home, opened on the 3rd Floor Brown-Forman gallery, which counts as the third exhibition curated by a KMAC intern. It just so happens it is the second exhibit at KMAC curated by Miss Cecilia Adwell. You could say, she likes it here.
Cecilia is a vibrant person from her violet dipped platinum blonde hair to her cheetah print stockings, which serves her well as a student passionate about the creative and vivid world of folk art. Her way of thinking about curating a show and bringing together pieces from KMAC’s permanent collection is quite interesting and it has brought a lively energy to the third floor gallery space. Even though the recent Home Away Home has been “in the works” for some time, it didn’t become a reality until her winter break from the California College of the Arts – San Francisco when she could come to Louisville to organize the exhibit.
I caught up with Miss Cecilia to ask her about her experience as an intern at KMAC.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m originally from Oldham County, KY. My father worked in the prisons there. Being surrounded by artwork from inmates is really what peaked my interest and appreciation for self-taught or “outsider artists”. In high school, I moved to the city (Louisville) and received undergraduate degrees from Jefferson Community College and Bellarmine University. While at Bellarmine, I spent a summer in London working for a commercial gallery. I decided then that exhibition making was what I wanted to pursue so upon my acceptance to the California College of the Arts, I moved to San Francisco where I am currently studying for my MA in Curatorial Practice.
Tell us something you’ve learned from your experience here.
Being a part of this museum has been an invaluable experience. I worked as an education intern before Aldy was hired and to see the direction the museum is moving is really exciting as a student curator focused on craft and folk. The integration of folk and craft within the larger fine arts world has been happening for decades now and to see it in action on the museum level is really encouraging.
You’ve curated two exhibits at KMAC. Which would you deem more successful and why? This is a tough question. “Success” is a problematic term for me because there are so many levels of “success” that can be achieved. Hollers And Harvests and Home Away Home are two very different exhibitions. Both succeeded in bringing local, young artists into the conversation with Kentucky’s historical folk artists. Hollers and Harvests was very straight forward and didactic in approach, which is great for museum visitors. Home Away Home has a more complex curatorial approach, which was more difficult to explain to the public, but overcoming those difficulties was more satisfying. All in all, if the museum is happy, the visitors are engaged, and the artist I’m working with is happy, then I feel the exhibition was successful.
How did you choose Derrick Snodgrass to be a part of your recent exhibition Home Away Home?
Derrick has a very magnetic personality. I was first introduced to him at ACME Ink Tattoos in the Highlands I then went online to look at his tattoo portfolio and came across his paintings. I was hooked. I was looking for an artist to choose pieces from the KMAC collection in order to find inspiration for producing new work and I felt he would do a good job with interpreting some of the darker themes present within the collection with his own work. I am so happy with the work that came out of this process. He did such an amazing job.
You’ve worked with KMAC’s folk art permanent collection quite a bit, do you have a favorite folk artist or story from working with these pieces?
Through organizing and researching the collection I have grown an attachment to the artworks and the people who have made them. I love the overall story of Kentucky’s folk art history, learning about how artists are connected through familial ties and how artists arrived at a career in art through hard financial times or as a result of emotional or physical trauma is really a beautiful thing. I love that most of these artists don’t explain a lot of their work, when you learn about their personal life, it just makes sense.
Strangest comment you’ve heard at one of your exhibition openings?
Well, I’m pretty strange myself so nothing really surprises me.
What are your plans after your internship at KMAC?
I graduate in May and I’m terrified. I don’t know what my plans are yet, but I do know that I want to work with a museum that contains objects and artworks that I am personally passionate about. My goal was to leave Louisville and eventually return home to share what I’ve learned with the community, but I don’t know when this will happen. I just want a museum job that makes me happy and allows me to flex my creativity. Making a little money wouldn’t be so bad either.
Like the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, Wendell Castle creates functional objects imbued with elements of fantasy in a way that so few artists have been successful. He has combined these elements into a practice that isn’t purely theatrical or cliché. He belongs to the legion of artists like Salvador Dali who have pushed these ideas into the dialogue about art and culture. At the base of this project is a real world experience that transcends the mundane and teaches us how the impractical can move us forward.
In 1996, Castle published “10 Adopted Rules of Thumb,” a guide to creativity that he has adapted and made his own, stemming from years of art making experience. Number 7 of his original Adopted Rules of Thumb states “If it’s offbeat or surprising it’s probably useful.”
Since my studio visit with Wendell in October, the Dec/Jan issue of American Craft published Wendell Castle’s New Rules for Creativity.
Wendell Castle’s New Adopted Rules of Thumb
- Distrust what comes easily.
- You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.
- Bring conflicting attitudes to bear on the same problem.
- We should never know for whom you’re designing.
- Always listen to the voice of eccentricity.
- The whole secret to designing a chair is applying the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair.
- The problem with taking life in your own hands is you have no one else to blame.
- If your mind is not baffled, your mind is not fully employed.
- Imagination, not reason, creates what is novel.
- Jumping to conclusions is not exercise.
- Keep knocking- eventually someone will look down to see who’s there.