Finding Inspiration in the Museum

Picture2This past week Wild about Writing Campers explored the museum to find inspiration by examining genres of writing, using the museum collection to spur creativity, and hone their writing.

_MG_9808Writing teachers Felicia Gray and Rena Dossett guided young authors in letting their imaginations roam free. Students discovered that there are no borders or boundaries when you escape into the wild and let your imagination take control.

Students found inspiration for their writing throughout the museum with Art Link lessons led by Tania Said, Director of Education, including wild revelations with masks in the African gallery, wild motion and emotion found in landscapes, wild spirit animals and identity in the Native American and Pre-Columbian gallery, fantastical and mythological Asian art, and wild interpretations in glass in the Without Camouflage exhibition by artists Dafna Kaffeman and Silvia Levenson.Picture1

For more fun with the museum be sure to join us at the Maring-Hunt Muncie Public Library at 2005 S. High St. for socializing and games as part of the Summer Reading Family Night on Friday, August , and meet museum volunteers and staff in the community!

The fall semester starts on Monday, August 18, but you can stay in touch with what we’re doing by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.





Learning Creatively

croppedWhat can children learn in a museum? What new ideas can they understand from works of art? We are pleased to report that this past Wednesday’s Preschool Art Enrichment Program was a great success. Children of four and five years of age, along with their parents joined us for play and learning at the Owsley Museum of Art.

_MG_9317Children were introduced to the idea of abstract art with the museum’s painting, Right Bird Left, by Lee Krasner. The program was led by docents Barbara Alavarez Bohanon and Suzanne Walker using discussion, songs, and art activities to enhance the children’s
learning and creativity.

“One of the benefits of working in a museum is seeing the range of talent volunteers have,” commented Tania Said, director of education. “Docents Suzanne Walker and Barbara Alavarez Bohanon really understand the needs and interests of preschool children, and you could see the delight in their faces when the four and five year olds were looking at Lee Krasner’s ‘Right Bird Left’ and during the art activity they did.”

Painting with paper activity example.

Painting with paper activity example.

The parent of a child in the program said, “The program was great! It was just enough
substance and just enough fun. It was run by people who know how to work with children.”


“I really believe that any of us, and children certainly, construct knowledge based on their personal experiences and the input of new information. And art is one of those avenues that children respond exceedingly well to.” -Sharon Shaffer, former executive director, Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

_MG_9532Children and parents both enjoyed themselves with this hands-on, interactive learning experience. We hope to have more preschool art enrichment programs in the future, so be sure to look for future programs in the fall.

Also, DOMA will be hosting a  story time for preschoolers and their families on the third Wednesday of every month this fall with Barbara Alavarez Bohanon selecting a related a story to travel the world and enjoy the art in the galleries. Registration is not required, but is encouraged if participants wish to receive parking and directions information.

Insider Interview with New Director Robert G. La France


The David Owsley Museum of Art has made some astounding changes recently; from the opening of the new galleries last year to the hiring of a new director, Robert G. La France, this year. After La France settled into the office this past week, I asked him a few questions about his position and took a stroll with him through the galleries.

Amanda Knigga: What does your position as director at the David Owsley Museum of Art fully entail?

La France: The job of director entails overseeing all aspects of the museum’s operations including collection management, art acquisitions, research, publications, education, student engagement, exhibition planning, management of budget and staff, donor cultivation, fundraising, and public relations.  But that answer sounds too much like an official job description.  In other words, a good university museum director plays many roles including that of scholar, teacher, mentor, coach, manager, and impresario.  And that’s what I intend to do.

AK: Could you summarize a trajectory of your previous educational experiences, studies, and positions that led you to your new position as director?

