Starting at 11:00am, we’ll create small teaching groups, get randomized object assignments and prototype short experiences with these objects. After sharing these adventures, we’ll meet for lunch and discuss the morning.
Please invite all experimenters: museum educators, art teachers, science buffs, general educators, as well as any community members interested in playing! The more the merrier, no experience in art necessary, just a can do attitude and willingness to play and experiment.
Not in North Carolina? Jen from The Engaging Educator will be live-tweeting the Mash-Up, and participants are invited to share at #museumedmashup
WHEN: Friday, October 16th – 11am-2pm
11-11:15– Welcome, introduction, assign artworks + groups
Calling all experimenters! Calling all educators (in museums, classrooms, colleges)! Are you tired of the same old, same old? Interested in playing outside of your comfort zone? If you are headed to New Orleans for the National Art Education Association or based in New Orleans — and looking for a fresh, fun, experimental way to connect with art and with other educators — we’re mashing it up at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on the evening of Thursday, March 26th.
WHEN: Thursday, March 26th – experimenters gather at 6:00pm, everyone else gathers at 7:00pm
Join us and throwdown your experimental best with students, colleagues, and members of the NOLA community. We’re opening it up to everyone – you don’t have to be a museum educator or an NAEA attendee. Fan of the Ogden? Casual museum-goer? K-12 art teacher or college faculty? Person who’s just curious? Join us in shining new light on selected objects in the collection, and connecting with other educators interested in collectively pushing our teaching practices.
We’re doing this because we fall into safe patterns in our lives. Why fix something that isn’t broken? Why change our teaching style and methodologies if they are ‘working’? Unfortunately, playing it safe also leads to stagnancy. So let’s shake up the museum experience, throwdown style. Bring your best, but also walk away with fresh ideas and perspectives.
We want to think together and outside of our comfort zones. Try something that scares you and work with someone you’ve never worked with before. That night, interested educators are invited to meet up at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art at 6:00pm, at which time we’ll create small teaching groups, get randomized object assignments, and receive prompts to rapidly prototype short experiences with these objects. Each group will get 45 minutes to plan a 5-7 minute experience to share with a public audience that night. Starting at 7:00pm on the 5th Floor, each group will share their 5-7 minute experience with their assigned object in the galleries — inviting NAEA attendees, educators, students, museum visitors, and the NOLA community to participate in this rapid succession of arts experiences.
After we make our way through this series of in-gallery experiments, we invite colleagues to grab dinner afterwards to reflect on our experiences together, new connections, and burning questions. There are several great restaurants within a short walking distance of the Ogden (and we can make some recommendations the night of, if people are interested).
How Can You Be Involved?
AS AN EXPERIMENTER:
If you are interested in being a risk-taker, and being a part of one of the small groups that tackles this challenge, please contact Jen Oleniczak at email@example.com in advance of March 26th. We want to hear from you before we all get to New Orleans! We’ll all need to be at the Ogden (5th Floor) at 6pm to form teams and begin the challenge.
AS A PARTICIPANT:
If you’re not quite up for experimenting yourself but want to be a part of these experiences, everyone is welcome to gather at the Ogden (5th Floor) at 7pm. We’re also excited to be opening these experiences to the larger Ogden audience that evening. Please share this event with everyone, including educators from outside the Museum Division of NAEA.
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Will every experience work be a success? Probably not, but we’re not trying to creating the perfect program – we’re trying to push our comfort zones and our ideas of how to approach museum objects. When we constantly try not to fail, we never succeed. And, as educators, its important for us to designate safe spaces for risk-taking and experimentation in museum teaching.
So let’s throw it down New-Orleans-style and see what happens!
Jen Oleniczak, The Engaging Educator
Rachel Ropeik, Brooklyn Museum
Deborah Randolph, Southeast Center for Contemporary Art
Last week, ArtMuseumTeaching partnered up with 3 amazing museum educators and the American Folk Art Museum to host the first Museum Teaching Throw Down. The event was a huge success, and I would like to thank the American Folk Art Museum as well as everyone who was able to attend on that cold night in New York. We all wanted to take this opportunity to get our post-throwdown reflections in writing, thinking about the process of exploring, envisioning, and enacting this collective in-gallery experience.
