The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art hired Jean Graves as the Patricia and Joel Meier Chair of Education. She began her tenure April 3. Graves received her Master of Arts in art history from Boston University and her Ph.D. in Art Education from IU.
The Indiana Daily Student spoke with Graves via email on April 10 about her newly appointed position.
IDS: Describe the roles you will be doing as chair of education.
Graves: As chair of education, one of my biggest responsibilities is to ensure that museum resources are used to serve the community. That means doing a lot of listening and learning. I’m always interested in finding out what people think and what is important in their lives. To get a better understanding of IU students’ interests and needs, we are planning to start a student advisory group. We are also using surveys to find out about our visitors; so, if you are asked, please take a moment to respond.
IDS: What does being the Patricia and Joel Meier chair of education mean to you? What excites you about the job?
Graves: This is my dream job. I’m thrilled to be working with a team of topflight educators and curators and a world class art collection. I’m very excited to be back in Bloomington; I finished my Ph.D in Education at IU just a few years ago. I also taught undergraduates here and often brought them to the Eskenazi and other museums on campus. It’s a homecoming for me.
IDS: Describe your professional background.
Graves: My first paid museum job was as a gallery guard. It was an opportunity to closely observe how visitors behave in museums — an experience I still draw on today. Over the years, I’ve worked as a museum educator for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Cleveland Museum of Art and the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of my favorite jobs was bringing real works of art into schools and showing students how to handle them safely. It’s one thing to see an object from ancient Egypt in a case and another to hold it in your hands.
I also conduct research and write about museum education, but that might be a topic for another day. I can get carried away talking about all the interesting things that happen in museums.
IDS: What do you hope to accomplish as chair of education?
Graves: My goal is to help people have meaningful experiences with works of art. Museums are great places for people to learn about art making and art history, and we will always be working to make those connections. However, there are other things you can learn in a museum, too. You can learn about yourself. Looking at works of art might spark your own creativity or offer time to reflect on your own experiences. You also can learn more about people you care about. Listening to my mother explain the details of Grant Wood’s painting “Dinner for Threshers” (at the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco) is one of my favorite museum memories. It was a window into her childhood growing up on a small Midwestern farm.
Graves said she wants everyone to know they are welcome at the museum and information about museum hours, exhibits and programs can be found on the Eskenazi Museum of Art website.