Sunday, October 26, 2014

Docent Talking Points

Docent Talking Points
DRAFT PROVIDED 10/25, Revised 10/26/14 by Wes Morgan (docent co-chair) and Clara Coleman 11/21/2014

Laumeier Sculpture Park -Docent Talking Points

Overview: Docents leading a tour for individual or group at Laumeier Sculpture Park should always look for opportunities to key into the audience interests to make the experience relevant to their lives. A good frame of reference can be the artists whose work we are proud to present and/or the movement/style/historic context. Younger audiences often benefit from challenges to observe and share color, shape, design and composition. Here are some thoughts/topics/points of interest I have found useful in giving tours over the past couple of years.

History of the Park – The Estate House (built in 1917, Laumeier residence from 1942) – The area was once considered a place for a country/summer home. The importance of Ernest Trova to the original direction of LSP.  

Minimalism – Donald Judd, Robert Morris examples

Conceptual Art – Intricate Wall - Sol LeWitt

Abstract Expressionism – Mark di Suvero – The story of diSuvero and Ginnever taking a road trip together as they moved east from California in 1957.

Ready Made/Found objects/material – Ball? Ball! Wall? Wall!, 1994 – Donald Lipski, di Suvero, Mark Mennin

Site Specific Works – St. Louis Project, 1980 - Richard Fleischner; Four Shades – Ian Hamilton Finlay; Hortus Obscurus (The Dark Garden),1997- Frances Whitehead; Pool Complex: Orchard Valley, 1983-85 - Mary Miss (mention the history of 1930 community pool/history), Laumeier Project, 1981 - Jackie Ferrara;

Women in Art – Leelinau, 1997 - Alison Saar; American Heartland Garden,1992 and Public Goddess, 1992 - Judith Shea

Mythology – House of the Minotaur, 1980 – Tony Rosenthal; Hawthorne Tree, 1987 – Isaac Witkin   

Whimsical Statements – This area is under 23 hour video and audio surveillance, 2009- Ahmet Öğüt, The tension between truck driver and artist/installation of Redwood I, 1997– Johann Feilacher, Laumeier U-ME-UM, 1998 Terry Allen; Man with Briefcase at #2968443, 1986 – Jonathan Borofsky (anecdote about local phone number), Ricardo Cat, 1999 by Niki de Saint Phalle, Laumeier Lamps, 2011 by T. Kelly Mason

Connecting/Tour Foreshadowing – At Tower Hybrid, 1979 talk about another work to be seen later on the trail – Linked Forms, 1999 -- Richard Hunt; Can also do this with Trova (manscape, abstract variations, falling man, residential entrance to park, and challenge to find Trova works in various regional locations) and Jene Highstein (while talking about contrasting materials – wood of Old Temple, 1991 vs concrete applied to armature of Ada’s Will, 1990.)

Connecting artists – At Java, 1976 - Anthony Caro mention the connection to Henry Moore.      

Cor-TEN Steel – Mention the creation of this material for construction has become popular with artists who create large scale sculpture – as with di Suvero, Ginnever, Cosimo Cavallaro, Fletcher Benton – (Unpainted COR TEN) vs. Alpha, 1974- Beverly Pepper, and Cube Squared, 1969 - Jerald Jacquard  (Painted COR TEN)

Fiberglass – The Eye - Tony Tasset, Man with Briefcase at #2968443, 1986 - Jonathan Borofsky

Juan William Chavez and Pruitt Igoe, The remnants of poles is a footprint the size of one of the no longer existing buildings on the North Side of St. Louis.  
Bronze lost wax casting - Walking Roots, 2002 - Steve Tobin

Scavenger Hunt – Jenny Price Nature Trail, 2014 - with a group planning a hike at Laumeier, I provided PDFs of signs to add value via e-mail after a tour.

