Mattress Factory

  • Amanda working with students during Afterschool.

     

    Mattress Factory Afterschool: Techniques of Two Teaching Artists

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2018

    In the Spring of 2018, I was a Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory in their Education Department. I helped with Afterschool, the museum’s art education program for third through fifth graders. During my internship, ten students were enrolled and many attended the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Among my various roles and responsibilities, I have observed two teaching artists and how they facilitate their curriculum. A local artist named Suzanne taught the first six-week session, and Jimmy, an Alaskan native, taught a twelve-week session. The respective learning themes for these sessions were nature/habitats, and memory. I have been able to watch students develop artistic and creative skills through the specific educational practices employed by the artists.

    As a Psychology Major at Pitt, I enjoyed observing the ways in which these two artists ran their respective curriculums, given the many connections to the discipline of developmental psychology. From a psychological perspective I attempted to observe and analyze the ways that each teacher connected to the students, challenged them, included others, and the balance of roles in joint activities. One basis for this is the Simple Interactions tool a project in the department of Applied Developmental Psychology at Pitt, which I had experience with as a research assistant. For my purposes in the intern role, it served me as a foundation or heuristic, rather than an in-depth psychology study.

    Turning to the artist teachers, Suzanne’s eclectic personality influenced her teaching style. Though sometimes the classroom seemed like disordered chaos, the projects made by students were fun and unique, dynamic and amalgamated. Suzanne asked them to make “cool trash”, for bird nests and different habitats. The class made trips to the National Aviary, and to various exhibits in the museum for project inspiration. Her practice was playful, and her spontaneity ensured that the students enjoyed what they were learning.

    Jimmy’s methodologies could not have been any more different from Suzanne’s. He preferred structure, and made students relate activities to the overarching theme of the session – memory. At first he facilitated activities to gauge the students’ skills and to see what would need to be worked on early in the session. The projects built upon one another in very structured ways, and he was able to spark curiosity in the students. Overall, his approach to the program relied on planning and sequence, which was beneficial for the students’ development.

    The diverse approaches that these two artists conducted their classrooms impacted the experiences of the students. A rational artist will connect differently to students than one who operates more spontaneously. But in both cases, their methodologies have had significant impacts on the development of students.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Building Lifelong Ties to the Mattress Factory

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2018

    Throughout my teenage years, I would often drive into Pittsburgh with friends to visit the Mattress Factory. I remember the first time I was there in 2011 and being immersed in the installations for the first time. A few years later, I decided to reach out to the Mattress Factory to volunteer. I was involved as a museum volunteer from my senior year of high school to freshman year of college. During the 2018 Spring semester, I had the opportunity to work with the Mattress Factory again, this time in the Development Department.

    Since January, I have been interning under the supervision of Caitlin Harpster and Nina Friedman. Along with preparing for the museum’s annual Urban Garden Party, and various day-to-day tasks helping the office move at a quicker pace, I have been working on boosting museum memberships among younger adults (ages 18 – 25). Many in that age group attend an academic institution that provides free admission; however, the Development department is interested in how to increase memberships for those still in school, working, or newly graduated.

    As part of the mission’s goal of creating a new young adult and young professionals’ membership, I have been doing research on other museums’ tactics to attract this age group. Many museums create events that allow for networking. I have also examined possible perks that can be attached to the membership. such as a free magazine subscription or free member tickets to certain events

    While the Development department has been my main focus during this internship, I have done other activities such as shadowing docent tours, observing staff meetings, archiving past development materials, and participating in events at the museum. A final project I helped with is collecting names of North Side residents to support the construction of an installation/public artwork titled Skyspace, by James Turrell. Turrell is a leading contemporary artist from the West Coast who the Mattress Factory has continuously supported, including several pieces in their permanent collection. To acquire another one of his pieces in Pittsburgh would give the city at a clear advantage and enhance the public profile of the Mattress Factory.

    The experiences and knowledge I have gained throughout my internship with the Mattress Factory has allowed me to grow professionally and deepen the long-time passion I have had for the museum.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Amanda Bartko and Emma Vescio in Meg Webster’s new Solar Grow Room at the Mattress Factory

     

    The Sky's the Limit: Two Pitt Interns Discuss Art and Education at the Mattress Factory

    Authors: Emma Vescio and Amanda Bartko

    Museum Studies Interns at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2018

    Emma Vescio:

    During the Spring 2018 semester, I am interning at Mattress Factory in the Development Department. Along with preparing for the annual Urban Garden Party, and various day-to-day tasks helping the office move at a quicker pace, I will be working on attracting younger adults (18-25) to purchasing museum memberships. Many people within that age group attend an academic institution that provides free admission; however, the Development team is interested in how to increase memberships for those out of school or graduated.

