If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you’ll know that MoMA has been experimenting with “pop-ups”—drop-in learning and art-making spaces—in closer proximity to the galleries for the past couple of years. These impromptu spaces are something that the Department of Education has long advocated for because offering hands-on activities helps visitors make connections to the art on view. By leaving the classroom walls behind, these pop-ups create an accessible and welcoming environment that invites participation.
Our most recent pop-up, Erasures: A Poetry Workshop Inspired by Marcel Broodthaers, has been held in the second-floor bookstore at the Museum, and although removed from the exhibition (on the sixth floor), it is still in a highly trafficked area. Since March 15, Erasures has been taking place every Tuesday from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m., with the last workshop scheduled for tomorrow, April 19. Each workshop is an hour long but people are welcome to stay for more than one session as space allows.
During these workshops I’ve been collecting observational data and sending post-workshop surveys to participants. Similar to other MoMA pop-ups, the majority of people who didn’t know about it before coming to the Museum found out about it by stumbling upon it. This is one of the great benefits of having these experiences in more visible areas. Visitors also seem to enjoy the feeling of discovering something that hadn’t been on their radar. As one participant commented, “it seemed like a novel and exciting way to interact with contemporary art.” Ninety percent of participants indicated that they had a special interest in the written word, which suggests some of the motivation for participating, along with an interest in trying something new and interacting with art and language in a hands-on way.
We also discovered that sixty-two percent had never heard of the artist Marcel Broodthaers before participating in this workshop and that many were prompted to explore the exhibition of his work following the workshop. As we have learned from past drop-in learning programs, these experiences not only introduce visitors to artists in an engaging way but also encourage deeper inquiry and help to spark curiosity. One participant explained, “The hosts shared a genuine love for Marcel Broodthaers and I think he himself would have loved the workshop. Lifting the words off and onto the pages through erasure, experimentation, and playful creativity.” This sense of creativity and experimentation was mentioned by many others when asked what they took away from their experience. Participants seemed to feel a sense of freedom to explore words and materials in new ways and to think about art with a fresh open-mindedness. It also helped participants understand Broodthaers’s process by engaging in it themselves. As one participant expressed, it gave them the “freedom to rethink.” Reflecting on what captured their interest during the workshop many participants talked about their own reaction to the process as well observing the reactions of others. For example, one person remarked: “Watching the youngest members of our group ‘play’ in a completely uninhibited way with the concept of covering parts of poems was really a joy, their creative instincts were so instantly accessible to them. Great teaching method. I showed it afterwards to a Professor of Comparitive Literature and Philosophy and his face lit up with pleasure. He wants to attend a workshop now.”
It’s amazing how much participation in these workshops can enhance visitors’ overall experience at the Museum. An overwhelming ninety percent said the workshop positively impacted the rest of their visit to MoMA; surveys from previous pop-ups yielded similar results. One participant said, “It was exciting to participate in a MoMA workshop and to have hands-on experiences while delving into some of the motivations and techniques used by Marcel Broodthaers. Especially having the chance to work alongside the translator of many of his works, someone so intimate with the artist’s poetry. Felt like we were given an insider’s look into the world of a wonderful artist.”
If you missed out on participating in these free (with admission) Broodthaers-inspired workshops, don’t worry! Beginning April 26, another pop-up workshop, Degas in Process: Making a Monotype, will take place on Tuesdays, from 12:00 to 1:15 p.m. and from 1:45 to 3:00 p.m. in the second-floor bookstore.