La France: I suppose it began with undergraduate art history courses at Cal State San Bernardino, a public university about the same size as Ball State. I spent my junior year in Florence, Italy, and returned there to earn a master’s degree at Syracuse University’s program. I’ve held internships at the Getty in Los Angeles and received a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.  My professional experience combines academic, museum, and university museum work at institutions such as CASVA at the National Gallery of Art, Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois, and a fellowship at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti. I’ve organized exhibitions and published several articles and a book on European art topics ranging from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, and even edited a volume on an American sculptor. To make a long story short, all of these and several other experiences prepared me to research and write about art, work closely with scholars, manage budgets, create exhibitions, and engage with museum audiences.


AK: Could you tell me what your initial impressions of the DOMA collection are?

La France: I was surprised and deeply impressed.  I make it my business to know the university and public collections in the Midwest, and I hadn’t heard about the Owsley before I first visited in the fall of 2013.  That’s because even though the museum has older roots, the name is quite new and, frankly, it acquired a large portion of the collection only recently. The quality of those acquisitions is extraordinary. As the name implies, many are gifts from David Owsley, who brought his own curatorial experience to his collecting and helped to expand the museum’s scope to encompass several centuries of art from around the world. In addition, former Director Peter Blume, Associate Director Carl Schafer, and Exhibition Designer Randy Salway did a wonderful job planning, building, and installing the multi-hued galleries in a way that suits the building’s distinctive Gothic Revival architecture.

AK: What are some of your intentions or aspirations for your time here as director? What would you like to see happen?

La France: I’d like to see the David Owsley Museum of Art’s collection recognized not only locally, but also throughout the region and nation. But the outcome of this aspiration depends very much on the museum’s financial and human resources, so I can’t elaborate until I’ve had a chance to discuss future goals with the university community.

AK: How would you like to see the collection grow?

La France: It is growing every week, with new purchases, donations, and especially gifts from David Owsley, a great patron of the arts and a scion of the Ball family.  I look forward to working with donors, Ball State faculty, and museum staff to continue to refine and strengthen the collection

AK: How would you like to see an increase in student and community engagement happen?

La France: I believe—and I’m not alone in this—that the museum is bursting with potential for transformative encounters between students and art.  They already happen regularly when art history, art education, studio art, and other classes are taught in the museum. But they also occur when faculty and students in fields as diverse as rhetoric, gender studies, history, all of the sciences, and mathematics use the collection to hone observation skills and stimulate critical thinking. The Owsley is also an important part of the Muncie and ECI community, and a resource for all residents from K-12 students to young professionals and seniors.

AK: What are a few of your favorite works of art in the collection? Could you elaborate a bit on what draws you to favor these pieces?

La France: It really is too early to tell. I’m sure I’ll have a new “favorite” at least once a week, but here’s a few.  I am of course attracted to the Italian Renaissance portrait of a lady by Domenico Puligo(1492-1527); I’ve known this painting from poor photographs, and finally had a chance to see it in the flesh. It is a brilliant demonstration of sixteenth-century Florentine fashion and manners.  I am also enamored by the lovely French Rococo Fête champêtre (a painting of well-dressed, amorous couples cavorting in a pastoral landscape) by Jean-Baptiste Pater(1695-1736), which just entered the collection. I had seen this jewel offered at auction and lost all hope of finding it again—only to discover that David Owsley had purchased it for the museum. I am spellbound by the monumental, mystical head of the Bodhisattva Maitreya from China’s Song Period (960-1279 CE). It’s another Owsley gift that recently entered the galleries. Maitreya is associated with the future and love—and those aren’t bad things to contemplate. I am also drawn to the incredible profusion of imagery carved into the elephant tusk from the African Kingdom of Benin. The South Asian collection is studded with gems, like the little seventeenth-century ivory carving with Christ as the Good Shepherd from Goa, India; and I haven’t yet mentioned the stunning Pre-Columbian art or the virtuoso treatment of light and atmosphere in the American Impressionist paintings. I have too many favorites to choose one, or even a few.  It’s like asking a parent to name his or her favorite child!


