This month, tweens and teens participating in the Museum’s Youth Ambassadors Program had the unique opportunity to discover new career paths in the arts! Youth Ambassadors went behind-the-scenes and sharpened their interviewing skills as they learned from museum staff. Below is an article written by Charlie and Emma Wood, two Youth Ambassadors, about the experience, as well as the footage from the interviews.
A Behind the Scenes Look at the Heckscher Museum of Art
By Charlie and Emma Wood
In February, we participated in the Heckscher Museum of Art’s Youth Ambassador Behind-the-Scenes at the Museum Program by conducting Zoom interviews with the Museum’s Curator, Karli Wurzelbacher, as well as the Exhibition Manager and Registrar, Kerrilyn Blee. The Youth Ambassadors are a group of teen and tween leaders who have led Museum tours, created videos for the Museum website and contributed activity ideas for the Museum’s family guide. Out of all the things we’ve done as Youth Ambassadors since the program began in fall of 2019, this was one of our favorites. Through these interviews, we learned so much about the museum and how it works behind the scenes.
Our first interview was with Karli Wurzelbacher, who has been the Museum’s curator for the past year and a half. As we learned in our interview, a curator creates museum exhibitions, decides where the artwork goes, and researches artwork. One of our favorite parts of the interview was getting a sneak peek at upcoming exhibitions. We liked seeing the exhibition that is going to be held to celebrate the Heckscher’s 100th birthday because the museum will look so different from how it does now. It was also interesting to find out why Karli chooses to have each artwork placed where it is. We really enjoyed finding this out about artworks we recognized from our visits to the Heckscher.
One example she gave was how she put an artwork with a man wearing an interesting coat next to an artwork made from coats. Something we were surprised about was how much the curator has to research the artwork that is going to be in upcoming exhibitions. Karli gave a good example of a statue of a coal miner in the Museum’s collection. Researching this statue led her to finding out about the history of mining, including the tool and hat the miner had in the sculpture. She also learned about the artist, Emma Stebbins, who made the sculpture and that she modeled the miner after sculptures from Italy where she worked at the time. We learned many things about being a curator. This interview made us realize how much effort goes into making the museum work.
The second interview was with Kerrilyn Blee, the Exhibition Manager and Registrar at the Museum. As she told us, she oversees the exhibitions and cares for the collection. We learned that she was first inspired to work in an art museum when she was 12 after going to the Guggenheim in New York City with her aunt. We thought that going to an art museum was a great way to become interested in art. A surprising thing we learned in our interview was that an artwork had once been stolen from the Heckscher. This happened in 1988 when a painting by the famous artist Edouard Manet was taken from the museum. Fortunately, the stolen painting was found. This story shocked us as we were both not expecting an artwork to have been stolen from our local museum. We also learned that in order to plan exhibitions, Kerri and Karli make mini to-scale models of the galleries and the artwork. We thought this was fascinating because we had wondered how they knew the artworks would fit so perfectly. The idea of a mini Heckscher seemed pretty cool.
We found out a lot of interesting things from our Behind the Scenes interviews with the Heckscher Museum’s Curatorial staff. We learned so much about the museum through them. You can learn more fascinating things about the Heckscher Museum of Art by going to heckscher.org and watching our interviews. We hope you learn as much as we did.