Author Archives: Jessica Keyes

About Jessica Keyes

As Manager of Interpretation, Jessica designs educational tools for the BMA. In her free time, she plays saxophone in a metal band, sings shape note songs in centuries-old meeting houses, and grows delicious tomatoes in her garden.

Home Stories at the BMA

Dan and Drew Detweiler of Home Stories

Dan and Drew Detweiler lived with “Issue 16” of “The Thing”—a shower curtain.

What could people discover about their ideas of home and art by living with a life size reproduction of a BMA artwork for one month?
Home Stories is the BMA’s quest to find out.

Imagining Home, the inaugural exhibition in the BMA’s new Joseph Education Center, is an exploration of the multitude of ways that people around the world think about home. We thought it would be interesting to include a project based around art in the home because so many of the artworks in the exhibition were originally intended to be displayed in homes. Home Stories was conceived as a program in which households from across Baltimore would live with artwork reproductions for about a month, and then we would interview them about their experience.

Eleven households were selected from across the Baltimore area, with an eye towards diversity in age, race, class, neighborhood, and household composition. The participants also brought a great range in experience with art, from novice collectors and makers to experienced artists and curators. This diversity in perspectives allowed us to explore a wonderful variety of responses to the artworks.

Francine Housier and Kalima Young lived with selections from the "Rich and Poor" Series by Jim Goldberg.

Francine Housier and Kalima Young lived with selections from the “Rich and Poor” Series by Jim Goldberg.

We hypothesized that this would be a very personal experience for the participants and that each household would have a unique experience. We also hoped that living with artwork reproductions would lead participants to think about art in a new way. Our expectations were wildly exceeded on both counts.

LaMecka Moore and family lived with selections from the Rich and Poor series by Jim Goldberg

LaMecka Moore and family lived with selections from the “Rich and Poor” series by Jim Goldberg

The artworks selected for this project include the colorful painting A Quick Nap by Walter Williams, the detailed photograph The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz, a set of four annotated photographs from the Rich and Poor series by Jim Goldberg, and Issue 16 from The Thing, which is a shower curtain with text by Dave Eggers. Each of these works presented different challenges for participants. The Williams is big, but very charming. The Stieglitz is a bit smaller with details that make you want to get up close and examine it. The Goldbergs are emotionally challenging because the annotations are very personal and often sad. The shower curtain is, well, a shower curtain—imagine a piece of art that big in the place where you bathe!

Melinda and Kathy Condray watching the Home Stories video for "The Steerage."

Melinda and Kathy Condray watching the Home Stories video for “The Steerage.”

Over the next several months, we’re going to share some our Home Stories with you here on the blog. You can also visit the BMA to see the art, and watch the Home Stories videos to discover for yourself what our participants experienced.

What do you wonder about African art?

D'mba Docent Tour

A BMA docent teaches a class of fourth-graders about the Great Mother Headdress (D’mba).

The BMA’s African galleries are currently under renovation, with a planned reopening on April 26, 2015. The new galleries will be filled with visitor favorites such as our Great Mother Headdress (D’mba), shined until she sparkles and fully dressed in a new full-length costume, plus never-before-seen objects. This creates an exciting opportunity to rethink how we can help visitors understand the art in the galleries, and why it is relevant in their lives.

During the last few months, we’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming different possibilities for how we might be able to share all the interesting information we have about the art, artist, or culture on display.

Now we have lots of ideas—everything from video projects to maps to iPad apps. But one thing that we’ve kept saying is, “That sounds interesting to me, but will our visitors be interested?”

What better way to answer that question than to ask?

Docent tour in the African gallery

Docent tour in the African gallery

We want to know what you care about when you’re looking at African art. Everyone looks at these artworks through different eyes—with different experiences and knowledge shaping how they see them.  What are your questions when you see a mask, a statue of a woman, a reliquary figure, a contemporary vase, or other objects?

If you have 7 minutes to spare, please fill out our visitor research survey at the bottom of this page and let us know what you care about. You can also leave us comments on this blog post. We’d love to hear from you.

Bonus Prize: If you add your contact information at the end of the survey, you will be entered into a draw for the prize, Museum Educator for a Day. You will receive a personal gallery tour with a BMA education staff person and then have the opportunity to write a blog post about it for the BMA blog! You can choose a particular artwork, gallery, media, or anything else you can think of to write about.

Take our survey