How Interning at the David Owsley Museum of Art Makes a Difference

Reports compiled by Maureen Federo

The David Owsley Museum of Art welcomes a new team of students each semester to learn about museums, and develop the collection, exhibitions, and education and outreach programs to help us grow our service to the public and fulfill our mission even better.

Maureen Federo, Media and Collection Internmaureen

Every time I visited the museum during the school year, I would see a team of staff members and student workers handling artwork, and I whispered to myself how much I wished to be in their shoes. When I saw a DOMA notice inviting students to apply for an internship, I jumped on it and applied right away. A month later, I was so excited to receive the acceptance email that I broke into my happy dance and immediately called everyone I knew to spread the joy!

As the Media Intern this summer, I created and edited videos that feature the museum and what it offers, but I have also had the opportunity to work in other museum departments too, for example curatorial with research on art and artists and writing label descriptions that highlight the work for improving visitors’ understanding, and I worked in Collection Storage.

After completing the art handling training, I was able to participate in moving objects around the museum and doing installations in the galleries. I very much felt like part of the team here, and it is very satisfying to me that I was able to contribute to the work maintaining the museum to be great as it is.

I absolutely loved the excitement of opening shipping boxes with new objects sent by our most generous benefactor, Mr. David T. Owsley. You know you are in the right place when you walk in the door with a smile every time. The David Owsley Museum of Art is one of my favorite places on the Ball State campus, and I am very grateful for having the opportunity to gain more experience in video production, curatorial research and writing, and in handling precious artwork. The media work I did is not so different from my graduate digital storytelling program, but the environment certainly is.

This summer there were three education interns helping the education staff prepare for major fall projects.

Carli Mandel, Education Intern Carli

I first became acquainted with the layout and inner workings of DOMA upon my professor assigning creating a Trivia App game for the museum in one of my art history courses. I would later go on to become a volunteer docent, and my passion for improving the museum and stretching the boundaries of my knowledge would take off. I applied and was later accepted to become an education intern for the summer of 2017, and the experience has truly been one that has changed my life. In this position, I was really able to foster my love and appreciation for both history and art, my areas of study, as well as learn practical skills in academic research, writing office communication, and fostering relationships with others in the local community. I was given the opportunity, in particular, to write wall labels that currently hang in the galleries, as well as help aid my fellow docents by creating informative guides for specific works of art.

To be able to contribute and add a piece of myself to the museum in such tangible ways was extremely rewarding, and I take great pleasure in knowing that in a small way I have helped further the credo of this museum, to share art and expand cultural awareness to others.

Lily Rawson, Education InternLily

The museum has offered me an amazing experience and I have become more personally invested in the collection through uncovering the history of objects for label writing, or delving into holistic research for potential tours and community activities. In addition, this experience has taught me how the museum functions as an educational institution, a community partner, and most importantly as a careful researcher and preserver of amazing works of art. While I am a graduate student of glass and worked at DOMA as an exhibition and preparator’s assistant, serving as an education intern has provided me a whole other perspective.

 Kitty Taylor, Education InternKitty

Being an intern at the David Owsley Museum was a life changing experience. I was able to apply my art knowledge as a sculpture major to help answer questions and solve problems. This internship also taught me a plethora of skills, such as the important use of surveys and Qualtrics software to crunch the data, how to properly research an artist and work of art, label making, and how to educate and interact with the public. Every student should apply to the David Owsley Museum of Art because of the new skill-sets you learn, the experience you receive, and the talents you can bring to the museum.

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Happy National Volunteer Week to our Docents

Docents are individuals who volunteer to connect art to visitors. Docents are volunteers that provide tours to the many visitors of the David Owsley Museum of Art. Here at DOMA we have an enthusiastic group of volunteer docents who are passionate about bringing art to the community through their well-prepared tours. This is a letter to the David Owsley Museum of Art docents:

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Dear Docents,

Happy National Volunteer Week!

Beginning in January, I became one of the education interns here at DOMA. With that responsibility came the pleasure of participating in the Docent Learning Program along ide many of you. After a semester of getting to know you, I am truly grateful for all that you do.

