At the Hudson River Museum, the three worlds of art, history, and science are tied inexorably together. The museum houses two floors of art exhibits, a planetarium, and Glenview Mansion, an example of life among well-to-do New Yorkers in the late nineteenth century.
Are docents able to put this all together and relate it to tours for schoolchildren? You bet! For instance, the museum recently hosted a presentation by the quilter and folk artist Denise Allen, who talked with third graders about her art. She spoke of materials, techniques, design, and the stories her quilts tell.
Following their conversation with Ms. Allen, the students participated in a quilt-making workshop. There, it became clear that the students had carefully internalized the ideas they had discussed. None of the children said the typical, “I don’t know what to make.” Instead, they immediately and energetically got to work using scissors and glue, rather than needles and thread. At the completion of this workshop, the parent chaperones from the school were put to work tieing the “quilt pieces” together, while the children talked again with Denise Allen and about their quilted stories.
While the docents of the Hudson River Museum don’t have the luxury of seeing a real live artist in the galleries every day, the experience taught us a fresh way of approaching art. And, while these young visitors did not get to see all the exhibits at our museum, they expressed the desire to come back. As one boy said on his way to the school bus, “This was cool.”
Louise Waller, docent, Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York
Waller, Louise. “It Works for Me…,” The Docent Educator 9.4 (Summer 2000): 20.