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What Have the Docents Been Up To? Fall 2021
Author:
Marjorie Johnson, Museum Educator and Docent Program Supervisor
Photo Credit

Janelle Rodriguez

What Have the Docents Been Up To? Fall 2021

It has been a busy semester at the Wellin Museum and the docent team, our steadfast cohort of student employees, has been a great support to the museum's operations this fall. Reunited after a year of capacity limitations on gatherings and remote work, docents participated joyously in an in-depth training session with artist Sarah Oppenheimer in September. After their initial encounter with her exhibited work, Sensitive Machine, they wrote reflections about the work and what it felt like to encounter it "blind," without any preparatory information. Over the course of the fall, docents led eighteen class tours of the exhibition. These tours incorporated an extended period for visitors to interact with the exhibition and employed open-ended questions to spark discussion.

Sixteen new docents joined the team in September. The Wellin's docent interview committee, composed of seven seasoned docents, made recommendations to staff following a record number of applications and interviews. The new docents have already made great strides in learning about the Wellin's collection and providing reinforcements on the gallery floor and the greeter desk.

Docents helped design a professional workshop for art educators from the NY State Art Teachers Association, and hosted the group at the museum in October. The docents first guided the teachers in an exploration and discussion of Sarah Oppenheimer's exhibition. Then, they challenged the teachers to work collaboratively to design kinetic sculptures that incorporated gesture and movement. The workshop balanced serious and fun moments in a way that allowed everyone to come away learning something new.

In October, Student Liaison Assistant Fatima Oliva '23 collaborated with the Days-Massolo Center to organize our second annual Wellin Celebrates Latinx Artists collections event, delving into works of art by artists of Latinx descent. This year's event highlighted ten artists: Marcial Camilo Ayala, Marisol Escobar, Sénèque Obin, Télémaque Obin, Eamon Ore-Giron, Ernesto Pujol, Trini Silveira, Rafael Tufiño, and Rodrigo Valenzuela. A highlight was seeing students observe Marcial Camilo Ayala's colorful and intricate painting Village Scene up close, and then watching a recorded interview with the artist in which he discussed his art practice, his village's activism, and his family.

Docents presented First Friday Focus Tours in October and November. Docent Emily Walker '22 gave a talk about a Zapotec funerary urn from Oaxaca, Mexico, dating to c. 350-600 CE. Her research for this talk illuminated the funerary practices of the time period, which relates to Emily's research for her senior thesis in archaeology. Docent Jane Taylor '22 presented research on the 19th-century Indian miniature painting Untitled (Woman in Yellow Holding a Lotus Flower), looked at in comparison with the contemporary art of Shahzia Sikander. She was supported in this effort by professor of art history Arathi Menon. Surya Gowda '23 will lead December's First Friday Focus Tour on December 3rd at 12:15pm.

In the absence of onsite children's programming this fall due to COVID-19 precautions, Family and Youth Programs assistant Emma Berry redefined her role, developing a new studio art program for Hamilton students. Wellin Open Studio is a series that aims to engage students in the art making process and give them greater access to the museum. So far, we have hosted sessions focused on creating hypertufa (concrete) planters and revamping our wardrobes using art stamps and fabric inks. Our next session, devoted to creative card-making, will be held on December 2nd at the Wellin Museum in Archive Hall.

Student Liaison Assistant Henry Wilson '23 coordinated with the Slow Food club to organize an artistic pumpkin carving competition for Halloween. He also organized A Cappella at the Wellin, a concert featuring Hamilton's five a cappella groups for an afternoon of energetic, inspiring music. In another successful collaboration, Henry worked with docent Jane Taylor '22 to host an art themed trivia night at the Little Pub, complete with questions about the Wellin's exhibition history. Wellin tote bags, mugs, and tee shirts were awarded as prizes for the winning teams.

Underlying this fall's successful suite of student events, training, research, and group projects is a strong sense of community that the students and staff have built. We honor that community in our everyday interactions and in celebratory community events like our welcome back docent ice cream social and mid-semester dinners with games in the Fillius Events Barn. As the supervisor of this multifaceted group, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to work with so many extraordinary students, on so many different projects, on a daily basis. 

 
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