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I just wanted to say thank you for all the time, resources, energy, and brain power you put into being a docent here at the David Owsley Museum of Art. You each willingly give up an hour and a half each and every week to participate in the Docent Learning Program; you observe tours; you do extensive research both at the museum and on your own; you prepare your tours, putting in hours of planning; you are the heart of this museum. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

William Shakespeare once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

I would say that you all have found your purpose, as you are using your gifts as docents to serve the public and support the David Owsley Museum of Art. Ball State students and the Muncie community are so lucky to have you as part of their DOMA experience. Last year alone, DOMA docents provided 247 guided tours, serving a total of 8,637 individuals, a new record for the museum. That number is ever-growing and would not have been possible without volunteer docents, like you, so again I say, thank you!

Sincerely,

Alexa Hirt, DOMA Education Intern

Final Friday: Identity

By Alexa Hirt, Education Intern

I often find myself behind the lens of a camera. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, it’s a barrier between me and the rest of the world. When I zoom in with that lens, I can see things in people and expose them in their most intimate moments without them even realizing it.

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Last week’s Final Friday: Identity PechaKucha presentations sparked an interesting thought: is my identity found behind this camera lens and am I able to capture aspects of other’s identities that they may not even know exist? I like to think that I specialize in the “candid” shot. That meaning, I capture images of people in their most natural state; when they are laughing, contemplating, observing, eating, sneezing, etc. Some may find this intrusive, but I find it fascinating and thrilling. If I can capture the exact moment someone’s emotion changes from a frown to a smile without their knowledge, I believe I have captured the purest form of their identity and who they are.

While one of the PechaKucha presenters suggested that identity is only something that you choose for yourself and others can only base their perception of you based on your chosen identity, I’d like to suggest something slightly different.

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My personal definition of identity comes down to the idea that your identity is what you portray yourself to be even when no one is looking.

I think that who you are as a person is best seen when you don’t think you are being seen. The moments when joy overtakes you, or sadness overcomes your entire being, or confusion overrides all things that make sense; your reaction to those moments reveals your identity. Your identity is the purest form of yourself, just like a candid photograph. So, to answer my original question, I ask myself again… Is my identity found behind the lens of my camera? Well, yes, I think it is.

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In the moments that I forget about the rest of the world, and zoom in on what I find to be intriguing, beautiful and pure, I am revealing my reaction to those moments, thus putting on display, my identity, maybe, without even knowing it.

The next Final Friday will be April 28, 2017. Check out the Facebook event for more details.

Painting conservation and its many layers

By: Cassi Amman

Have you ever wondered how works of art can survive through centuries of existence? Have you ever seen a painting or sculpture in a museum that has been taken down for “conservation”? If you have, that means a conservator deemed the artwork unstable and in need of intervention by hand to restore it.

Conservation by definition:

Conservation is the process of analyzing works of art and taking proper measures to ensure that they endure for more years to come. This process is careful to consider the original intent of the artist and the materials that were used when creating the artwork. In a field working with art of every age, medium, and size, it is natural that conservation has many different divisions in order to address the complexities of a given object. These categories generally fall under paintings, prints, photographs, textiles, and objects. For the purpose of this post, we will focus on paintings.

Conservators working in the field of painting focus their attention on studying the history of the paintings in their care. However, there is more that goes into restoring a painting than just touching up some paint. Here are some basic steps:

  • To begin, the conservator must become well acquainted with the materials and intent of the artwork. With this information, they will know how best to approach restoring the painting.
  • Close examination is the next step. Conservators harness natural light, ultraviolet light, x-radiography, and infrared technology in order to see the under layers of paint and canvas. Doing so, they can better see the artist’s process in addition to any painting that has been added by previous restorative sessions.
  • Before contemporary conservative ethics and processes were established, previous restorative additions were intrusive, unethical in relation to artist intent, and possibly damaging over the long-term life of the painting. Now, with better research in chemical and ethical aspects of paintings, conservators are better able to restore paintings for extended survival.

