Thinking Before Collaborating

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of brainstorming. Besides the fact that it’s not an effective tool for generating ideas, I’ve been in too many settings where one dominating personality takes over the meeting. As someone who needs time to think, I get overwhelmed and then shut down without contributing.

14462845_10154055590273224_8577943402689654064_nLast week, I was able to participate in a “Museum Mashup.” Museums across the country hosted events, either for their educators or for the public, around the theme of museum education. Our team of educators met and spent a morning delving into the idea of “experience.” What makes an experience? How do we draw visitors into the experience of Clyfford Still’s work?

Instead of brainstorming ideas, we were each given 7 minutes to come up with a 3 minute experience based on one of the senses. It was one of the most invigorating mornings! After participating in my colleagues’ experiences, I walked away with quite a few ideas to implement into my next lessons.

It was a reminder that, when given a few minutes to work alone before collaborating, brilliant ideas are formed. Everyone has the opportunity to be heard. We each gave our lesson without building on anyone else’s. Everyone had a chance, no matter the personality type.

One of the things I love about my job is that our education director is passionate about bringing new and well-researched ideas to our department. She is well-read and the way she brings our team together is innovative and allows each person to participate and engage.

When I first started staying home with Bea, I wasn’t sure if or when I would go back to work. I assumed I wouldn’t even start looking until our youngest was in kindergarten. And then, this opportunity arose at the Clyfford Still Museum. Not only did it combine my love for education and art history, it fed my intellection strength: I was on the front end of something new and innovative. There was no trap of we’ve always done it this way. Ideas are welcome and we continually tweak our lessons to make them better.

I still struggle with finding that work-life balance, even in a part-time setting, but I can’t imagine a better place for me and my personality. I’m amazed that I have this opportunity to so fully live out one of my strengths. Whenever the schedule becomes stressful or expectations don’t align with my own, I have to stop and remember what an incredible opportunity this really is.

How do you do in a brainstorming session? Do you find them energizing or overwhelming? What’s your dream job?


This post is Day 4 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

What I’m Into 4:14

In our family, April comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. The last big push before the April 15 tax deadline means late nights, working weekends, and hardly any family time. It’s pretty rough, and I am thankful that my parents live within an hour’s drive and we have a good group of friends as support. Frank took last week off and we had a staycation of resetting and reconnecting as a family.

Some highlights from last month were Bea’s first Easter egg hunt:

Bea quickly exceeded the 15 egg limit.
Bea quickly exceeded the 15 egg limit.

Building a fence around the garden in the hopes of rabbit-proofing. (And Bea- and Daisy-proofing… Bea adores her new tools and wants to till the soil constantly!)

Tilling with her new tools.
Tilling with her new tools.

Books: Finished and In Progress
April was filled with fun reads. I’ve started the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series to read between books, and they’ve been fun, quick reads. I just finished the third book and, though I enjoyed it, am glad I have a stack of other books before continuing the series. Rachel Held Evans rereleased her first book, Faith Unraveled. I’ve been a fan of her blog for a few years and this book held great insights into her journey and helped me appreciate her quest for justice even more than I had. Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things sucked me in and I was surprised at how much I came to like the main character, Alma. It made me want to read Origin of Species. I finished the month with Anne Lamott’s Stitches. Very short, but filled with such wisdom.

I just finished Elizabeth Esther’s Girl at the End of the World. I received a free copy from Convergent as a participant in their Easter series. It was a well-written, eye-opening, necessary look at what fundamentalism looks like. She restored my faith in the Christian memoir genre.

I’m reading Out of the Silent Planet for our Reading Challenge and liking it more than when I tried to read it in high school. We just started Phyllis Tickle’s Emergence Christianity and, only one chapter in, I’m regretting all the years I’ve wasted not reading her books. Amazing insights and I’m looking forward to our discussions! I also just started Conscious Capitalism. I saw it in the check-out line at Whole Foods and was intrigued. It’s definitely a departure from my normal patterns, but interesting so far.

You can connect over at Goodreads and Pinterest for all of my reading activity.

Screen Time
We’re still working our way through the Dr. Who series and have just started with Matt Smith’s Doctor. Such a fun way to unwind! We tried getting into season 6 of Mad Men but I’m not sure we’re up for all the drama. We also watched Mud on Netflix. I was about to give it 5-stars but demoted it by one for the last scene. Frank felt he forgot Matthew McConaughey was acting. I said his teeth were too white for the character. Which actors do you forget while watching?

If you are at all interested in blogging, Laura Tremaine’s series on blogging is full of great insights. Kelli Woodford’s essay on her post-children belly button really struck a chord with its honesty. Over here, my most popular post was on Sleep. But, that was after I figured out a social media glitch. This month was definitely low for viewing because of that… (Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a post!) My own favorite was about Fairy Tales.

Around Town
My parents came up and gave us a day date last week, so we spent the day at museums. If you live in Denver and have any tiny interest in art, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Modern Masters. It’s an absolutely incredible exhibit featuring iconic paintings from most of the great artists between Pissarro and Warhol. After lunch, we went to the Clyfford Still Museum’s 1959 show. Even though I’m there several times a week, it was nice to walk through the galleries and simply enjoy the art without leading a group of kids.

