Featured image credit: Vinton County high school Spanish students doing an activity in the Passion Works exhibit

Hello blog readers! My name is Rachel Broughton and I’m the Spanish Language Programs Assistant here at the Kennedy Museum of Art.

After working at a library and a hardware store for the past five years, I heard about a job at the Kennedy that involved Spanish and art, and instantly jumped on applying. I was looking for a job where I would get to use my brain, think creatively, and collaborate with others. That’s exactly what I got here at the Kennedy, and I am so grateful that I found a place that allows me to express my own style and methods of working. Another plus is that I get to use my Spanish skills on a regular basis!

I am an anthropology major. I specialize in Law and Society Studies, Latin American Studies, and Spanish. Since I can remember, museums have been my happy place, and this job is such a great opportunity for me to bring art and creativity into a sometimes stale academic career. I also love to collaborate between my knowledge as an anthropologist and the art I interact with here at the Kennedy.

A photo of me in my favorite museum in the world (besides the Kennedy, of course!) – The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City

Every semester, my coworker Jess Minarchek and I, along with Professor Emeritus David Burton, do extra credit tours for 2000 level Spanish language classes. These tours are usually packed into a few weeks, and are often back to back. We focus on vocabulary, observations, critical thinking, visual thinking strategies, and open discussion in Spanish. My first tour, I was so nervous. I soon found that the more tours you give, the more it feels like a discussion with others and the less it feels like a speech in front of an audience.

It is gratifying to see Spanish students connect with art, and I believe that creativity and critical thinking are the two most important parts of connecting with and learning a new language. Of course, those go along quite well with learning about art. I see students who are typically shy in their language classes open up in this setting. The museum provides a new atmosphere that encourages open-ended discussions and all ideas. For my first set of Spanish tours, we toured around the Passion Works exhibit. Full of bright color and energy, this was a great exhibit to energize students and get them talking. I love seeing shy students open up over the course of a tour, or open up once they find a piece they really connect with.

Me giving directions to Vinton County high schoolers

My second semester at the Kennedy, we toured the School of Art + Design faculty exhibit for the Spring Spanish tours. With such a variety of materials and formats, the faculty exhibit provided an excellent environment to discuss types of art. Some of the more experimental or modern pieces often prompted the question “how do you define art?”. Students were able to express which pieces they liked and which they didn’t, and it always began a great discussion when a piece was one student’s favorite, and another student’s least favorite in the exhibit. This let us talk about how the perception of art is different for everyone, and made everyone confident that there are no wrong answers!

Jess Minarchek and I with the OU Translation Club and visiting students from Mexico!

Another thing I had the great opportunity of doing here at the Kennedy was a tour for Ohio University’s translation club and a group of visiting students from Mexico. We discussed how you translate art from its source language into a target language without losing its meaning and significance, and we did an exercise of translating the artist statements and piece descriptions into the student’s chosen target language, which proved to be fascinatingly challenging. I also had the opportunity of touring some 3000 level conversational Spanish classes with my favorite exhibit, the Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects. Weems’ work is quite complex and brings with it a lot of heaviness, as it relates to police brutality and stereotypes of people of color in our society. I was worried that the Spanish class wouldn’t have the proper vocabulary tools to discuss this exhibit properly. I was blown away by their examination and analysis of the work, and they brought up aspects of the art that I had never even realized before!

Translation Club and Visiting Mexican students in the Passion Works exhibit

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity this year to interact so much with two of my favorite things: language learning and art! I find myself getting excited to go to work (which I think most college students can attest, that is quite a unique feeling), and excited to not only guide others in their learning, but learn a whole lot myself!

If you want to hear more from my Coworker, Jess Minarcheck, click to continue reading!