Music plays as a group of teenagers walks among art pieces in the Widener Gallery at Moore. Suddenly, the music stops, and the high school students freeze. Some have their arms wrapped around them, some have arms in the air, others are curled up and seated on the floor.
Matt Kalasky, the Education and Public Engagement Coordinator at The Galleries at Moore, asks the young men and women playing this musical chairs-type game, “Why did you make this position?”
“All this, just to get you responding and engaging with the art work in a way that you might not necessarily do,” he said.
The game was part of fall 2016’s The Art Crush Audio Tour Project, which had high school students and Moore students write love letters or break-up letters to a work of art of their choice, and then record those letters to be heard by gallery visitors.
“I wanted them to see that they can be an authority on an art piece, and what I mean by that is, oftentimes in museum education settings, the artist’s intentions and the art or artist’s place in art history, those stories take precedence or are the ones that get focused on,” he said. “For me, what is really important is to look at those stories, then also consider how this 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. “You don’t remember, ‘Oh, Monet had this many daughters or lived in this town in Paris.’ You’re like, ‘I remember that Monet painting because it reminds me of that one time I went to the lake.’” I think playing into those strengths of artwork is something I’m really interested in and something I try to do here as much as possible.”
Kalasky said the love letter format worked very well because it’s something many people are familiar with.
“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 produced by Moore faculty members, who 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 these students, these people, 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.”