Boot Camp Alum Update: DeTOUR Takeover for Black History Month

We love seeing how our Boot Camp alums are taking what they learned during their time with us and using what they learned to do amazing things back at their own museums.

Shawn leading a new tour celebrating Black History Month at the Memorial Art Gallery.

Jessica Gasbarre, a former Boot Camp attendee, was inspired by her new skills and created the DeTOUR at the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) where she works as the Membership and Engagement Specialist.

The DeTOUR happens on the third Thursday of each month and is an exclusive themed tour that’s both engaging and entertaining.

These tours focus on everything from the crazy personal lives of artists to sharing the inspiration and method to their madness or to lesser known facts about some of more obscure works in the collection. Each tour includes activities, personal connections, and of course mind-blowing stories!

But with February being Black History Month, Jessica wanted to use the opportunity to collaborate with the African American community in Rochester. She invited Shawn Dunwoody, a local artist, to take over the tour.

“Shawn is a local creative in the Rochester community; he is an artist, consultant, and a creative force for change. I told the group that I very much wanted to do a DeTOUR focused on Black History Month, but as a white girl, I felt that it wasn’t my place; I felt Shawn would do the DeTOUR justice. Shawn joked that he was asked because he’s the only African American I know, the group laughed, I started sweating, and the DeTOUR began.” – Jessica Gasbarre

Shawn’s tour focused on celebrating the incredible history of Black and African-American Art at MAG.

Shawn shaped his tour with storytelling, community building, and sharing the tradition of the Black and African American art in MAG’s collection. He helped uncover some secret stories behind artists’ pasts, emphasized the impact of the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement, and celebrated the awesome accomplishments of modern and historical Blacks in the art world and beyond.

As traditional African drums played in the background courtesy of Shawn’s phone, he brought the group into Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Gallery, and focused on the beginning of Black art, emphasizing the importance of knowing one’s roots.

Throughout the tour, Shawn repeated the motifs of color, shape, and rhythm, applying them to artists in the collection such as Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, Alison Saar, Nick Cave, and Sam Gilliam. As Shawn explained how the present builds off the past, he had the group build Lego sculptures in the museum.

The new tours incorporate activities and interaction among guests and the art.

For the grand finale of the tour, Shawn led everyone into a private activity room in the museum and one of MAG’s awesome curators showcased a Romare Bearden piece she brought out of storage for the DeTOUR. Shawn spoke about the history of collage and related it back to color, shape, and rhythm. The tour ended with guests creating their own collage images as music played and laughter ensued.

“What a crazy night. Thank you to everyone that came out. Many rules were broken but it was all for the love of art.” – Shawn Dunwoody

The best part? DeTOUR Takeover continued on for Women’s History Month! They celebrated women in MAG’s collection who made MAG-nificent museums, painted perfect portraits, altered our perceptions of feminism in the art world and who gave women the rights of agency.

If you’re in Rochester, New York, be sure to check out the DeTOUR series and check their full offering of programs.

We’re hosting more Boot Camps in 2017! Spots are limited – reserve yours now.


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