Monday, November 30, 2015

Decorative Arts in Action at Winterthur

My first year in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture teemed with objects: I intensively studied a wide array of decorative arts, from a miniature porcelain teacup to a sizable Baltimore album quilt. 

A miniature teacup in Winterthur's collection, 1963.0782a
Baltimore album quilt at Winterthur, 2013.0010
As a second-year in the program, I am still immersed in studying objects that tell us about life in the past, but as an intern in School & Community Programs at Winterthur, I now have the exciting opportunity to translate my knowledge of the museum’s collection into on- and off-site programs and activities for a diverse range of audiences.  Since beginning my internship in June, I have worked with K-12 teachers, elementary-school students, museum guides, multi-generational families, adult visitors, and undergraduates at the University of Delaware.  

Teaching a young visitor about pollinators in Winterthur's garden at a Terrific Tuesday program in August 2015
Interpreting material culture for so many different groups of people has helped me develop a more creative and versatile vocabulary in talking about art and historic artifacts as well as a better understanding of the ways that people learn.  Most importantly, in my view, I have been able to facilitate experiences for people to learn about art and history, think critically and creatively, have fun and connect with others.

Fantastic Fridays is a good example of such a project.  In my role as an intern this semester, I have worked with a group of art conservation undergraduates at the University of Delaware to plan games and art-making activities for outreach on Fridays at the Salvation Army’s after-school program in downtown Wilmington, Delaware.  All of our activities are collections-driven, in this case drawn from two current exhibitions at Winterthur, Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light and A Colorful Folk: Pennsylvania Germans and the Art of Everyday Life.  On Fantastic Fridays, we have taught the color wheel and color mixing through games like Color Scramble, Color Twister, and Color Basket Shoot; the agents of deterioration through games like Light Damage Tag; and about glass as an art material through several stained glass crafts, like the one pictured below.

Admiring a child's finished "stained glass" window, created from pieces of tissue paper and clear contact paper on a Fantastic Friday at the Salvation Army

I’m looking forward to continuing my internship working with and learning from people and decorative arts at Winterthur through the winter and early spring!   

Katie Bonanno is working towards an M.A. in American Material Culture and graduate certificate in Museum Studies and will graduate in May 2016.