Celebrate Arts Education

Posted on September 17th, 2015 by

Did you know that this week marks the fifth anniversary of National Arts Education Week? This is something that I recently learned by reading the weekly update of the area arts and culture scene distributed by the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.  Study after study highlights the importance of exposing children of all ages to the arts in all its many forms. Local families and schools are fortunate to have access to such an incredible variety of museums where the arts come to life in such dynamic ways.

Given this important anniversary, I thought I’d take the opportunity to promote the JMM’s educational programs and resources and to highlight how they foster multidisciplinary connections between social studies, English language arts and fine arts.  While the JMM is traditionally thought of as a history museum, our education team is exceptionally talented at using our exhibits, collections and historic sites as springboards for activities and resources that integrate the arts.

City Spring students participate in a field trip to the JMM.

City Spring students participate in a field trip to the JMM.

This summer, JMM docent Robyn Hughes created an art program for campers with visual impairments from the Maryland School for the Blind in which students toured Voices of Lombard Street and then built neighborhoods out of art supplies.

This summer, JMM docent Robyn Hughes created an art program for campers with visual impairments from the Maryland School for the Blind in which students toured Voices of Lombard Street and then built neighborhoods out of art supplies.

A good example of this is our Immigrant’s Trunk program that explores immigration history through the lens of personal stories. Each of our Immigrant’s Trunk program brings the experience of a real life Jewish immigrant to life through reproduced photographs, documents and objects. The trunks come with a full set of lesson plans that integrate primary source analysis as well as creative writing assignments, storytelling and art activities. Teachers can also opt to schedule living history performances by professional actors who dramatize significant moments from each immigrant’s life.

Actor Terry Nicholetti brings to life the story of Bessie Bluefeld, a Russian immigrant who established Baltimore’s beloved Bluefeld’s catering business.

Actor Terry Nicholetti brings to life the story of Bessie Bluefeld, a Russian immigrant who established Baltimore’s beloved Bluefeld’s catering business.

Some of our programs have strong visual arts components, including a new initiative that encourages middle school students to interpret family history through multimedia art installations. Last year, JMM education director Ilene Dackman-Alon piloted My Family History Project through a partnership with Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv and the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore. As part of the program, students immersed themselves in genealogical research. They then went above and beyond the traditional family tree assignment by creating amazing visual representations of some aspect of their family’s experiences. The student artwork was displayed in the JMM as we hosted an evening reception for families. Everyone was amazed by the creativity and diversity of the artwork on display and how the students incorporated a variety of media as they highlighted something unique about their own family’s history. We are delighted to embark on the second year of this project and Ilene is expanding the initiative to work with additional schools.

An example of the art work on display in the My Family History Project.

An example of the art work on display in the My Family History Project.

Another piece of art created for the My Family History Project.

Another piece of art created for the My Family History Project.

Visual arts, drama, creative writing, storytelling…these are all art forms that can easily be integrated into JMM educational resources. The one medium that has not been as easy to incorporate is music, but I am excited to announce an exciting new educational offering this fall in conjunction with the opening of Paul Simon: Words and Music (on display October 11, 2015-January 18, 2016). Our education team has developed a curriculum that ties in with music education standards and exposes students to the worlds of music theory and the history of folk music. For all the educators out there, this is an opportunity not to be missed. Field trips can be scheduled by emailing our visitor services coordinator, Graham Humphrey at ghumphrey@jewishmuseummd.org.

Click here for more information about these and other JMM educational programs.

So take advantage of the wealth of cultural resources available locally and find time to visit a nearby museum. You’ll be glad you did!

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

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Performance Counts, September 2014

Posted on September 19th, 2014 by

Baltimore Embraces its 19th Century Heritage

The good news is “we won.”

You probably noticed that there was some commotion this weekend about events that took place two centuries ago.  Beyond the Blue Angels, the rockets red glare and the Spanish galleon, there was a genuine embrace of the relatively tiny group of defenders who made sure that the flag and the nation was still there.

We are intensely proud of having been a part of the Star Spangled Celebration week, a chance for us to remind the public of the long roots of the Jewish community in this city and this state.  Of course, JMM’s focus was on one particular defender: the truly amazing Mendes Cohen.

Collections Manager Joanna Church and Assistant Director Deborah Cardin install Mendes' newly conserved jacket.

Collections Manager Joanna Church and Assistant Director Deborah Cardin install Mendes’ newly conserved jacket.

Installation of the maze was completed on September 7th.  We had a sneak preview for donors, members of the 1845 Society and the Lloyd Street League, and members of the board of our partners, the Maryland Historical Society on September 9th.  Feedback was extremely positive as reflected in notes we received after the event:

We were totally impressed with the A-mazing Mendes exhibition and appreciated the amount of research, talent, and work that went into the project.

Your exhibit is absolutely wonderful and a great tribute to Mr. Cohen. Of course Mendes is good story material. What a fun concept and I am recommending you to my whole staff.

‘The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen’ exhibit turned out really great! Fantastic Preview last night! Can’t wait to return and stroll “The A-Mazing… ” more slowly and a chance to absorb much more of its rich history.

Enjoying a few drinks at the Amazing Cocktail Hour sneak preview party.

Enjoying a few drinks at the Amazing Cocktail Hour sneak preview party.

This past Sunday was a very busy day for our living history actor.  Unlike the real Mendes Cohen who overslept on September 14 and had to run to his assignment at the fort, our “ghost” of Mendes started his day bright and early at Super Sunday.  As Mendes was one of the early members of the Hebrew Benevolent Society (a precursor of The Associated), we thought it was important Mendes participate in this annual effort to raise funds to serve the Jewish community in Baltimore and around the globe.

