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For visitors to Van Gogh in America, operation hours are extended until 5 p.m. Tues-Thurs and 6 p.m. Sat-Sun.

Director’s Letter, January 2016

Updated Jul 20, 2022

From the Director

Last month, I accepted an invitation issued to all DIA staff by Charles "Charlie" Garling, our director of studio programs, to paint a clay bowl in the museum's art studio. I must admit I felt encouraged by his statement that "no artistic experience necessary." Many staff members joined me in this activity, and we will donate the bowls to Detroit's Cass Community Social Services, which will host an Empty Bowls event--a charity dinner to raise both awareness and funds in the fight to end hunger.

As I was walking to the studio, I was thinking how refreshing it is to see the DIA participate in community efforts and how art acts as an inspiring vehicle to bring people together. In the studio, I picked up one of the available plain clay bowls that studio teaching artist Soh Suzuki had created, and then Charlie, teaching artist Byron Nemela (at right in photo below), and others showed me what to do. On a busy administrative day, taking the time to dip the brushes in the dense yet liquid paint felt pretty good to me. Happiness filled me and I focused on applying the paint following the lines left on the clay bowl by the rotation of the potter's wheel.

 

Because I work with art and I am a scholar specializing in the great seventeenth- century Spanish master Diego Velázquez, many times friends and new acquaintances have asked me whether I, too, am a painter. The answer is that I do not paint or perform any other artistic activity, and, frankly, I have no talent for it--the proof being the clay bowl I painted in the studio. This may sound disappointing, but the reality is that to enjoy art one does not need to know how to make it, in the same way that one does not need to write like William Shakespeare to enjoy Romeo and Juliet. Painting, like writing, is a way of expressing one's self using a language. In fact, painting is a language on its own, and I was born with the curiosity to understand that language. Anyone can with a bit of attention and training.

Next time you come to the DIA and walk in the galleries, look at our extraordinary collection and remember that each work is speaking to you, sending you a message. It could be, for example, a well-balanced use of light and color in a painting, which conveys a sense of serenity to soothe the soul. Hearing the language of painting, music, sculpture, or any other art illustrates the many ways we can communicate with each other in various codes. All are languages for you to enjoy. One does not need to make art to understand its language, but if you have the talent please use it and tell us how you see the world. In the meantime, I made a resolution to continue painting clay bowls or any other surface when I have the opportunity. I hope that the clay bowl I clumsily painted will at least convey the happiness I felt seeing our great museum be an active part our community.

Last month, I accepted an invitation issued to all DIA staff by Charles "Charlie" Garling, our director of studio programs, to paint a clay bowl in the museum's art studio. I must admit I felt encouraged by his statement that "no artistic experience necessary." Many staff members joined me in this activity, and we will donate the bowls to Detroit's Cass Community Social Services, which will host an Empty Bowls event--a charity dinner to raise both awareness and funds in the fight to end hunger.

As I was walking to the studio, I was thinking how refreshing it is to see the DIA participate in community efforts and how art acts as an inspiring vehicle to bring people together. In the studio, I picked up one of the available plain clay bowls that studio teaching artist Soh Suzuki had created, and then Charlie, teaching artist Byron Nemela (at right in photo below), and others showed me what to do. On a busy administrative day, taking the time to dip the brushes in the dense yet liquid paint felt pretty good to me. Happiness filled me and I focused on applying the paint following the lines left on the clay bowl by the rotation of the potter's wheel.

 

Because I work with art and I am a scholar specializing in the great seventeenth- century Spanish master Diego Velázquez, many times friends and new acquaintances have asked me whether I, too, am a painter. The answer is that I do not paint or perform any other artistic activity, and, frankly, I have no talent for it--the proof being the clay bowl I painted in the studio. This may sound disappointing, but the reality is that to enjoy art one does not need to know how to make it, in the same way that one does not need to write like William Shakespeare to enjoy Romeo and Juliet. Painting, like writing, is a way of expressing one's self using a language. In fact, painting is a language on its own, and I was born with the curiosity to understand that language. Anyone can with a bit of attention and training.

Next time you come to the DIA and walk in the galleries, look at our extraordinary collection and remember that each work is speaking to you, sending you a message. It could be, for example, a well-balanced use of light and color in a painting, which conveys a sense of serenity to soothe the soul. Hearing the language of painting, music, sculpture, or any other art illustrates the many ways we can communicate with each other in various codes. All are languages for you to enjoy. One does not need to make art to understand its language, but if you have the talent please use it and tell us how you see the world. In the meantime, I made a resolution to continue painting clay bowls or any other surface when I have the opportunity. I hope that the clay bowl I clumsily painted will at least convey the happiness I felt seeing our great museum be an active part our community.