By Mellany Armstrong
Music plays as high school students walk among artworks in the Widener Memorial Gallery at Moore. Suddenly, the music stops and they freeze. Some have their arms wrapped around them, some have arms in the air and others are curled up, seated on the floor.
Matt Kalasky, the education and public engagement coordinator for The Galleries at Moore, asks the teenagers playing this musical chairs-type game, “Why did you make this position?”
The game was part of last fall’s The Art Crush Audio Tour Project, where these young men and women, along with Moore students, wrote love letters or break-up letters to a work of art of their choice, then read and recorded those letters for gallery visitors.
“I wanted them to see that they can be an authority on an art piece,” he said. “Often in museum education settings, the artist’s intentions and the art or artist’s place in art history get the focus. For me, what is really important is to look at the stories, then consider how the artwork is affecting you directly.”
“It creates a richer, more nuanced, more personal connection with the artwork,” he said. “If the artist isn’t there, or if you don’t know anything about the work, does that make your interaction with that art piece any less valid?”
“If you think about those experiences, those are the ones that stick with you the most,” he continued. Kalasky feels that someone visiting a museum or gallery may not recall historical facts about Monet, but that individual remembers that Monet painting because it reminds him or her of a past experience, such as time spent by a lake.
Kalasky said the love letter format worked very well because it’s something with which many people were familiar.
“It was really interesting to see how emotional they got as they talked about the art pieces,” he said. “At a certain point you can tell, well, I don’t know how much is about the art piece or about you and your boyfriend, or you and your girlfriend.”
The art that the students interacted with was featured in the Altered States: Faculty Triennial in the fall of 2016, and faculty members enjoyed hearing what the students had to say about their work.
“I spoke with some of them, and they were really deeply moved by hearing the students talk about their art, and talk about it in such a personal way,” Kalasky said. “That really showed me how that project established those connections.”