Art Art News Education

Living Legacy: The Junior Docent School Program Fosters Art Education for Over 40 Years!

Student reproduction of Cubi IV by artist David Smith.

Offered at the Museum since 1976, the Junior Docent School Program (JDSP) is a multi-year, multi-visit program for upper elementary students. Legendary Museum Educator Barbara Brown Lee developed the program along with two art-advocating Milwaukee school teachers, and it has since become a model for Museums across the nation, adding depth to art education with its intentional multi-visit design. 

At MAM, the program includes ten themed, docent-guided tours, given to students over the course of three years. In the first year, students learn about the elements of art and are encouraged to investigate works using their senses. In the second year, students make personal and interpersonal connections with art by exploring Portraiture, Wisconsin Stories, and Communities and Traditions. In the third year of JDSP, students extend their understanding of art and history with an American Stories tour and an Antiquities to Contemporary tour—and eventually select a work of art for the culminating capstone graduation project. 

Once a favorite work of art is selected, students learn formal presentation skills, research their artwork and artist, create a reproduction, and showcase imagination with a creative response. Some of the most memorable student responses have included dressing in costume, playing self-composed music, and performing an interpretive dance inspired by the work of art. During the final tour, which represents three years of learning, the students share their work with family, peers, teachers, and Museum staff, and officially become Junior Docents.

Creative responses come in many forms

This year, however, MAM and the students participating in the JDSP were given the special opportunity to share their experience with a much broader audience. Beginning in August, Museum educators worked with Milwaukee PBS and ALBA School in Milwaukee to tell the story of the Junior Docent School Program as it began its 43rd year. Film crews captured the first “oohs” and “aahs” as third grade students entered our wing-topped building for the first time, and they followed a group of fifth graders on their journey to becoming Junior Docents.

5th grade JDSP students on the American Stories tour accompanied by PBS film crew.

Producer Tiffany Pua and the film crew of PBS’s The Arts Page captured hours of footage in the Museum and at school, and interviewed Museum staff, docents, teachers, and alum of JDSP. The results of this collaboration are neatly packaged into a 26-minute television special, which first aired on September 26, 2019. Before their big television debut, ALBA students were invited back to the Museum for an exclusive sneak peek of the program, complete with red carpet photo ops and plenty of refreshments. Students shared in the excitement, as they saw their friends—and themselves—appear on the big screen inside Lubar Auditorium. It was a heartwarming end to another great year of the Junior Docent School Program. 

ALBA School JDSP students pose on the red carpet before the premiere of the Arts Page television program.

Missed out on seeing our Junior Docents on The Arts Page? You can still watch the full episode online.

For more information on the Junior Docent School Program, visit or email

Art Art News Education

Milwaukee Art Museum Celebrates Arts in Education Year-round

At the Museum, the impact of arts education can often be seen and heard—from the awe-inspired gazes upon entering the Calatrava-designed building, to the questions, discussions, and laughter that frequently fill the galleries.

In 2010, National Arts in Education Week was officially recognized by Congress and, since then, schools and institutions across the country have continued to celebrate annually, the second week in September. Championed by the non-profit organization, Americans for the Arts, this celebration is designed to encourage educational decision makers and elected officials to support what art museums have known for a long time: The arts are essential for a well-rounded education and for creating access and inclusivity to that end. Art museums commonly support this initiative with school programs and education departments that know all about the powerful impact of the arts in transforming learning experiences for visitors of all ages. 

The MAM education department takes pride in celebrating and supporting arts in education year-round by offering something for everyone—from animal-themed student tours to professional development for teachers. Over 150 docent educators are dedicated to delivering high quality arts experiences on guided tours to over 50,000 school children each year. Each of the guided tours is designed to align with state and national standards for art education and commonly overlap with writing, social studies, and history curriculum standards as well. A growing number of teacher workshops are hosted to help educators incorporate art into their curriculum (and often include a themed guided tour!). 

So how do docent-guided tours support the arts in education? Each tour, based on a pre-selected theme, provides engaging learning activities in the galleries. Students and docents exchange intergenerational knowledge and perspectives while interpreting works of art in a variety of ways. At a 12:1 student to docent ratio, students are encouraged to develop personal connections with art and share ideas within a small group. Name tags allow docents to praise, question, and call on students by name, as curiosity is piqued amidst intriguing works of art. Students get to slow down and dig deeper into the stories behind works of art through thought-provoking questions and participation in discussions.

Many studies, such as the recently published NAEA-AAMD Study: Impact of Art Museum Programs on K-12 Students, have proven that cultural enrichment opportunities can reach beyond classroom walls and into the community. Studies like these have also proven that art museum field trips promote critical and creative thinking skills, offer real-world learning, enhance observation skills, and help students empathize with life experiences from multiple perspectives and from different times and places. 

Help us celebrate arts in education all year long by visiting with your teacher and school groups, or stop in for a weekend drop-in tour with a docent educator. We look forward to welcoming the next generation of curators, conservators, patrons, and, of course, artists that walk through our doors each year, benefiting from museum field trips in ways we have yet to see. And in the wise words of a thank you note from a visiting nine-year-old student, “The art museum is the best! They have so many paintings from so many different artists. If we didn’t have the art museum, I don’t know where I could get my insperashion. I know that the art museum is very important, so having the opportunity to take a tour to learn more is even better!”