I kicked off the Throw Down by welcoming everyone, and reading a short list of reasons why I, myself, had wanted to do an event like this:
It just plain sounded fun, and a good way to geek out museum-ed style.
A gathering like this might be a different way to connect, reflect, and share, both professionally and personally.
Pushing our teaching practice in public with peers might help make us more responsible to our audience, and in turn, perhaps foster an audience more amenable to the risks we’re willing to take for them.
It has the potential to ask what museum teaching, learning, and participation can be, with the hopes of taking an active role in shaping what will come next.
A Museum Teaching Throw Down gives museum teaching a stage, and says that what we do as educators is valuable — and that we’ll pack a room to witness it. This says something powerful to me about our museum education community.
Before we jumped into the gallery teaching experiences, I also evoked Marc Smith, the Chicago construction worker who in the 1980s started the Poetry Slam movement. He would begin each slam by introducing himself, and he trained the audience to respond by shouting “SO WHAT?!?” For Marc, this gave each slam event a clear sense of humility as well as a way to declare that everyone in the room was just as important for participating. I repeated this “SO WHAT?!?” exercise to kick-off our Museum Throw Down, and I think that question stuck with many of us throughout the night and brings us to reflect on our experiences. What follows are reflections from each of the 3 Throw Down educators (PJ Policarpio, Rachel Ropeik, and Jen Oleniczak) thinking about how the night came together, what the experience was like, and some initial responses to the all-important question: SO WHAT?
When I read about the premise of the show Folk Couture at the American Folk Art Museum, I was immediately excited by the opportunity to teach from objects that I don’t usually get a chance to teach from: couture dresses and folk art. What an exciting personal challenge for me to teach from new objects in a fun, creative, and innovative way. Given the range of options from Folk Couture, I was instantly intrigued by designer Bibhu Mohapatra’s inspiration, a rare 19th century Tattoo Pattern Book. My own fascination with tattoos and tattooing culture inspired my choice of objects for the throw down. This inspired me to dig deep and learn more about the specificity of the visual language within the culture and tradition of sailors/maritime workers. In a way, this rare Tattoo Pattern Book can serve as a visual dictionary. From here, I collected about 15 tattoo designs that carry corresponding meanings within the subculture. I imagined what kind of images I might see if I were to look through the 35 waterproof pages of the book.
My Throw Down experience started with having people pair up and share personal experiences with tattoos or tattooing. After, we looked at the Tattoo Pattern Book and I provided some information about the object. The interactive part from my teaching was an old fashioned matching game. In groups, I asked participants to match tattoo designs with their corresponding meanings. (Example: a sparrow tattoo was for a sailor who logged five thousand miles at sea. At ten thousand miles, a sailor could add a second swallow.)
I wanted the participants to understand the rich and distinct visual language in which the tattoos communicated to those who are/were a part of this culture. Going back to the objects, we related our knowledge to Bibhu Mohapatra’s garment and his narrative & inspiration
I took home so many things from the Museum Teaching Throw Down that I would like to think about in my own teaching practice, primarily how to create engaging activities/experiences that are still centered on art/artifacts. It also reinforced my need for research (how much fun it can be!) and providing accurate information, all essential for meaningful and purposeful museum experiences. I also found out that I like working with adults (very important!).
How can I bring this spirit into my work? That’s the question that’s been rattling around my brain since our throw down. I’ll admit, it took me a few days to come down from the high of such an exciting evening at the museum. I’m still in a bit of #MuseumThrowdownWithdrawal (a hashtag entirely too long for actual Twitter usage). But instead of being sad it’s over, I’ve been thinking about how I can keep the high going.
