I'm A Museum Person

All It Takes is a Little Heartwork

As a 16 year old, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. Granted, now that I am all grown up, my life path is no less clear, but it is nevertheless refreshing to meet a teenager with a passion and the ambition to pursue it. A few weeks ago, I was introduced to one of these rare specimens: Emily from Pennsylvania, who has taken her love of art history and created a blog called Heartwork. Read on to learn more about the inspiration behind Heartwork and about Emily’s hopes for the future…

Photo by Josh Staiger via Flickr.

Tell us how you became interested in art history?

When I was a kindergartener, my teacher introduced the class to Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night. As part of the lesson, my classmates and I each made our own renditions of the Post-Impressionist masterpiece.

I was hooked. Five-year-old me successfully begged my parents to take me to see The Starry Night in person at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City—no small request given that we live near Philadelphia! Art history has been my passion ever since.

You have a blog, Heartwork, on which you discuss your adventures in art history. What are your plans and hopes for the blog? Do you have a dream interview that you would like to conduct?

Heartwork indeed follows my adventures in art history, from staging picture re-creations to baking edible artwork to visiting museums and more. I have some fun posts planned for the future! While I have not yet conducted interviews for the blog, I think that is a wonderful idea – it would be particularly interesting to talk to a museum curator or an art history author.

My great hope is that other art history buffs submit their own creative art history projects to Heartwork. If people make their own picture re-creations, edible artwork, or other projects and then email pictures to emilybz@comcast.net, I would be thrilled to post their work on the blog.

Emily and her brother recreate American Gothic.

On your blog, you often stage picture reproductions (like Whistler’s Mother and American Gothic), do you have a dream painting that you would like to reproduce?

So far, I have re-created Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want, James McNeill Whistler’s Whistler’s Mother, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Which re-creations I stage are dictated by the costumes, props, settings, and numbers of people that I have available, so it is fun to think about what paintings I would re-create without these limitations!

I would love to re-create Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. If I could gather a large group of people, it would also be a ball to stage Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party and Georges Seurat’s Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte!

As an art history buff, do you feel that knowing the story behind a work of art or its art historical context is an integral element in appreciating that work of art? Can you give us an example of a particular artwork that you appreciated more or less once you learned about its story or context?

I absolutely believe that these factors are crucial for a viewer to fully understand a piece. From my own experience, my appreciation of artwork increased after I took AP Art History last year and learned about the stories and art historical contexts behind works of art.

On a related note, Heartwork’s message is that art history is more entertaining for people when they make their own connections with artwork. For example, after creating a version of The Starry Night in cupcakes or re-creating Whistler’s Mother, I found new meaning and delight in these paintings.

So, you’re still a teenager…any dreams of working in museums one day?

I would love to work in museums one day! This summer, I got my feet wet in the museum world by serving as a one-day shadow at the National Portrait Gallery, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

I also was delighted to volunteer at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s summer camp. Through all of these experiences, I greatly enjoyed meeting museum staff members and getting a behind-the-scenes peek at what it takes to run a museum.

Photo by kimadababe via Flickr.

Are there any art history-related books that you particularly like or would recommend to others interested in the field?

I wholeheartedly recommend Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. For the younger set, I adored Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime! by Anna Nilsen when I was a kindergartener. I have fond memories of reading it with my family, and I lovingly called it “Art Frog.”

It would also be a dream come true to write my own art history-inspired novels one day. As both an art history enthusiast and an avid writer, I wrote Once Upon a Masterpiece: An Art History Adventure, a storybook designed to introduce young children to the joys of art history. To help save the arts in schools that are facing budget cuts, I donated copies of the book to dozens of elementary schools in the School District of Philadelphia.






One Response to “All It Takes is a Little Heartwork”

  1. Interview: Museumist | Heartwork on August 15th, 2013

    […] the fun interview – titled “All It Takes Is a Little Heartwork” – by clicking on this link. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like […]

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