Mendes takes a few calls at Super Sunday!

Mendes takes a few calls at Super Sunday!

The next stop was the Creative Alliance’s “Hampstead Hill Festival”, marking the land battle that helped save the city.  Mendes not only gave a full performance (battling unexpectedly fierce winds) but also participated in an 1814 fashion show.  After Hampstead Hill, we made a brief stop at the Inner Harbor greeting guests to the Greater Baltimore History Alliance booth.

Mendes takes his bow to the applause of former JMM president Barbara Katz and the rest of the audience.

Mendes takes his bow to the applause of former JMM president Barbara Katz and the rest of the audience.

Mendes returned to JMM for a wonderful members’ opening.  The program included greetings from Debs Weinberg and Barbara Katz, Mendes’ short-version 1812 performance and a panel comprised of some of the creative and historical experts who made the exhibit and living history character a reality.

Part of the evening's panel.

Part of the evening’s panel.

If you missed this great opening week, you can still be a full participant in the Mendes Cohen celebration.  We are still busy recruiting volunteers for our stint as part of the Maryland Public Television fund drive on Sunday, September 28 from 5pm to 8pm.  Your willingness to volunteer a few hours at MPT will guarantee us on air access to an important audience.  For more details contact Rachel Kassman at rkassman@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x225. 

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Meeting Mendes

Posted on August 27th, 2014 by

Our "real life" Mendes Cohen!

Our “real life” Mendes Cohen!

Thursday was the dress rehearsal.  I thought I would be immune to the effects of the performance.  After all, I already knew the Mendes Cohen story.  And I also knew that underneath Maggie Mason’s handsome costumes there was a fine actor, Grant Cloyd.  Yet from the moment Mendes came into the room brandishing his cane I was transfixed.  In the next thirty minutes “our” Mendes captured the spirit of the extraordinary soldier, businessman and adventurer who lies at the heart of our new maze exhibit.

Grant-as-Mendes leads the crowd in a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner!

Grant-as-Mendes leads the crowd in a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner!

There is an old joke in a Herb Gardner play about someone “getting the voices just right” for Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.  It is truly impossible to capture the true sound of even the most famous speakers who lived in the era before sound recording.  For someone like Mendes Cohen, who was not a public speaker, there is no record of any kind of his style, accent or intonation.  But our script writer, Scott Fuqua, drawing on Mendes’ letters and journals, produced a 19th century patter that truly mirrors our character’s own vocabulary and diction.  The fact that Mendes comes across as so plausible is a credit to the talents of Scott, Grant and Baltimore’s premier living history director, Harriet Lynn.

Flat Mendes poses with actor Grant Cloyd, director Harriet Lynn, and writer Scott Fuqua after Thursday's performance.

Flat Mendes poses with actor Grant Cloyd, director Harriet Lynn, and writer Scott Fuqua after Thursday’s performance.

Thursday was just the warm up.  This last weekend I accompanied Mendes on a trip to Bladensburg.  They marked (I think “celebrate” would be the wrong word) the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bladensburg, the ignominious defeat and rout that led to the burning of Washington.  In 1814, Mendes had seriously considered joining a unit that came to the defense of Bladensburg, but wisely decided that his talents would be better used at Fort McHenry.  So our journey to the re-enactment was actually Mendes’ first trip to this Prince Georges County town.  We were warmly received despite the rainy weather.

Mendes meets Facebook friend Ranger Abbi Wicklein-Bayne at the Battle of Bladensburg Commemoration.

Mendes meets Facebook friend Ranger Abbi Wicklein-Bayne at the Battle of Bladensburg Commemoration.

This is, of course, just the beginning of travels for our newly revived “ghost” of Mendes – for our younger readers I think I need to point out that ghosts were what people believed in before zombies (a lot cleaner).  Next Sunday, Mendes travels to North Point for the bicentennial ceremonies there.  This will also be the first full performance of Scott and Harriet’s play.  On the 14th we have Mendes hopping – opening the morning with a stop at The Associated’s Super Sunday (after all Mendes was a leading Baltimore Jewish philanthropist in his time) followed by walk-arounds at bicentennial events at Patterson Park and the Inner Harbor.  He will finish his day with a mini-performance at our exclusive members’ opening event on Sunday night.  If you are in the top three categories of membership (the Living History Circle, the Lloyd Street League and the 1845 Society) you will be invited back for the full play at its JMM premiere on October 5th – so wouldn’t this be a great time to upgrade your membership.

Mendes sports a caftan and shares his journey down the Nile.

Mendes sports a caftan and shares his journey down the Nile.

Finally, I want to offer special thanks to those who are enabling this success.  These include the Maryland Heritage Authority and Maryland Humanities Council for their specific grants for the Mendes Cohen character.  And the exceptional work of education director, Ilene Dackman-Alon in shepherding the living history project from the beginning.

The Mendes road tour will continue throughout the year.  To schedule a Mendes Cohen performance for your school or organization please contact Abby Krolik, akrolik@jewishmuseummd.org or 410-732-6400 x234.

Marvin PinkertA blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts related to Mendes Cohen click HERE. To read more posts by Marvin click HERE.

 

The Mendes Cohen Living History project was made possible in part by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Maryland Humanities Council. This project has been financed in part with State Funds from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, an instrumentality of the State of Maryland. However, the contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.

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