If you’ve ever walked into an art museum to escape the bustle of the noisy outside world, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered a lot more than visual art. North Texas museums host lectures by famous artists and scholars, screenings of art house films and Hollywood classics, and concerts in every musical genre imaginable. As one of the managers of public programs at the Dallas Museum of Art, Lisa Kays produces those extra offerings that relate to the current exhibitions and permanent collection. For Lisa, the term “public programs” is a jazzier way of saying adult education. I talked with her about how she sneaks a little learning into your day at the DMA.
Art&Seek: You have to draw connections between different art forms – do you have certain resources you go to?
Lisa Kays: I love the collaborative process of working with the curators of the museum, thinking about their vision and the ideas they want to express through the collection and exhibitions. Also, the visitor’s point of view, what the visitor might want to learn more about after seeing an exhibition. I like making connections between works of art that may not be apparent just by looking at the works.
A&S: What’s been your favorite moment as an art educator so far?
L.K.: Anytime I’m able to collaborate with someone new and present something that’s never been done at the DMA before is really great. I loved working with KERA on South Dallas Pop, and I’m not just saying that. To show something that is about the cultural life of Dallas and to highlight one of our fantastic staff members (Wendell Sneed) and one of our program friends (Roger Boykin) — I mean you couldn’t get any better than that.
A&S: Do you have one that was just the most fun for you personally?
A&S: That was part of the programming for the Bluebonnets and Beyond exhibition earlier this year. That seems fun to me – that riddle of “what can I possibly come up with that’s related to this in a different field.”
L.K.: It was so fun. Looking at the culture of Texas through many different art forms, looking at film as a way to tell stories and as a visual art form in itself, looking at the iconography of Texas that Julian Onderdonk painted with our beautiful bluebonnets. It was a fun way to celebrate Texas. I think it was a comfortable and accessible way to lots of visitors, too.
A&S: Is there anything you wish you could do that you haven’t been able to do, whether restricted by budget or just thematically?
L:K: I would love to bring Tim Gunn to the Dallas Museum of Art. He is from Parsons School of Design and he’s the mentor to the participants/contestants on Project Runway. I haven’t been able to figure out a way to connect what he does with the exhibitions or programming at the museum, but he would be my ideal speaker.
A&S: So what do you do with an exhibition like Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson when it’s using light and abstraction instead of concrete subject matter?
L.K.: We’re inviting David Eagleman, who directs a lab at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, to look at the phenomenon of synesthesia. It’s a scientific approach to looking at this artwork. I think this will help visitors approach Eliasson’s work in the exhibition in a new way.
A&S: Where do you think Dallas’ weaknesses lie arts-wise?
L.K.: Dallas is moving forward in a great way, but I think we can still work on collaboration between organizations and being mindful of what we can do that brings each individual organization’s strength to a project. I’m really interested in the opening of the new Center for the Performing Arts and the opportunities that will bring for the DMA to partner with some of our really world-class performing arts venues.
Upcoming programs from Lisa Kays at the DMA include a Gallery Talk on Cross-Cultural Representations of Divine Kingship from Kristina Hilliard (Dec. 17, 3 p.m.); and Colors in the Brain from Dr. David Eagleman (Jan. 16, 9 p.m.).
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.