My own teaching philosophy (growing and changing as it does) is still very much based on the object itself, but I wanted to stretch myself and experiment with a participatory group activity that took the object as a jumping off point, and then morphed into its own entity.
So the object observation started us off:
And then we evolved into walking the catwalk in our original creations (Vine courtesy of Rebecca Mir):
The group’s energy started off impressively focused and then grew into a wonderfully playful, creative, positive atmosphere by the time everyone was strutting their stuff and applauding each newly-created look. It reminded me of the fun people can have in the museum when you don’t stick purely to focusing on the object, when you let the object inspire you to do something several degrees removed.
I know this sounds like basic Museum Education 101 stuff here, and it is. But that room full of museum adventurers of all sorts was having such a good time and thinking so creatively that I’m determined to keep (re)affirming the value of fun in my head as I go forward with my work. What can I do with teachers that takes them beyond museum-based lesson planning? What can I do with students that really captures their imaginations in the galleries?
It’ll be a stretch for some people who may not come in with the same desire to experiment that our intrepid throw down attendees had. It’ll be a push for me to keep thinking about new, creative activities instead of falling back on the tested and true. But that’s what I’m taking away from the inaugural Museum Teaching Throw Down (besides my victory, that is… #NotSoHumbleBrag); push for the unexpected and keep my audience on their toes, and maybe they’ll hit the same magical excitement that filled up the American Folk Art Museum galleries-turned-runway that night.
What risk did I take? That’s a question on my mind since last week’s throwdown. I’m not quiet regarding my feelings about improv and museum education, but it’s been something I’ve been regrettably nervous about since starting The Engaging Educator. Tableaux Vivants aside, I’ve been careful (afraid?) not to introduce too many ‘acting’ exercises into my practice among peers. Give me a group of students and I’ll have them walking through ‘jello’ while they are embodying jealousy. Even in my improv class and professional development sessions, I’ll push comfort levels.
But for the most part, I’ve been hesitant to introduce it to peers unless they signed up fully knowing what may happen. And upon realizing I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching, I decided to make my words happen. If we try not to fail, we never succeed. The likes of theatre, selfies and social media came out.
I approached the Throw Down with the opinion that if I won, I wasn’t making people uncomfortable enough. I want people to feel unnerved, out of their skin and element – like they too were experimenting with me. Even now, a week later, I don’t think I pushed people enough.
So bring on the Gallery Teaching Marathon in San Diego. Theatre and social media are coming out full force. What better place to experiment than with my peers? As for the future of NYC Throwdowns – this WILL happen again. And you better believe I’m going to continue seeing how far I can go – because really, what’s the worst that happens if it fails miserably? Nothing.
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SHARE YOUR IDEAS: What are your thoughts about the idea of a Museum Teaching Throw Down? What is the risk? What is the value? SO WHAT? What are some ways that we can use in-gallery practice for professional and personal growth as well as the building of stronger peer communities? Is any of this new, or have museum educators always had some form of a ‘throw down’ to keep things real? Even if you could not attend the first Throw Down, we’d love to hear from you about these issues.
Interested in hosting your own Museum Teaching Throw Down? Go for it! Just please use the hashtag #MuseumThrowDown so we can all connect to the amazing experience and collectively discover new ways to challenge ourselves and our teaching practice. And try to start by having the audience shout back “SO WHAT?!?”
According to Wiktionary, the term “throw down” was popularized in 1990s street culture, derived from the idiom throw down the gauntlet or “to issue a challenge,” also used in the sense of “to make a stand” or “to stand up and contribute something.” The term has been further popularized by the drama-filled televised cook-off competitions of chef Bobby Flay in his Food Network show called Throwdown, which always ends with his open challenge to all viewers: “Are you ready for a Throwdown?”
There have been throw downs in poetry, music, football, breakdancing, cooking, glee clubs, boxing, politics, and street fighting, but there has never been a throw down in museum teaching … until now! This month, ArtMuseumTeaching.com brings together 4 challengers and 1 museum for the first-ever “Museum Teaching THROW DOWN,” aimed at bringing out the best in experience, creativity, risk-taking, and experimentation.
