Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Interview with Museum Art Educator Rachel Stratford

This March, I am very excited to interview Rachel Statford, a museum art educator at Utah's Springville Museum of Art!


How does the opportunity to work as a museum art educator enrich your view of the world?

As a museum educator, I am asked to help bridge the gap between artwork and viewer. In order to bridge that gap we ask questions that get the viewer to ask more questions. We want to engage the viewer in the possible meanings of the artwork and create opportunities for a personal connection. I have found that as I think of and ask these questions, I learn so much from both the works and the patrons. This, in turn, affects my worldview. My eyes are not only opened to the life experiences of others, but also to the additional depth of meaning that can be found in artworks.

What have you learned about the creative process from studying other artists?
I have learned that it can be different for each artist. The Springville Museum of Art, where I work, has the pleasure of working with many living Utah artists. Opportunities to interact with them and visit some of their studios have taught me that they are all so different and that they work very differently. Some will do countless studies before heading to the final canvas, while others will jump right in.

What can art can teach humanity about itself?
To never give up. When people have a powerful aesthetic experience with an artwork they see in a museum or gallery, they often feel that the artist that created the work must be insanely talented or a genius of some kind. But what they often don’t think about are the years of hard work, entering shows and getting rejected, and scraping by until a painting sells. Somewhere in all that, there are moments of pure magic where things come together and a masterpiece is made. This is not to say that all artists or musicians or writers will achieve that, but that the kind of art that takes our breath away was not made without persistence. Imagine a world without those masterworks. It would be, at best, mediocre. And all because people had given up on themselves.

If you could ask any artist in history to paint your portrait, who would it be and why?

I have to confess this was the first question I wanted to answer, but I saved it for last like one waits to cherish a good dessert. I would ask Jessie Wilcox Smith to paint me. My mother introduced me to her work has she has been our favorite for years. I am drawn to the way she uses line, to her often golden light, and the gentle way that she depicts women. I would love to be her subject because I feel she would depict me as I see myself (on a good day): graceful, caring, and beautiful in my own way.

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