Painting Students Collaborate and Comment on Unique Class

Emily Dykstra
Education Intern

On Saturday, June 20, the David Owsley Museum of Art hosted a painting course that encouraged participants to explore a variety of painting mediums. Artist-teacher Aaron Nicholson instructed the class with the intent to encourage the students to tap into their creative mindset through collaborative and individual painting. Nicholson approached the class with a relaxed agenda, letting the creativity of class participants expand.


Penny and Daniel Henderson receive instruction from Aaron Nicholson


The final painting from one of the class collaborations

“There are so many ways to take paint and use it,” Nicholson explained. “Start with a middle tone then go to dark, and add white highlights. Then things will pop,” Nicholson demonstrated the process on a blank canvas using numerous paints from basic house paint to oil paint.Stations were set up along tables with a variety of different paint types and utensils. Every fifteen minutes the stations switched and participants would make additions to the previous individual’s painting. Students were intrigued by the idea of collaborating and had positive outlooks on the activity.


One of the paintings from the class collaboration

“I have never done this kind of thing before…I am used to making my own painting,” class participant Sinu Zheng explained. Students painted freely with the knowledge that not one painting was specifically theirs alone. By the end of the activity, boards were filled with artwork that symbolized a blend of everyone’s individual style.


A floral bouquet painting done by Emily Dykstra

Nicholson then switched tactics during the final project of the session, which was an individual painting of a flower bouquet. Students were given a small board and were allowed to use  any of the mediums from the previous stations. One of the students, Daniel Henderson, comments that after the group collaboration he “had more control and understanding to make [the floral bouquet] come out right.”

The individuals in attendance enjoyed learning various painting techniques and forms. The students’ were able to learn in a beautiful and memorable environment while expanding their creativity.

There are two more of DOMA’s Summer Art series coming up:

Introduction to Metal Casting- July 11, 12, 18 & 19, 1:30-4:30 pm

Mixed Media Approaches to Sculpting- August 8, 1:30-4:30 pm

Register online at Come visit and learn with us here at the David Owsley Museum of Art!


Art and Interactivity with the Docents

Kayla Gurganus
Curatorial Assistant Intern



Invocation, Variation #3 inspired docents during the forum.

On Thursday, June 18, docents gathered for the final summer meeting to learn how to incorporate writing activities into museum visits. Using writing to understand art is much more than just a way to entertain visitors. Writing activities can make art more accessible by facilitating diverse learning possibilities and engaging visitors in a conversation about the art they see. The meeting was led by the DOMA’s director of education, Tania Said. She introduced the docents to a handful of different writing activities and an instructional video from The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Coursera program. The activities included describing works of art in one’s own words, and testing memory by looking at a work of art for a minute before turning away from it and trying to jot down everything that was seen. The meeting was concluded with a handout with suggestions and examples for writing activities in the museum.

The focus of these activities was to emphasize the importance of interpretation in the galleries. People have different frames of reference through which they view and understand works of art. Group exercises centered on writing encourages a deeper analysis of both the art, and individual’s own ideas. Due to this focus, writing activities about art can easily complement school curriculums and visitors’ needs. Cathy Bretz, a docent and the Education Program Coordinator at the DOMA, states that the writing exercise “…demonstrated that writing about art can effectively encourage participation without the need to draft a lengthy essay.” To learn more about MoMA’s free, online program, please visit:


“Golden Glow” was also used for inspiration during the meeting

Docent meetings will resume during Ball State University’s Fall 2015 semester. All interested parties are welcome to apply to the docent program. More information can be found at the museum’s website:

Drawing Students Note Class Success

Emily Dykstra
Education Intern

11412244_906029156105067_4540063255137383152_nOn the first weekend in June, the David Owsley Museum of Art launched its first instructor-led, museum-sponsored drawing class. Artist-teacher Aaron Nicholson led a very successful class according to the students who ranged in age from 16 to retirees.

The main objective of the two hour class involved introducing new drawing techniques to improve individual style, as well as reducing the time one uses to create a drawing. Participants gathered in the museum where Nicholson began the class with the question, “What is art to you?” Various opinions were exchanged on each individual’s personal meaning of art, after which everyone proceeded on a brief tour of the collections within the museum. 11406784_906029202771729_8290812166808460988_n

The group stopped in the Owsley Asian Art gallery, where Nicholson demonstrated the drawing process that he recommended for participants to use. A concept most people overlook when drawing are the angles that one can hold a pencil. Nicholson brought attention to the fact that pencils can be held in a variety of ways. He recommended that instead of holding a pencil in the classic writing position, one should attempt to hold the pencil so that the side of the graphite lays on the paper instead of the tip being pressed down. After his demonstration, the students were encouraged to wander the museum drawing anything displayed in the galleries.

lkjljklNicholson roamed the galleries to give assistance and helpful pointers throughout the class. Common struggles within the group included the need for precision when drawing objects, accurately scaling proportions, and the time concentrating on each sketch. However, as time progressed students gradually became more comfortable when drawing. ;lkl;k

At the end of the class, everyone gathered and performed a small critique which included the students talking about what they chose to sketch. There was an obvious improvement from the drawings conducted at the beginning of the class to the ones drawn after Nicholson’s guidance.