As Indianapolis Museum of Art’s painting conservator, Linda Witkowski states, “In art conservation, all good things take time.”

  There are many different restorations that a painting can go through:

Conservators look for condition issues such as peeling paint, bubbles on the surface, holes punched in the canvas, old and discolored varnish, excessive crackling, loose frame marks, and many other surface malfunctions that indicate age or structural instability. Now, conservators even look for previous restorations that go against artist intent or museum practice and intervene to bring the piece back to what is was meant to be. One of my favorite restorative processes is the removal of old, dirty varnish in favor of new, clean varnish. This allows the viewer to see the original colors and image the artist had in mind that had been blocked or discolored by old varnish.

Here in the David Owsley Museum of Art:

There is currently four-sided, painted, wooden altar panels being conserved in the West Gallery on the upper floor. If you have visited the museum recently, you have probably seen these panels are noticeably covered with rectangles of Japanese tissue paper. The work is titled, Saint John the Baptist with Saint Lawrence on the reverse; Saint John the Evangelist with Saint Catherine on the reverse, by Marten de Vos and is located near the middle of the West Gallery.

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The paper you see on the paintings is a restorative measure in setting the paint chips back down to the surface of the board it was painted on. When paintings experience a sudden difference in environment, humidity, or other external factors, they can expand and shrink. This movement causes paint to bubble, crackle, or flake. In the case of the de Vos, the paint had started bubbling and flaking. Since conservation is a long process and takes much planning, it is often required to create preventative measures while set times are planned out to restore. Then, painting conservators Michael Ruzga and Linda Witkowski will return to the project and remove the paper in favor of a more long term restoration.

The process entails using a safe, chemically stable substance to adhere the paint back to the panel. The conservators will also look at the varnish to ensure that it is even, clean and matches the other panels. Lastly, sometimes with paintings, conservators will touch up paint with expert color matching skill. However, and the materials used are reversible and can be removed in the future if necessary.

Challenges to conservation:

More pressure comes from societal expectations that a work must remain pristine. This causes conservators to start preserving artworks much sooner than they usually would. For example, conservators must keep in mind if it is ethical to try to maintain a work of ephemeral art that is meant to deteriorate. In a video on contemporary art conservation at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, conservators explained that a piece such as “Fishman,” created in 1969 by Paul Thek, was not created to survive but for the experience of viewing it. The sculpture, created out of latex, has already started falling apart due to the firming nature of latex over time. Conservators question whether it is appropriate to attempt repairing the artwork or whether the experience of viewing it in the moment is more of the objective.

It will be interesting to see how conservators will tackle these new issues in years to come. In the meantime, please stop by DOMA to see how the altar panels evolve. Michael Ruzga and Linda Witkowski will return to work on the panels March 25-March 29, 2017.

Follow DOMA on Twitter and Instagram @domaatbsu.

Museum packed for exhibition-inspired performance

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As guests filed into the Sculpture Court at the Music in the Museum event, it quickly became apparent that a much larger crowd than expected wanted a chance to see Jim Rhinehart’s improvisational performance. In addition to packing every seat, students and community members filled the stairs and balcony to hear the music inspired by the museum’s current special exhibition SHIFT: Jongil Ma, Christopher Smith, Corban Walker.

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Guests closed their eyes while listening to the nearly hour-long performance, eliminating any distractions from around the room in order to simply take in the music. After the performance, guests were invited to view the exhibition for themselves, forming their own opinions about the work and what it means to them personally. It isn’t often that the visual art and music worlds combine in a live performance, but this event successfully combined the two for an inspiring night at the museum.

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After the event, Jim said, “Thank you to everybody who attended the concert last night! It was great to see so many people taking in the art that Muncie has to offer! And a big thank you to the staff and interns of the David Owsley Museum of Art – you guys ROCK!”

Check out Jim’s blog here: http://www.jimrhinehart.com/shift-blog/archives/01-2017

Follow the David Owsley Museum of Art on Twitter and Instagram @domaatbsu and like us on Facebook.

Blog by Emma Rogers