Four fierce educator/competitors will gather at the American Folk Art Museum on February 26th, prepared to “make a stand” and lead a gallery teaching experience of about 15-20 minutes each. Each educator will use the museum’s current special exhibition Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art to activate the audience in new and engaging ways. After each educator has completed their gallery experience, the audience then gets to decide who leaves as the winner of the first-ever Museum Teaching THROW DOWN.
Let’s meet the challengers…
As we start to get psyched-up about the upcoming THROW DOWN, I asked all the competitors to tell me why they are interested in this type of museum teaching challenge. So here is a little bit more about us, and why we’re doing this.
“So often we get caught up in what works — the gallery stops and activities that are tried and true in a given audience. Failure is a scary thing, and experimental implies a chance of failure. Through my work with the Engaging Educator and Museum Hack, I’m all about taking risks that have the capacity to either be massive failures or tremendous successes. If you are constantly trying not to fail, you’ll never succeed. The THROW DOWN for experimental museum teaching offers a platform to take a big risk with colleagues I respect — and to blow it up at the American Folk Art Museum.”
“I’ve been a dancer for most of my life, but a lifetime of ballet and jazz classes do not a B-girl make. No, my forays (and yes, there have been several) into breakdancing haven’t scored me my own dance movie, but they’ve always been a blast. Why? Because they’ve always been about people getting together to throw down some moves and cheer each other on and have a good old-fashioned great time. So let’s do that in a museum. Let’s see some crazy cool art creations and some bad@$$ gallery teaching in action and make the museum the place for that collective sharing and cheering.”
“Breaking isn’t about meticulously planned choreography. It’s about feeling the music and trying things out and hearing the crowd roar when they love what you do. And OK, so maybe the crowd roar in the museum is going to have to be a little quieter, but I’m still ready to throw down some museum ed moves and shake it up and flow with some great colleagues and an eager audience. Bring it on!”
PJ POLICARPIO: Teaching his way across the Big Apple, this master-of-all-trades museum educator and community engager means business. @pjpolicarpio
“I do love a good challenge. I’m really interested in where this “throw down” is headed and would love to participate! An experimental museum teaching throw down is exciting because museum educators by nature are always on our toes. We are constantly challenged by a variety of factors and almost always rely on our myriad teaching tools/strategies combined with experience. This is a perfect challenge! Looking forward to collaborating on this project!”
MIKE MURAWSKI: Last but not least, the blogger who needs to put his money where his mouth is; the “Bobby Flay” of this Throw Down (FYI – Bobby Flay did lose many of his cooking throw downs; those were alway the best episodes, too). @murawski27
“I have been hankering for a first-ever Museum Teaching Throw Down, and am excited to launch this in the city that never sleeps. We all do teaching and touring in our ‘jobs,’ but we don’t get much time to truly play with our craft and experiment in fun and bold ways in a supportive environment outside our own institutions. I look forward to getting together with this terrifyingly fantastic group of New York City museum educators, and pushing ourselves in ways that are a bit outside the box. Let’s do this!”
Drinking About Museums
It doesn’t end there. After the THROW DOWN concludes around 7:30pm (if there is anyone still standing), we plan to head to nearby P.J. Clarke’s (44 West 63rd Street) for a Drinking About Museums hangout, meet-up, and discussion. There, we can celebrate the winner of the first-ever THROW DOWN, and decide whether we ever want to do this again. Even if you can’t make it to the American Folk Art Museum, we’d love to see you for a few drinks and some great conversation.
We hope to see you there at the American Folk Art Museum on February 26th and for the Drinking About Museums that follows! To stay up to date on any further details or event changes, connect with the Google+ Event page (let us know if you’re coming) and the join the ArtMuseumTeaching Google Community.
And, to all you museum educators out there, keep doing what you do. But ask yourself this … Are you ready for a Throw Down?