Portrait of a Lady, about 1525, Domenico Puligo


Head of a Bodhisattva, Northern Song Dynasty


Royal Tusk, Edo people, 1850/1875

When asked why students should come to the museum and what it has to offer for them La France responded, “The museum provides a direct, authentic experience with quality works of art that communicate across time, geography, and cultures. Skipping the museum and looking at images of art on the web is like watching a ball game on TV rather than actually playing the game. Go to the galleries. See how these objects are actually made, how big or small they are, consider why they exude such power, and why they’ve been preserved for ten, a hundred, or a thousand years. You can also learn something about Buddhism, meditate in one of the weekly sessions, and sketch in the galleries. Build your skills in the arts of observing, describing, researching, and persuading through looking closely at art. I also believe that experiencing art from around the globe in a museum expands a student’s cultural horizons and promotes new ways of perceiving the world. These are just a few of the reasons to come to DOMA. It’s also a great place to go on a date (and it’s free).”

Be sure to stop by with a friend or date to sketch, meditate, or get a bite of culture in the galleries you may not have known were here!

Thinking Out Loud

alyshaAlthough this past Wednesday was a rainy day it yielded quality experiences. Museum educators, Cathy Bretz and Tania Said led the Lunch and Learn: The Art of Thinking Out Loud, which included interesting works in the collection that are not typically on view at the museum. The discussion on three prints by William Hogarth (not known initially by participants) was led using Visual Thinking Strategies; a technique drawing conversation from participates of not only what they see but from their observations and interpretations This strategy assures everyone an opportunity to puzzle out loud when discussing a piece of art. Participants of the discussion had a great time sharing and hearing other’s ideas and stories that were developed from viewing the work.

Participants explored the three prints with the following questions to find their meaning: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?,and What more can you find?

Participants explored the three prints with the following questions to find their meaning: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?,and What more can you find?

The art discussion method is the basis for the Owsley Museum of Art’s Look to Learn program too.

coincaseJust as we wrapped up our Lunch and Learn a group of high school students participating in Ball State’s Summer Scholars, a week long program hosted on campus to encourage high school students’ interest in college, stopped in to explore what the museum has to offer. The students were intrigued as they wandered through the galleries and pointed out their favorite pieces. Many of which were included in our current exhibition Without Camouflage.

Make sure you stop by to see Dafna Kaffeman and Silvia Lenvenson’s work on display for yourself. Without Camouflage will be on view in the museum through the 31st of August.

Also, be sure to join us this coming Thursday, June 12th, at noon for First Person: Without Camouflage Tour with consultative curator, Davira Taragin, as she leads visitors through the exhibition discussing the ideas, artists, and fascinating behind the scenes stories.





Heads Up! Friday with Friends Event

This past Friday with Friends event was a great success! The Friends of the David Owsley Museum of Art invited members and those interested in joining to see new exhibitions and learn the latest news.

_MG_9202The installation of the museum’s newly acquired of the 12th Century Chinese Song Dynasty Bodhisattva head was featured at this event. This piece will stop any passer-by through the display window at the east end of the museum.

Guests of the Friday with Friends event enjoyed live entertainment on the piano by Dorene Chen, light hor d’oeuvres, socializing, and viewed the new exhibitions at the museum. Guests also had the pleasure of meeting the museum’s new director, Robert G. La France. La France will begin as director on the 7th of July. As La France is taking on this position he is looking forward to meeting more of the Ball State and Muncie communities.

New Director, Robert G. La France (center left) chats with Interim Director Carl Schafer (left).

“People should stop by and get to know me,” he stated in the museum’s ART Words, the museum’s newsletter. “I love to talk to people. And I want them to come to the museum. Because I’m sure once they walk in, they’ll be hooked. It’s a truly beautiful museum.”

Also, be sure to join us on Wednesday, June 4th at noon for the Lunch and Learn: The Art of Thinking Out Loud located in the Brown Study Room.