We sat down to talk with Sylvia Yang, a doctoral student and graduate assistant with the Krannert Art Museum–Week at the Museum (KAM–WAM) program. She talked about teaching at KAM and the ways her experiences at the museum relate to her studies in the College of Education at Illinois.
Q: Hi Sylvia, tell us a little bit about yourself?
I came to the U of I from Taiwan to pursue graduate studies in Curriculum and Instruction. My current focus is on early childhood and aesthetic education.
Prior to studying at Illinois, I was an intern at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. There, I volunteered at the Head Start program and created a bilingual Mandarin-English curriculum in collaboration with the museum.
I started at KAM in the spring of 2018. So for two years, I have researched and written study guides for exhibitions and co-developed curriculum with museum educators and teachers. I’ve also been able to do a lot of teaching in the galleries.
Q: Do you have a moment you remember that shaped the way you think about KAM?
Sure. I came to KAM during my first semester as part of a class focusing on aesthetic education in early childhood and elementary settings with Professor Liora Bresler, my advisor at that time.
As a class, we visited KAM during several sessions, and Anne Sautman, KAM Director of Education, gave us an interactive tour that expanded my perception of museum education and the possibilities of education within the museum context. I was intrigued by the ways that art could be introduced and by the techniques Anne used to facilitate the process of meaning-making.
Q: What has been the most interesting or surprising aspect of your work at KAM?
Creating new lessons and teaching from them to students of all ages has been the most interesting. Whenever there is a new exhibition, the Education team brainstorms and develops materials that are fun and exciting. We promote prolonged engagement and in-depth understanding of the arts with hands-on activities. It is rewarding to co-create and investigate meaning with the kindergarten and elementary students as I teach in the galleries.
More recently, the redesign of the Giertz Education Center has been exciting. It’s now an interactive space where visitors can touch and move the art to create their own displays.
Q: What type of art inspires you? Do you have a favorite work of art or gallery?
I like all types of art. Two of my favorite pieces are the Dragon Vase from the Qing dynasty in the Decorative Arts gallery and The Choice Between Young and Old by Cornelis van Haarlem in the Trees Gallery.
I like the storytelling component of each and how both works of art allow elaborate interpretation. The children, teachers, and I always have a great time engaging with them.
Q: Is there something from your time at the museum that you’ll carry with you beyond campus?
The work I do at KAM is meaningful and fulfilling, and the collaboration among people here at the museum is something I really enjoy. I greatly value this opportunity to combine theory and practice by designing lessons and engaging with young museum visitors through school programs. I learn from partnerships with the Education team, staff members, school practitioners, and visitors of all ages. My experience working at KAM inspires and sparks my evolving understanding of aesthetics and education.