Friday, January 6, 2017

Museums Are Awesome With Museum Hack!


I had the unique opportunity to take a Museum Hack tour at the Art Institute of Chicago over winter break. Although this doesn't technically fall under a "tech blog" umbrella, it does count as a teaching topic, so I'm going to share my experience here. Also, it was super fun, so who wouldn't want to know about something fun AND educational to do in your city?

Museums are awesome. They're everywhere. You can learn a TON while you're there. But, like many other teaching tools, the way in which you use it will affect people's motivations and engagement towards learning. For most museums, you can't just show up and yell "Hey, entertain me!" and expect it to be fun and exciting.

However, with Museum Hack... you sort of can! Museum Hack leads "renegade" museum tours (currently in NYC, DC, San Francisco, and Chicago) that are engaging, interactive, and entertaining! As a former visual arts teacher, I was super intrigued by how Museum Hack would take the Art Institute and "hack" it for our tour group.

Our tour guide's name was Elise, and she was super friendly and welcoming. We met our group in the museum's main stairway entrance (after buying our tickets and checking our coats), and were given name tags. There was a group of eight adults, not counting our tour guide. This was awesome for me because it was easy to remember who was in my group, and to follow the group through the museum.

The Art Institute is HUGE. Our two-hour tour was a whirlwind sample buffet of artworks throughout time and cultures. Elise delighted in telling us all about the "saucy" details of Rococo art, and the epic "comic book" panels of St John the Baptist, including a ridiculous and gratuitously bloody beheading scene:


A good half of the tour is finding out interesting facts and little-known/fun trivia bits about different pieces in the museum, and the other half was interactive - we participated in a variety of games and fun discussions about the artworks.

Of course, our tour included Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, where we all had our Ferris Bueller moment staring at the various subjects within the landscape, and selecting our favorites:

This is Elise. She likes that weird character facing away from us that looks like a keyhole. I never even noticed that before!

One of our interactive moments included a game in a smaller gallery where we selected furniture and decorative items for Elise's fictional "housewarming" party for rich people. We got to select an item from the gallery that we would bring for her new house. Then we hilariously tried to connect them together ("Ohh that bowl would look great on the table Jen picked! And we could hang Todd's creepy painting above it!").

Another fun game was had in the sculpture gallery where we were tasked with choosing a sculpture that represented our "spirit animal." My husband and I chose one for each other. His was an epic beard-off with this guy:


Elise took polaroids of us with our sculptures, and we got to take them home as souvenirs. We also wrote postcards about our experience that will be sent later on. Dang, when was the last time you can remember writing a postcard? So that was fun.

We went over to the modern wing, and it was no surprise to me that we stopped at every kid's favorite sculpture in the entire museum:


This piece is called Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) by Félix González-Torres. Yes, you get to actually participate in the piece by taking and eating candy. In the museum. It's always funny because people are so trained to NOT touch the artwork, or to get too close, that it feels taboo to actually take and eat candy! I found a fun article here all about where the candy comes from and how it gets refilled.  

Probably my favorite part of the tour though was when we were asked to re-enact a Surrealist painting of random nudes in the forest:


Here we were, just being goofy, and all of a sudden I realized that a bunch of regular museum patrons had stopped and were watching us, smiling. Yes, a bunch of adults re-creating this very random artwork must have been incredibly entertaining. You're welcome.

But it the end, this got me thinking about how much a teacher can learn from this tour: how easy it can be to engage a group of students by simply making them get up out of their seats and physically mimic an image or concept, or by having them choose an item from a whole grouping and explain their choices.

But most of all, by not taking any of this too seriously, we were able to relax and have fun, and probably retained way more information about works of art than any other prior visit. Without even trying!

I really enjoyed my Museum Hack tour, and if you are in a city that Museum Hack conducts tours in, I highly recommend going on one! Museum Hack offers general tours (like the one I went on), but they also offer private/family tours, tours for parties, and team-building adventures! Can you even imagine, a professional development activity like this?

A girl can only dream...

- Mrs. L.
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