Museum Enriching Lives

The workshop-concept in Espoo’s Museum of Modern Art EMMA emphasizes deepening the art experience.

Learning by doing is essential. Techniques may vary and can even be far from the artists’ original, but the point is to build a bridge between art and the viewers’ own experience…to have an insight. A museum visit can surface in ones mind even years later or in completely different circumstances and still be relevant and important. More and more the focus will be on something more conceptual and communal.

Maria Vähäsarja (standing on the left) is instructing the Fulbright grantees in the workshop.
We had a memorable afternoon and evening with Fulbright grantees in November 2011 in EMMA. It happened to be the very first group participating in a hands-on workshop in association with the exhibition of Juhani Harri. I was happy to welcome this very enthusiastic group. After introductions, I asked group members to devise something new from a plain sheet of paper full of text. The purpose was to have a relaxed feeling and an opening to switch brains to a creative channel.

Juhani Harri did not want to explain his “world in a suitcase”, his magical world somewhere close to dreams and fantasies hidden behind glass.  It is not that essential to analyze the symbolism in Harri’s work too specifically. The exhibition is full of details and stories and it is up to the viewer how deep the experience will be.  Some facts we shared during the tour, for example the long history of object art and anecdotes about the artist himself and stories behind some of the treasures.

In EMMA we use storytelling as a method with small children, letting them describe what they see in an art piece. It is alluring to use this same method with adults, but instead I asked participants to spend five minutes finding what they considered  the most appealing of Harri’s works. In front of the chosen work, I asked the viewers to consider in their minds what happened in the picture before, and what will be happening next.

Admiring the art pieces created during the workshop
After this we continued to the workshop space and started planning object art pieces of our own. It is surprising how little adults usually do crafts or anything creative during their hectic everyday lives. This is why I was happy to see everyone immerse themselves in the work, talking and laughing at the same time. What we had as a result was a wide collection of art objects, surrealistic collages and conceptual ideas (second photo).

Text: Maria Vähäsarja
Museum educator


Published in the Fulbright Center News 1/2012