Since winter 2004, the Hood has been offering a diverse range of adult workshops. Designed to complement the museum’s rich series of lectures and gallery talks, these workshops provide experiential learning for adults. Some involve creative or descriptive writing in response to art; others include a hands-on studio project that requires participants to engage in the same sorts of creative problem solving as the artists whose work is on view in the galleries. A third type of workshop features a method called Learning to Look, a five-step approach to exploring works of art developed by educators at the Hood that is designed to empower visitors to observe carefully and think critically about any work of art they encounter. All of the adult workshops are participatory in nature, and discussion-based. These workshops feature teaching techniques that are distinct to the Hood and provide community audiences with the types of experiential learning opportunities that the museum regularly offers to Dartmouth students. They are designed to help participants develop skills for looking at and interpreting art as well as learning about the art itself. Originally, they were offered in response to requests from adult community members who were aware of the museum’s teaching techniques with younger audiences and wanted a similar hands-on experience. Over the past ten years, adult workshops have been very popular, sometimes with so many people wanting to enroll that the same workshop is offered twice to satisfy the demand.
Comments from participants provide insights into what people value about these experiential learning opportunities: “Having a hands-on part after the talk helps solidify concepts” and “I enjoyed the [studio art] project—it sparked my interest in being more creative.” After a Learning to Look workshop: “I now have a framework for appreciating/interpreting a work of art.” Finally, at the end of an art and writing workshop, a participant commented: “Although I have gone to museums all my life, visited most of the great museums in Europe, tonight was the first time I ever really SAW a work of art!” This spring, the museum is offering three adult workshops, designed to help visitors explore contemporary art based on personal responses, gain a greater understanding of the social values conveyed by African weaponry, and engage with outdoor sculpture and then make a small sculpture of your own.