Today’s post comes from Samantha Moyer, Art Center docent.

Three things I learned during my summer as an Art Center Docent…

Jervis McEntee (American 1828-1891), Coming Snow, 19th c., oil on board, gift of Matthew Vassar. This piece, on view in the Hudson River Art School galleries, allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for the Hudson River Art School as an artistic movement, and the depiction of nature in art.

1. My favorite thing about being a member of the Art Center staff was having access to the curatorial files. My second day here I was brought back to the curatorial files storage space and told to look up the files of the pieces of art I would be interesting in learning more about and including on my guided tours.  Prior to working at the museum, I had been unaware of the existence of such files and their contents. The folders included all the pertinent information about each work; some files were very small while others were very large.  The thicker files, unlike with disciplinary files, were the best ones. My favorite portions of these files were letters discussing the shipment, the loaning, and the restoration of works. While some exclusively addressed business, others were more candid. It was really exciting and interesting to be afforded the opportunity to see these internal-operation correspondences.

2. This summer I gained some insight about how curators choose and display art works in a gallery space. I always had an interest in learning about how art should be displayed. Variable things such as which pieces to choose, which works neighbor each other, as well as overall flow of the gallery are all to be considered when organizing a space. While here at the Art Center, particularly with modern art pieces, I found that placement in relation to other works could really change my optical recognition and personal response to a work.

3. I found that people often surprise you with interesting and insightful comments and observations. It is always gratifying to hear something from a guest of the museum that you yourself had never noticed or considered. A piece by Jervis McEntee, Coming Snow, currently on view, is one I had never particularly taken note of until a woman stopped me and told me that it ‘moved her.’ I then held a discussion with her in which we spoke about the gray landscape scene which emits an almost tangible chill and feeling of anticipation. Engaging in those conversations were some of the most enjoyable and enlightening for someone who walked through the galleries and viewed the works of the museum every day.