Art Art News

Remembering Dr. Alfred Bader

Bader in Office
Photo of Dr. Alfred Bader by David Bader Photography

There is never a good time to write about the loss of a friend. And though I knew him for only a short time, Dr. Alfred Bader was a friend to us all in the Milwaukee Art Museum family. News of his passing, on December 23, brought a weighted pause to the celebrations this past holiday season. Articles in the Journal Sentinel and Business Journal cover the biography and accomplishments of Dr. Bader—chemist, businessman, and philanthropist—a man who helped build Milwaukee’s industry and enrich its culture. It is as an avid collector and supporter of art that Dr. Bader will forever be honored at the Museum. First becoming a Member in 1952, he was instrumental to the Museum and, specifically, its European art collection. More than half a century later, his legacy includes the thirty exquisite works he gifted to the Museum and the endowment of the position of Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art—a post currently held by Tanya Paul. Dr. Bader once said that his passion for collecting “began with stamps at 8, drawings at 10, paintings at 20, and rare chemicals at 30.” Our experiences of Baroque art are richer for his inveterate collecting.

Dr. Bader made his first gifts to the Museum in 1961. The European art galleries on level one feature Govaert Flinck’s Portrait of a Man and Portrait of a Woman (1648), a pair of pendant portraits that Dr. Bader and his first wife, Helen Daniels Bader, donated in 1963. The adjacent galleries include other gifts, from the 1960s and 1970s, such as Gaetano Cusati’s luscious Still Life with Fish (ca. 1710) and Antiveduto Gramatica’s quietly moving Saint Dorothy (n.d.). More recently, in 1991, Dr. Bader and his wife, Isabel, gave intriguing works such as Adriaen van Nieulandt the Younger’s Orpheus (n.d.), which once formed the lid of a clavichord or harpsichord—as revealed by the exhibition they guest curated in 1989. In the past few years, the Baders have donated an additional group of paintings, including, in 2018, a Rembrandt School painting of Saint Bartholomew (17th century) that used to hang next to Dr. Bader’s chair in his home.

Adriaen van Nieulandt, the Younger (Dutch, 1587–1658), Orpheus, n.d. Oil on panel. Gift of Isabel and Alfred Bader, M1991.371. Photo by Efraim Lev-er.

The exhibition The Detective’s Eye: Investigating the Old Masters (1989), which featured van Nieulandt the Younger’s Orpheus, was one of two that Dr. Bader helped organize here at the Museum. That project, along with the first exhibition he guest curated, The Bible Through Dutch Eyes (1976), is a testament to Dr. Bader’s natural curiosity, his willingness to tirelessly research a challenging painting, and his belief in the fundamental importance of scholarship and connoisseurship. In addition to acting as a guest curator on these projects, Dr. Bader was always a generous lender to Museum exhibitions, from major enterprises such as Jan Lievens: A Dutch Master Rediscovered (2009), to smaller projects such as The Bloemaert Legacy (2014) and From Rembrandt to Parmigianino (2016).

“When I first arrived at the Museum, in 2013,” shares Tanya Paul, “I was honored to be the first Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Alfred was such a monumental figure in the field of Dutch art, and I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility in accepting the position. As my time in Milwaukee progressed, and I grew to know Alfred and Isabel better, they became like family to me, and welcomed me warmly into their home each time I came to visit. As a curator, I will miss his deep art historical knowledge, his ready opinions, and his bottomless curiosity about the art of the Dutch Republic. On a personal level, I will miss his insight, his humor, his gifts as a storyteller, and the kindness he always showed me. The community has suffered an inestimable loss with Alfred’s passing.”

Dr. Bader’s long involvement with the Museum is easily best remembered by Barbara Brown Lee, whose more than fifty-five years in the education department meant she often worked directly with him:

Dr. Bader was a name I’d heard bandied about when I first started at the Museum, in January of 1963. I later discovered that he gave wonderful lectures, and he, of course, loaned some of his works for display in the galleries. At that time, we didn’t have a lot of people that knew about the old masters he had in his collection, so Dr. Bader was our best resource. When he curated The Bible Through Dutch Eyes, in 1976, and The Detective’s Eye, in 1989, that’s when I had the chance to actually work with him, to finally get to know him. We worked around the clock, but we had so much fun, and I learned so much. I have very fond memories of working with him on those shows. Later, when he opened a gallery, he’d call me over there to see his newest finds and talked to me about them. He never tired of art history and the works. My life at the Museum through the years has only been enriched by listening to and learning from patrons like Dr. Bader.

Installation view of the exhibition The Detective’s Eye: Investigating the Old Masters (1989).

Dr. Bader clearly left an indelible impression on the Museum, its people, and the community. I know I speak for everyone at the Museum in wishing my heartfelt sympathies to his wife, Isabel, his children, David and Daniel, and his other loving relatives and dear friends.


Marcelle Polednik, PhD
Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director

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Sunny Does Milwaukee

Sunny at Stone Creek CoffeeMAM’s furriest friend, Sunny, from Alex Katz’s popular painting, has emBARKed on a staycation while the Museum undergoes renovations.

Read on to follow his adventure around the Milwaukee area. Then see him again at the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Community Free Day: Fresh Family Fun on Sunday, December 6! Admission to this event is FREE, thanks to Kohl’s!


Art Art News

Warhol, Warhol, Everywhere a Warhol

Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup, 1965. Acrylic on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley. Photo credit Efraim Lev-er. © 2008 The Andy Warho Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup, 1965. Acrylic on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley. Photo credit Efraim Lev-er. © 2008 The Andy Warho Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Everybody loves Andy Warhol!

Who isn’t immediately attracted to the bright colors, crisp lines, and repetition in Andy Warhol’s artwork? Not to mention the fact that Warhol himself was such a character, playing with the art world, celebrity, and fame.

One of Warhol’s most iconic images, that of the Campbell’s Soup Can, is now available for mass-market purchase. For 75 cents. That’s right. 75 cents for your very own piece of Andy Warhol art history!

Okay, I’m dramatizing a little bit here. There’s tomato soup inside that Warhol artwork. By which I mean, Campbell’s Soup has released limited-edition cans of their tomato soup printed with Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup design.

You can buy them at your local Target.