Assistant curator gets to combine three of her favorite things: working with youth, exploring art and designing activities around the museum experience.
What do you do? I am assistant curator of school, youth and family programs at the Henry Art Gallery. I wear a few hats, including artist, educator, evaluator and administrator. I organize programs that engage youth, families and schools with the contemporary ideas at the museum. I work with colleagues across the museum to make sure that the Henry is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can be creative, play and make meaningful connections to art and ideas.
How did you get started in that field? Not long after receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art, I picked up a weekend job helping out with family programs at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. There I was introduced to the field of museum education and was hooked. I had found a job that combined three of my favorite things: working with youth, exploring art and designing activities that allowed people to respond and make creations inspired by their museum experience. Since then, I’ve followed this line of work in various ways at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and now the Henry!
What’s a typical day like? My favorite thing about working in museum education is that every day is completely different. Depending on the day I might meet a new artist, catch up on the newest learning theory or create a fantastical landscape alongside 5-year-olds and their families. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time with an awesome group of young people, the members of the Henry Teen Art Collective, who meet with me every week to create new projects and programs for the Henry.
What’s the best part of the job? Witnessing the way people of all ages are transformed by experiences with art. Maybe it makes them understand something new about themselves, maybe it starts a debate that continues long past their visit, or maybe it just provides them with a space to think and recharge. Museum programs tend to connect people and build community in a way that is completely unique from any other environment — something I think we need a lot of right now.
What surprises people about what you do? Most people assume that my job is about leading tours for school field trips, because this is how many people were first introduced to museums. The reality is that my work is largely the opposite! It’s really about creating opportunities for youth and families to explore art on their own terms, in modes that are multi-sensory, and about collaboration as well as personal discovery. People are also often surprised to learn that I work with artists to design programs — they do a lot more than just put on exhibitions!
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