Noticing race and diversity in the museum

Noticing race and diversity in the museum

This summer for me has been a lot of “firsts.” It was the first summer I explored many different corners of Philadelphia, the first time I tried Rita’s, first time working at a large institution like the PMA, first time I taught students in a gallery, and first time I began to think about diversity in an art institute. It was a busy summer to say the least. As an education intern, I worked on three different big projects including leading tours in the galleries to summer camp groups, visiting a local library in Germantown to lead art activities relating to our special exhibit Creative Africa, and working at ArtSplash studio, assisting family audiences with different art projects. This structure really allowed me to see the vast and wide array of programs that the museum runs to reach out to different members in the community. In the midst of these busy weeks, I thought a lot about diversity in the museum.  these are some things I have spent a lot of time observing and thinking about. Prior to starting this internship, I was aware that the art world is pretty white. To my surprise, I saw more diversity than I thought when I started, especially being placed in the education department. However as tour groups came in, I started noticing more interesting racial dynamics. A large portion of the students who came on the tour were of color, whereas most of the authority figures they saw in the museum, their tour guides (the education interns), were white. And often, the artwork these students observed were painted by white European...
Museum on the Hill – Accessibility at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Museum on the Hill – Accessibility at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

This summer I have been interning at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the Education Department focusing on family and community audiences. Day to day at the museum, I am on my feet giving tours in the galleries and leading related art activities in the studio to camp groups ages 6-12, assisting with Art Splash – the museum’s family summer programming, and traveling weekly to local libraries to lead art workshops related to Creative Africa, a special exhibition currently on view in the Perelman Building at the PMA. Whether it be working at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford, painting in my spare time, taking trips to a museum to view a newly installed exhibition, or finding art in unexpected places while wandering Philadelphia neighborhoods, art has always been a crucial component of my life and the way I understand the world around me. I’d rather spend an entire day meditating on the artworks in one gallery space rather than try to see the entire museum in a day. Many of the children visiting for tours have never been to the PMA let alone an art museum. It’s exciting for me to facilitate dialogue around a work of art and to make them feel confident engaging rather than afraid that there’s a right or wrong way to interpret the artworks. It’s a challenge to keep the work from seeming stagnant – to encourage conversation that makes the artworks relevant to their lives. My favorite work to teach is a portable fresco by Diego Rivera because we get to talk about muralism as a form of storytelling and the role...

(Not So Arrested) Development

Hello! I’m Aubree Penney, a newly graduated English and Religion major. Last year I built the virtual Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery as the CFG summer intern, and this year I’m one of the five Haverford interns in the Philadelphia Museum of Art Museum Studies Internship program. The internship program involves spending 1.5 days a week learning about the Museum, and 3.5 days a week working in our respective departments. I work in Development with the Major Gifts team. Major Gifts focuses on individuals giving gifts of money during their lifetimes, as opposed to Planned Giving (someone leaving a gift in her will) or giving what we call gifts of works of art (which we call “GOWA’s”). My boss works with the American Decorative Arts and Prints, Drawings, and Photographs (a.k.a. PDP) curatorial departments, so a lot of my day-to-day tasks involve their current acquisitions projects, specifically the Fox and the Grapes dressing table and the Strand collection. My Strand work hasn’t gotten underway yet-I start combing through relevant files tomorrow-so for now, here’s a little info about the Fox and the Grapes! The Fox and the Grapes dressing table has been on loan to the PMA for a number of years.  Its sister piece, the Fox and the Grapes High Chest, was given to the Museum a while back. It was fortuitous that the Museum was able to reunite these gorgeous pieces of eighteenth-century Philadelphia craft, and we’re all hoping to keep them together in their home city. I love that the piece is so decadent, and yet it feature’s Aesop’s fable warning against greed. Plus, the delicate table balances...

Finding Home at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Hello! My name is Alex Tonsing. I just graduated and I was a history major. This summer I’m working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a curatorial intern with European Painting. While I work in European Painting, I am actually working on the museum’s colonial Mexican painting collections. I couldn’t be happier about the arrangement considering I wrote my thesis about casta paintings and race in eighteenth-century New Spain. Thus far I’ve been working on two main tasks: writing online exhibit labels and researching Robert H. Lamborn, who donated 80 Mexican paintings to the museum in 1888. Writing labels has been a lot of fun. I was surprised how much research was involved in writing 150 word blurbs about art. One of the paintings I worked on today was Portrait of Reverend Mother Maria Antonia de Rivera. This painting is an example of a monja coronada, “crowned nun,” painting. These paintings are exactly what they sound like: they depict nuns wearing large, lavish crowns of flowers. In New Spain, wealthy families would commission these paintings of their daughters when they took their final vows and entered the convent. As such, these images represented the mystical marriage (notice María Antonia’s wedding ring) to Jesus. What I just learned,however, was that this sort of painting was only popular in New Spain. Other regions of Latin America such as modern-day Peru and Colombia also produced many monja coronadas, but with one key difference: the crowned nuns are dead. While this may seem morbid, it was not meant to be. Rather than praise young nuns on their sort of “wedding day,” these other...

A Clash of Lives!

Ever since my Summer 2011 HCAH-sponsored internship with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, I’ve continued volunteering with the department, helping with research about the photographer Paul Strand, whose core collection the museum recently acquired.  Working with the museum during the school year is a lot of fun because once a week, I get to replace my standard college student’s jeans and sweatshirt with my finest business casual, don my museum ID badge, and venture off campus (with the ever-generous HCAH reimbursing my transportation costs) to go spend an afternoon learning new things about art.  It’s kinda like having a superhero alter ego, but obviously a whole lot cooler. However, my “superhero alter ego” comparison can’t hold up, since superheroes must always keep their two lives separated – something I’m fundamentally unable to do separate.  Why?  Because a whole lot of the research I’m doing right now keeps leading me back to the beautiful tome Paul Strand in Mexico, written by none other than Haverford’s own Professor of History James Krippner.  Professor Krippner’s book has proved incredibly useful in learning about a huge part of Strand’s life, and is especially important considering that Strand’s work in Mexico hasn’t necessarily received the same sort of attention as other parts of his career. The work I did last school year helped me put together many details of Strand’s life through dealing with his personal correspondance; this year, my task is more focused on piecing together the biographies of some of the people whom Strand knew and photographed.  As all these different biographies come together, the possibilities for...