Museums are home to creativity and reflection, much like a personal notebook. If you’ve ever been inspired to make your own art after visiting an exhibition, then you’ll understand why our monthly writing workshop has prompted many attendees to pick up a pencil and notepad.
The special writing workshop, aimed primarily at seniors, empowers visitors to become creators. An art museum may seem like an unconventional place to hold a writing workshop but according to facilitator and university professor Nina Goss, the quiet, intimate nature of the galleries provides the ideal environment for contemplative work.
To get a better sense of the monthly workshops, we asked Nina a few questions:
For those that have never been to a Rubin writing workshop before, what’s it like?
NINA GOSS: First, I select a particular object for the preliminary group discussion. We all meet in the lobby and go up to the gallery together at 2 p.m. In-gallery discussions are led by Museum educator Laura Sloan while I make notes on the participants’ comments and questions. The discussions are always a great combination of objective and subjective approaches, and all the Rubin Museum’s educators I’ve worked with have been terrific in balancing explanations of iconography with encouraging creative and individual encounters with the work.
What comes after the group discussion?
Following the discussion, I give the group a loose guideline for their gallery writing. When we worked in Monumental Lhasa, for example, I asked them to select a single image, and imagine they’re inhabiting it. I want them to explore an artwork on their own terms, play with it in words, not describe or interpret it. Then, they take a stool and the writing supplies provided by the Rubin, and spend about 20-25 minutes making notes in the gallery.
Then we collect ourselves and migrate to the Education Center, where I provide a few prompts the writers can use to develop their notes into a more coherent piece of writing. After they’ve written, each writer shares their piece and we discuss it. Thanks to the Rubin’s magnanimity with space and time, we can enjoy a full writing workshop: pre-write, compose, share, feedback!
What kind of folks attend your workshops?
This kind of program self-selects for exceptional people. These are men and women who seek opportunities for creative exploration and expression and then do justice to these opportunities. I’ve developed kind of a monthly addiction to the imagination, invention, and range of emotion they can bring to extemporaneous writing. They make a completely comfortable space for each other’s expression, curiosity, and fantasy. What I would love is for other people to hear and read the writing that comes out of our sessions. It’s so strong and immediate, it brings unexpected life to the works in the galleries—like a secret garden of creativity inside the museum.
Nina’s monthly writing workshops fall on the first Monday of every month—Senior Mondays, when visitors sixty-five and older get free admission to the Museum and can participate in several free programs.