The Spring House on the Nature Trail – This distant destination of the park is always fun to recap because the group enjoys the discovery. Note: there is a Jenny Price scavenger hunt sign here.
Three Topiary, 2013 – Pearl Fryar – a good place to mention the partnership with the Museum and STL County Parks

TIP - Guests from out-of-town or well-traveled will mention Socrates Park – Astoria, NY; The Grounds – Hamilton, NJ; Storm King, Mountainview, NY: 100 Acres – Indianapolis, IN; Crystal Bridges – Bentonville, AR etc… (Guests will sometimes mention such places during the tour. Take that opportunity to look it up to become more familiar). NOTE: If you have a group of docents or people from a specific region it is helpful to connect to their regional collections. I was able to draw connections for docents from Toledo and San Diego recently that seemed to help draw them into the conversation about art/sculpture at LSP. This also helps me to be a better docent over time.

TIP – One way to remind visitors (particularly groups of kids) not to climb on sculpture is to ask them to read a sign. Ask them if they think the letters are BIG enough? This also reminds supervising adults to gently remind enthusiastic youngsters to respect the artwork.

TIP – At the beginning of a tour – create some ground rules with sports team metaphor. HUDDLE UP or BRING IT IN means the guide/docent (coach) wants to preview the next play so they need to listen.  (Example:  call BRING IT IN and preview a discussion of The Way, 1972-80 by Alexander Liberman with challenge to count oil tanks and remind them to respect the sculpture/not climb on it). Great opportunity to allow them to burn some energy with release to run across the South Lawn.

TIP – Create a game for kids – provide a list of materials and ask them to check when they see them use:  (i.e. FIBERGLASS, COR TEN STEEL, WOOD, CONCRETE, PAINT, GRANITE, and MIXED MEDIA)

TIP – In opening remarks tell a group of kids that you will make a list of the favorite things you saw at Laumeier. (This will hopefully create a device for further conversation about the visit after the tour and maybe later in school or with group). List might include things like:  the eyeball, the big red sculpture, the face in the ground etc. Kids can surprise you by the ways they describe what they see. (I will never forget my own daughter, as a little girl, describing her favorite painting at the Museum of Modern Art – The Ring Around the Rosie Painting…she was talking about The Dance by Henri Matisee.)

TIP – Use Flooded Chambers Maid, 2009-2010 by Jessica Stockholder to reinforce the no climbing rule -- but with this exception – you are welcome to climb on this one.
Suggestions for additional information/talking point

A preview on the follow up to “Archeology of Place” rubric
What should people plan for with regard to opening of exhibition center?
Status on various pieces no longer on view (i.e. Armand, Neri, Holtzer, Havel, Greenamyer)
How can people contribute to LSP beyond patronage as visitors
Resources for visitors to learn more. (Website, Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube, videos)
Other museums/art in town such as CityGarden, SLAM, Kemper, CAM, Pulitzer)
Sight and Sound – best way to access?

Docent engagement ideas:
1. Docent Award for Art Fair – the artist so recognized gets ribbon and invitation to return the following year (no cash outlay unless docents want to contribute to such a designation). This informally was awarded last year to Phil Echert 11919 Mississippi Dr. Champlin, MN 55316 ph: 763-421-7823
2. Adding to this kind of list of TIPs, talking points and ideas related to artists and work. (We will want, of course, to have fact checking and support of staff to guide this process)
3. Curator and/or Director Tour – weekend so docents can plan to join
4. Recordings and/or video docents can review after participation or to listen/view when unable to attend lectures/events.   
5. Poetry:   How did Chris Paar poem get into site map (and not Wallace Stevens)?  Are there other opportunities to connect poetry, performing arts, theater we can talk about as docents? Can we hear the Virgil Georgics IV poem that inspired Four Shades, 1994 by Ian Hamilton Finlay?

Archeology of Place

Dog Days of Summer  - Not without my Dog – Tea Makipaa

Finding a Home in an Unstable World – Tree Tent – Dre Wapenaar

The River Between Us – Space Between Plessy and Scott – Ken Lum, Plane – Bernard Williams; Panorama - Matts Leiderstam

Mound City  - Earthmover – Marie Watt; Free Hanging Chain - Sam Durant, Mud Hut – Archeologists in Residence; Recess – Geoffrey Krawczyk