    Another project that I am helping with is the building the James Turrell’s “Skyspace”. Turrell is a leading contemporary artist, and having another one of his pieces in Pittsburgh would set the city at a clear advantage and make Mattress Factory even more distinctive. My task will be gathering names collected in a petition earlier this year to make this installation happen, I hope I can help the Development Department with this process, and I am excited to see the progression of my time there.

    Amanda Bartko:

    This term, I am going to be working in the Education Department at the Mattress Factory to assist with "INSTALL: Afternoons @ The Factory" – a twelve-week program for children in grades 3 through 5. There are nine students enrolled, many of whom come from a local elementary school, Allegheny Traditional Academy. A teaching artist supervises sessions with them and gives distinct lessons each week that corresponds to themes of habitats and the natural environment. At the end of six weeks, another artist will takeover and lead the classroom for the remaining term.

    I am most eager to observe differences between the two teaching artists. Because of my interest in and background with Psychology, I suspect that the artists’ methodologies will have meaningful impacts on the students in the classroom.

    I was drawn to this internship because it is inherently interdisciplinary. I will be able to learn by shadowing gallery tours, or when interacting with staff from various departments; but I am looking forward to the possibility of making connections across disciplines of art, education and Psychology.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Students with Teresa Duff looking out of the window in Kevin Clancy's installation
     

    Museum Education at the Mattress Factory

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Spring 2017

    As a child, I spent my third Sundays of each month at the art gallery participating in educational art activities. Some of my fondest memories were attempting to create oil pastel versions of Emily Carr’s paintings and participating in scavenger hunts that helped me get acquainted with new exhibitions. Little did I know at the time I would eventually be learning how to create similar experiences for others.

    Since January, I’ve been interning in the Education department at the Mattress Factory. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to interact with teaching artists, museum educators, and different departments within the museum. The main focus of the internship has been being a teaching assistant in an after school program.INSTALL: Afternoons @ the Factory, the after school program at the Mattress Factory is a program where different artists come in for either six or twelve weeks and teach third to fifth graders about an art practice of their choosing. While I’ve been with the after school program, I’ve worked with two different teaching artists—Teresa Duff and Hudson Rush. The first topic that was explored was motion. During the exploration of motion, I assisted students with understanding different forces through building kinetic sculptures inspired by Alexander Calder and a Rube Goldberg machine. The second topic was photography, which was a very different experience. While working with the students, I’ve learned how to effectively create inspiring learning environments, how to help facilitate a good environment for teamwork, and create dialogue between pieces of artwork and the students.

    Even though the after school program has been my main focus, I have also shadowed tours, helped create examples and prep materials for events and outreach, created educational art activities for families, and documented events the museum has held. While creating examples for different events, I was able to apply the skills I have gained in my formal education as an artist along with the skills I have gained at the internship in education. I could tailor examples to different age groups through the knowledge I’ve gained while at the Mattress Factory.

    The experiences I’ve had as a Museum Education intern at the Mattress Factory have been life-changing. With the help of everyone in the Education department, I’ve gained direction in where I’m headed professionally and academically. I’m grateful for the amazing opportunities I’ve had at the Mattress Factory to help me pursue my passion for art and museum education.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Dennis Maher, "A Second Home", 2016

     

    Development at the Mattress Factory: Learning about the Fundraising Aspects of Museums

    Museum Studies Intern at the Mattress Factory - Fall 2016       

    I am currently interning in development at the Mattress Factory Modern Art Museum in the North Side. For those of you who may not know, the development department is the part of the museum staff that deals with fundraising, grants, and membership. Since the Mattress Factory is a fairly small organization, there are only two development employees that run the entire department. During the internship, I learned many useful skills. I learned how to use Nonprofit CRM software, how to develop and implement a donation campaign, how to plan and implement events and programs, and how to create nonprofit materials for the development department. I was also able to tour the museum freely whenever I wanted. The museum has three buildings full of installation pieces from a plethora of artists. Many of these installations rotate regularly so there was always something new to experience. My favorite new piece at the museum is an art piece by Dennis Maher titled “A Second Home”. Dennis Maher is an artist, architect, educator and founder/director of FARGO HOUSE, Buffalo and his piece fills one of the Mattress Factory’s entire buildings. To some, the fundraising aspect of the museum may seem boring, but personally, I love knowing that I am working to make sure an organization that I love has the means to continue existing and growing. I spent my time at the Mattress Factory getting to tell people how great the museum is and why I am thankful that it exists. As someone who has a great appreciation for museums, this was not a hard task. One of the greatest perks of working for a small organization is that the founders of the Mattress Factory were at the office most days and I learned about many of the steps and decisions that go into owning and running a museum. I was able to experience and assist in many events at the Mattress Factory and I got to watch the creation of exhibitions within the museum. These are experiences that I would most likely not get to experience at a large museum. Overall, I would definitely recommend that any University of Pittsburgh student intern with the Mattress Factory. My internship provided all of the experiences that I had hoped that it would when it first began.

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