11407027_906029152771734_3201218469381801330_nThe David Owsley Museum of Art is hosting more programs taught by museum instructor Aaron Nicholson. The upcoming Summer Art Series classes are:

Exploring Painting Media- June 20, 2-4 pm

Introduction to Metal Casting- July 11, 12, 18 & 19, 1:30-4:30 pm

Mixed Media Approaches to Sculpting- August 8, 1:30-4:30 pm

Register online at for a reasonable per class cost. Discounts for museum members and BSU students apply. Come visit and learn with us here at the David Owsley Museum of Art!

The Magnificent Gift of David Owsley

Hailey Beard
Public Relations Intern

The Gift of David Owsley“This documentary tells the story of how an ordinary town came to have an extraordinary 98644228museum, and the man who made it all possible.” This quote is featured at the beginning of a documentary detailing the life of David Owsley and the museum that bears his name. The largest donor in the history of Ball State’s art museum, he has had a monumental impact on the collection. “I just felt it was my obligation and my pleasure to create something and to continue what my grandparents had started.”

The Ball family in front of their mansion, Minnetrista.

The Ball family in front of their mansion, Minnetrista.

A picture of the Ball brothers. David Owsley's maternal grandfather, Frank C. Ball,  bottom left, was essential in the original art museum in Muncie.

David Owsley’s maternal grandfather, Frank C. Ball, bottom left.

As an adolescent, Mr. Owsley spent a great deal of time in Muncie and has always considered it to be home. As a child, he lived overseas in Romania, Denmark, and Ireland while his father served in the diplomatic corps. When he and his mother would return to the United States, they would always stay in Muncie, Indiana with his grandparents, Frank and Elizabeth Ball, at their home named Minnetrista. While Minnetrista eventually burned down, and later replaced by the Minnetrista Cultrual Center, Owsley’s love of Muncie never wavered or changed.

David Owsley and President Furgus meet in the Sculpture Court

David Owsley and the President of Ball State University, Dr. Ferguson, meet in the Sculpture Court.

Starting with the Ball brothers, the love of art continued in the family for generations. The brothers, including David Owsley’s maternal grandfather Frank C. Ball, shared their art with Muncie in order to build a stronger community. Together David Owsley and the museum that bears his name continue this tradition. The museum features various programs that are free and open to the public, such as Community Day, Final Friday, and artist demonstrations. David Owsley perpetuates the values of the Ball brothers by educating and bringing together Munsonians, and all who walk through the museum’s doors.

David Owsley and Director of the David Owsley Museum of Art, Dr. La France, examine a sculpture gifted by Mr. Owsley.

David Owsley and Director of the David Owsley Museum of Art, Dr. La France, examine a sculpture gifted by Mr. Owsley.

As a former professional curator, who has worked at multiple museums, Mr. Owsley is able to pinpoint what art will help enhance the museum’s collection. An eclectic collector, he believes in featuring a substantial variety of works of art from various time periods. Mr. Owsley states that he wishes to be known as the best kind of enabler. He wants to help educate students, and believes that having quality works of art can help open doors to the world of art.

David Owsley meets and talks with students in the David Owsley Museum of Art

David Owsley meets and talks with students in the museum that has seen thousands of his contributions.

Associate Director, Carl Schafer, compares Mr. Owsley to a bodhisattva.

Associate Director, Carl Schafer, compares Mr. Owsley to a bodhisattva.

Mr. Owsley especially loves bodhisattvas, which are mythological beings whom practice Buddhism and have achieved enlightenment. Yet, they have decided to remain on earth in order to help mankind. As the Associate Director of the David Owsley Museum of Art, Carl Schafer, states, “…(S)ometimes I think of David Owsley himself as a bodhisattva, because he has remained here and made it sort of his own mission to help us become enlightened in a certain way.”


Bodhisattvas gifted to the museum by David Owsley

To learn more about David Owsley, the Ball family, the history of Muncie and to hear interviews with Mr. Owsley, the staff at the museum, and students at Ball State, watch the documentary “Gift of David Owsley” at

Docent Forum: Art and Interactivity

Kayla Gurganus
Anthropology Intern

This summer, DOMA continues its docent training program with a two-part summer training session, which features interactive strategies for teaching about art in the galleries. The first meeting, on May 21, was led by DOMA’s education program coordinator Cathy Bretz. Bretz opened the meeting with two instructional videos from The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Coursera program titled, “Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art.” The free online courses provide educators and museum staff with the tools to create personal connections between visitors (namely students) and the artwork. In my experiences as both a docent and a visitor, I have found that people learn more effectively when they can relate the information back to their own lives while freely expressing themselves. By watching MoMA’s videos, docents learned the qualities of a good interactive activity, and how these qualities can be incorporated into meaningful learning opportunities for students. To learn more about MoMA’s Coursera program, please visit:

Docents attempted to draw and answer question about this teakettle

Docents attempted to draw and answer question about this teakettle

After the videos, Bretz presented the docents with photos of some of DOMA’s decorative arts objects, along with a written activity to try out while keeping the video instructions in mind. The activity included a number of questions regarding the object’s form and function, and space to make sketches. After completing the activity, docents were encouraged to share their answers, thoughts, and suggestions for improving the activity.

The second summer meeting will take place Thursday, June 18th from 12:30-1:30 pm in AR 223. Non-docents are welcome and invited to learn more about the group and its activities.