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How I See It - Teen Interpretations of the Cleveland Museum of Art
By Hajnal Eppley
Museum Ambassadors/ Lifelong Learning Center Assistant
On April 3rd, we’re turning the museum over to 90 high school students. While this may sound scary to some, those who know the Museum Ambassadors have come to understand that through their year-long experiences at the museum and other University Circle institutions, the students have demonstrated that they are passionate, focused, and more than capable. They’ve been tapped to create and facilitate tours, art activities, and gallery talks during the upcoming April 3rd Community Day, and in preparation some of the Ambassadors shared their ideas about the museum with us:
“When I walk up into the museum, I see an environment of endless learning possibilities. I see possibilities of change and drive for a united community. As an Ambassador, I come to the museum every so often and I enjoy every second it! What I love most is the feeling I get of warmth and acceptance of every culture because artworks are like people—not one piece is the same. I feel the museum’s purpose is to enlighten the minds of all ages by bringing community together. And that’s what I see—education brings people together.”
-- Cassandra Barlow, 11th grade, Normandy High School
“While participating in Shaker Heights High School's Museum Ambassadors program, I had the honor of meeting Constantine Petridis, the curator of the African Art at The Cleveland Museum of Art. I never fully appreciated African art because I never understood its role and significance in African culture. However, the day I met Constantine, I was enlightened. He earned his M.A. in art history and archaeology, with a specialization in ethnic art and a Ph.D. in art history, from Ghent University in Belgium. He showed me that being educated is the key to being able to fully embrace other cultures. He also explained the importance of language in truly understanding a society. Speaking five languages himself, he made me feel obliged to break away from America and experience the wealth living in the other people of this world.
I am a poet, and I'm currently working on a piece about the Lega people in Africa and their form of government, The Bwami Secret Society. The piece is developing nicely and I am excited to perform it at venues around Cleveland. I would have never known such a beautiful people exist if it wasn't for my time spent at The Cleveland Museum of Art.”
-- Caira Lee, 11th grade, Shaker Heights High School
“Being involved in the Museum Ambassador program for the past two years has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for me, both as a student in the community and personally as an artist. Every month when I attend, I realize even more the possible impact the museum can have for other students in my school. I understand how teens look at museums-- huge, stuffy buildings full of things they know nothing about or ideas that would just go right over their heads. They say, ‘I’m not into that kind of thing,’ and never step a foot inside to see what these beautiful marble buildings hold. This is exactly where we, as ambassadors, step in; we are here to bridge the gap between the institution and the people. We are here to show our peers the museum from our own point of view.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about the Cleveland Museum of Art during my time in the program, it is that it’s anything but an eerily quiet building full of art snobs. (Although it is true-- there is no gum chewing allowed and they WILL tell you to get rid of it). I’ve learned that art is active; it is alive. It shows us that someone in 1720 felt the same exact emotions we feel today, that things haven’t changed that much at all. The works are relatable and current and provocative. Once you get here, it’s not hard to understand how someone could spend hours looking around. You’ll find art that’s funny, art that’s dark, art that makes you shake your head and think, “What IS that?!” As Museum Ambassadors, it’s our goal to show our friends and our home school our love for the museum, and that it is definitely a place worth exploring. Going to the museum every month and getting to see behind the scenes has inspired me greatly as an artist!
and taught me to look at art in a whole new way; I try to bring that sentiment back to my school and show my friends the museum. This is how I see it.
-- Abbey Kish, 12th grade, Valley Forge High School