What about you? What are you into these days?

Linked with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Head over there for fun books, activities, and goings-on from April.

Favorite Museums

I mentioned earlier that the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum are doing a joint exhibit of works from the Albright-Knox Gallery (DAM) and a reimagining of Clyfford Still’s 1959 show at the Gallery (CSM). I’m excited about these exhibits: Modern art is one of my favorite periods (along with Spanish Baroque) and I feel many people have a misunderstanding of the process and method behind modern painting. These exhibits are accessible to the entire spectrum of art inquirer to enthusiast, and I hope you’ll take advantage of this incredible collection if you live in the area.

Intersection of Clyfford Still & Denver Art Museums
Intersection of Clyfford Still & Denver Art Museums

When Frank and I were dating and sharing travel stories, I was shocked that he went to Europe, to Rome and Paris and London, and had not gone to any museums. How on earth could he experience the culture without seeing the art?! He pointed out that I may overestimate the number of travelers who seek out museums in new cities.

As an Art History student in Paris, we would spend our lectures in museums. I went to the Louvre and the Orsay on a weekly basis. We would visit the Picasso Museum and the Rodin as a class. Once a semester, each class would go on a study trip to another city to look at the collections and museums there. I experienced London, Rome, Bruges, Ghent, Munich, Basel, all through the eyes of my professors and the time period we were exploring. While I certainly haven’t been to most museums (Art Institute of Chicago…), I thought I would share my Top 5 favorites (so far!) in no particular order:

1. Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA
Frank and I first went to the Barnes when it was still located in Marion, outside of Philadelphia. The original house still functions for classrooms and gardens, but the art collection has moved into the city. I’m so glad our first experience was at Dr. Barnes’ house. The intention behind each placement and attention to detail is incredible. Because everything from the Manet to the molding is carefully thought through, I would highly recommend getting the audio-guide. After much controversy, the Barnes was moved into the city, just a couple blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was skeptical of the recreation and we put off visiting the new space. We decided to go last Christmas, and I was amazed: The museum looks exactly like the house but better suited for more visitors and much more accessible. If I could only visit one museum again, I think it would be the Barnes. The diversity of the collection and the attention to education make each visit dynamic and the collection itself is incredibly accessible to the most novice of art lovers.

2. Foundation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
I first went to the Beyeler in college as part of a modern art class. We spent the weekend in Munich and Basel, studying the work of pre-World War II artists. I loved the Beyeler in the same way I do the Barnes and the Getty: It’s always interesting to see the types of pieces an individual will collect and equally interesting to see how the collection is presented to the public. My favorite pieces in the Beyeler were the Rothko paintings and the Giacometti sculptures. I remember sitting on a bench, surrounded by the deep colors of Mark Rothko and feeling at peace.

3. Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
I think I’ve been to the MoMA every time I’ve visited New York. It’s an amazing collection and easy to navigate. They also have a whole (small) room of Italian Futurists, one of my favorite movements. I love Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, and it’s always fun to spend some time with it. My last visit was especially memorable, as it was the day Frank proposed. I had wanted to see their special exhibit of Van Gogh’s night scenes. It was the first time I had traveled to a city specifically for an exhibition. Frank suggested I fly into Philadelphia and we drive up to the city together. The Van Gogh exhibit was amazing – such a unique way to look at many of his famous paintings (Starry Night, The Potato Eaters) next to lesser-known works to create a story. Frank intended on proposing at the exhibit, but it was so crowded, he switched plans to Central Park. I look forward to when Bea is old enough to visit.

4. Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy
I was first introduced to this gallery on a visit to Rome with a class about collecting called Princes and Patrons. We visited various personal collections around Rome and learned about the importance of the taste of collectors to the history of art. I went back by myself on a spring break trip to Italy and loved it even more. Bernini is one of my favorite sculptors, and this gallery is worth visiting just to see his David and Apollo and Daphne. Another private collection, the paintings and sculpture are diverse and span the centuries. The surrounding park is equally amazing and worth a picnic lunch, if you’re ever in Rome.

The park at the Villa Borghese
The park at the Villa Borghese

5. Musée Rodin, Paris, France
Located about a five minute walk from my college, I used to take my books and a lunch and study in the gardens. I love house museums, as you get such a feel for the artist beyond the works he produced. This one is crammed with sculpture and sketches and is so amazing to think of Rodin creating molds and casts in the middle of Paris. The gardens are perhaps my favorite, just to wander around. I would sit under a tree by the Gates of Hell, reading about the very artist who created it. Some days, when living in a city seemed overwhelming, I would bring a novel, journal, and sit in the peace of the garden.

As I began thinking about this list, I realized I have so many “favorite” museums for a variety of reasons. I decided to stick with 5, so as not to overwhelm, but had to include these Close Runners-Up: Tate Modern in London, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Musée Picasso in Paris, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the Palazzo Barberini in Rome.

Do you visit museums when you travel? What are some must-see museums you’ve been to?