Teens and Art: An Intern’s Experience

Gabby made pies inspired by Wayne Thiebaud's "Refrigerator Pies."

Gabby made pies inspired by Wayne Thiebaud's "Refrigerator Pies."

This past semester, I was fortunate enough to have a talented, dedicated art education student named Jessica Janzer interning as a teaching assistant for the Satellite High School Program. Jessica worked hard every Thursday and Friday on all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating a program, and also taught one of the sessions. As part of her internship, she wrote the below blog post reflecting on the program. I’m thrilled that Jessica will continue to intern with me in the spring semester, too! –Chelsea Kelly, School & Teacher Programs Manager

The Milwaukee Art Museum. To most, the Museum is a beautiful and almost untouchable place – a place of high class and good taste, and of course, it is also Milwaukee’s most attractive asset. When I saw an internship opening there, I promptly jumped on the opportunity. The fact that I would be working at the Museum excited me, but I was intrigued even further when I learned it would be in the Education Department!

After I was hired, Chelsea Kelly, my supervisor, took me on a whirlwind of a tour through the Museum offices, the Education Resource Center, and the public spaces. I met so many new faces and was bombarded with many new names to remember, but was excited nonetheless. I started the internship right away on September 15th, the first day of the Satellite program. The program functions as an interactive art history/museum studies class for high schoolers. We worked with the teens interpreting works of art in the galleries, invited guest artists to work with the students in other fields of art, and included a few activities to connect the teens to the artwork. As I was introduced to the class, more names were on a list for me to match with the bright, young faces of the Satellite class. I found myself taking attendance every week (you wouldn’t believe how much this helped to remember their names!).

Donnie gives his presentation on Robert Gober's "Untitled." He created a painting and poem in response to the work.

Donnie gives his presentation on Robert Gober's "Untitled." He created a painting and poem in response to the work.

Malik (far right) shares how Tara Donovan's "Bluffs" pulled him in.

Malik (far right) shares how Tara Donovan's "Bluffs" pulled him in.

We jumped in right away with exploring the galleries and getting to know one another. Everyone started off a bit shy, but Chelsea acted as a good mediator in getting us all motivated and working together. We chose works of art to explain our moods. We chose works of art that we would find hanging in our grandmother’s living room. We chose works of art that reminded us of our childhood. Other days, we chose works of art that made us most uncomfortable. We chose works of art to analyze and discuss with partners. We learned about an array of museum jobs, from public relations managers to conservators, from librarians to curators.

The teens came together as a community of artists as we delved into Taryn Simon’s rich exhibition of photographs. We contemplated Simon’s process: does the Theory of Knowledge influence her work? After sending out a surprisingly mature and philosophical letter to Simon, the students seemed to grow closer and became more comfortable sharing ideas with one another. We continued on, analyzing Georgia O’Keeffe through critic and artist quotes. We began to think of an artist as a different “species” of human – one that is labeled and raised up to certain expectations, despite the artist’s intentions or wishes.

Chelsie presents on Robert Henri's "Betalo Nude," connecting his work with her own love of music.

Chelsie presents on Robert Henri's "Betalo Nude," connecting his work with her own love of music.

We learned different ways of responding to works of art. Kelly, from Danceworks, Inc., showed us how to use our bodies as a form of moving and changing visual art. We felt ourselves carefully responding to each other’s movements in sync with the music being played, as well as the chosen art piece we were responding to. Musicians collaborated with Jim Campbell’s Taxi Ride to Sarah’s Studio (2010), and the teens were able to experiment with musical instruments and lots of high-tech DJ gear.

Mowpunzor wrote and performed a song inspired by Vik Muniz' "Wheat Field with Cypresses after Van Gogh."

Mowpunzor wrote and performed a song inspired by Vik Muniz' "Wheat Field with Cypresses after Van Gogh."

Chelsea even let me teach my own mini-lesson! I planned to explore Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #88 with the teens, and tackled it in a way I thought they would enjoy – through hands-on interaction. We discussed the vague but crucial question of “what makes art ‘art’” and then jumped into “Jessica Janzer’s Wall Drawing, No. 1.” Each student drew up some lines within a square, according to instructions I had prepared for them. We traveled down to the gallery, and I sat them in front of LeWitt’s massive wall of delicate graphite lines.

Then it clicked. My activity applied to what was out in front of them, and they each began to have individual connections with the piece. This looking and thinking was followed with an interpretive discussion on their thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Some of the students had never even seen the piece before (a bit shocking – although I did expect this outcome). Perhaps this fact alone pushes LeWitt’s intentions even further when you think about the temporal quality of the line drawings and the inconspicuous nature of each wall drawing—the informal detachment from our notions of “art.” Either way, it was extremely enriching to see my lesson plan and intentions for the students blossom into a quizzical discussion of what art is.

Actually, I think I can say the same for the class in general. I would definitely rank my Milwaukee Art Museum internship among my top life experiences. When you yourself are the learner, and are engaged in the classroom as a student, it’s very difficult to take a step back and realize the changes and improvements that have occurred within yourself and the class as a whole. Now, however, I have seen things on a whole new level; I have seen the seeds be planted and watched them grow within the students. I watched the teens learn to appreciate art on new levels, become comfortable in a museum setting, have the confidence to communicate their thoughts with others (even strangers from other schools).

Party time in the brand-new Kohl's Art Generation Studio!

Party time in the brand-new Kohl's Art Generation Studio!

No celebration is complete without homemade cupcakes.

No celebration is complete without homemade cupcakes.

The students all chose a piece of art upon which to reflect and create a response, and at our last class, they presented to the whole group, including Museum staff, program funders, their teachers, family, and friends. Their final presentations were phenomenal! With over 18 guests attending, among them the Museum’s director, Dan Keegan, the students were all pretty nervous. Thankfully, they all showed up (even in the – gasp – three inches of snow we got on that Thursday night), and most had family, teachers, or friends there to support them.

Something changed within me on that Thursday night. As I watched the students present their work, and pour out emotion and humor and each of their individual personalities, I was truly touched. Because even though I was merely an intern working with the class, I realized that I had been a part of their life, within their time spent at the Museum every Thursday. I felt myself become proud of the teens – my teens. They clearly have all changed; more confidence, courage, and pride – the good kind – have been instilled within each of them. And I am so happy to have been a part of this.

Aldo gives the Satellite Program two thumbs up.

Aldo gives the Satellite Program two thumbs up.

This internship was a perfect fit for me. I am currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with an intended BFA in Painting/Printmaking, a double BFA in Art Education, and a minor in Art History. School keeps me busy, but I’m glad I found time for Satellite. Every week, my Thursdays went from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm, with the Satellite program tacked onto my school and work schedule. I don’t regret the experience one bit. I feel blessed and grateful to have been given this opportunity, and I plan to stay with the Art Museum and Chelsea Kelly for as long as I possibly can!

Jessica Janzer, Milwaukee Art Museum School & Teacher Programs Intern

Note: All photos in this post are by Jessica Janzer, and were taken during the final Satellite session, in which the teens presented their final projects.

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5 Responses to Teens and Art: An Intern’s Experience

  1. josie osborne says:

    awesome!

  2. Pingback: @MarDixon » Blog Archive » #TeensInMuseums: Guest Blog: Milwaukee Edition by @MAM_Chelsea

  3. Emily Lynch says:

    Love it :)

  4. Pingback: Advice and Praise for Museum Interns | Milwaukee Art Museum Blog

  5. Pingback: The Art of Education: My Teaching Journey at the Milwaukee Art Museum | Milwaukee Art Museum Blog

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