Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dropping in at the Getty

My last post about what any museum can learn from the Getty has drawn lots of attention (and thanks to all who retweeted and shared it).   So I wanted to share another experience from my visit there because I think, in one small space, it exemplified the museum's thoughtful approach--and again, it's something that almost any museum could do, scaled to fit your own circumstances.
As I walked down a hallway, I saw a sign that said Sketching Gallery--and as I approached, there was a buzz of activity.  It's a small gallery,  filled with art (real art, not reproductions), tables, drawing horses, and people.  That's what struck me at first--it was a group of people that was so diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity--everything!  And everyone had their pad of paper and pencils--eagerly ready.
 At the front of the room stood a white-haired man and a younger man (who exuded a lovely kind of calm) sitting on a stool.  This was a life drawing drop-in class.  No experience needed.  Some people had started drawing, others were awaiting instruction.  More people continued to squeeze into the room and the education staff greeted everyone, provided supplies, and encouraged them to find a space--on the floor, on a chair, wherever.
An educator provided a brief introduction--drop in life drawing, every Thursday in January,  come to one or all, and here's the instructor.   The instructor was great--because rather than beginning with a lecture about life drawing,  he had everyone jump right in--start drawing, he said!  And everyone, of all different abilities, began.   And he began circulating the room, asking to sit where participants were seeing so he could see the model from their perspective.   All of a sudden, surrounded by art, the room grew quiet as participants really looked and drew.
I didn't stay for the full hour,  but also took some time to look at the interpretive labels around the room and chat a minute with the educators.  The sketching gallery is always open and so these labels provide context--explaining the great classical tradition of sketching from great works of art--and provide tips on looking and thinking.
You can read more about the Sketching Gallery here.   But the description--and I'm afraid this blog post--doesn't quite convey the spirit of the place which was fun without being silly, serious without being formal, planned without being overly directive, and reflective without being way too quiet.

Although not every museum has a Rubens to exhibit, we all do have beautiful, interesting or fascinating objects.  And we could all create ways--and spaces-- for our visitors, no matter what age or interest, to look deeply, try something new, and enjoy themselves. 


Gretchn Jennings said...

Hi, Linda, another great post, and it reminds me a bit of an experience I had today at the Kennedy Center here in DC, where I came upon a "petting zoo" for musical instruments. The same immediacy and involvement of people in the actual practice of art - even though it was mostly little kids - but who knows what various impacts playing your own harp or violin can have on someone? I'm hoping to post a bit more on this and it's nice to read of a parallel experience in the arts.

Linda Norris said...

Thanks Gretchen--and I have to admit, I didn't sit down and draw, I was just a lurker. But it was thrilling to see people in the actual practice of art (and in a bit of a different way from many interactives). Loved it and can't wait to read your upcoming posts!