Salvatori Fellow Sami Wilde (’24): An Inside Look Into How I Spent My Senior Year at Rollins Museum of Art

By on May 21st, 2024 in Education, Working at Rollins Museum of Art

Working at the Rollins Museum of Art has been a large part of my time at Rollins College. Before I became the Salvatori Education Fellow, I was a student gallery docent and then a student docent. This means that I was familiar with the Rollins Museum of Art collection prior to this year. I have always loved museums and have seen myself working within the realm of education, so when I heard about the Romano and Mariolina Salvatori Education Interpretive Fellowship, I immediately applied and hoped I would at least be considered. I was ecstatic when Associate Curator of Education David Matteson reached out to offer me the position. 

Tours: From Docent to Designer

Before this year, I gave highlights tours at RMA for almost three years, but I worked off a premade tour sheet, only adding small quips and questions here and there. In the fall, David told me I would be creating and giving my own tour of Voice of the People: Freedom of Speech, an exhibition in conversation with the common read theme: political polarization. The common read theme looks at different topics that have two very strong sides so that students learn how to have discussions over hot topics.  

Sami Wilde gives the tour she designed for Voice of the People: Freedom of Speech at Rollins Museum of Art

I was terrified of creating a tour and doing the research by myself, but David gave me tremendous guidance. When I turned in my first draft for him to look over, I remember David being surprised by some of the works I chose. We spent weeks making small changes and doing run-throughs until I was happy with the tour. On November 10th, it was time for me to give my tour to the public. The group that came was extremely responsive. My questions were met with large discussions between patrons about the art.

Planning Spring Fling Family Day

The culminating project of my fellowship was planning and putting on Spring Fling a full day of family engagement with arts. This was my third Spring Fling working at RMA, but this time, I was in charge of the activities, making the marketing material, and handling the volunteers during the event. I created the design scheme of Spring Fling, which meant I then had to create all the materials, from flyers to volunteer name tags to the schedule and even a scavenger hunt.

I always knew that an event as big as Spring Fling must be a large task behind the scenes; however, when David asked me to pick artwork to inspire art activities, I was overwhelmed by the endless options of art on display I could choose from. I wanted to make sure that every exhibition currently on display was highlighted with an art activity.

We had already decided on having a puppeteer perform during the event, so why not have the children make puppets? The idea seems simple, but figuring out the three works on display that fit as inspiration for the rod puppets was a hard task. I wanted to find works that I thought the children would love. I ended up choosing The Willian Denning Family, Protesters I-V, and The Fiddler as the inspiration for the puppets.

After months of planning, the day arrived, I was so excited to see all my work come to fruition, but I was also nervous. I had never been in charge of an event like this. Once set up was finished and the volunteers started arriving, I made sure everyone was settled and understood the art activity where they were stationed. Throughout the event, I don’t think I sat down for more than ten minutes, but it was the most rewarding and exciting day. I jumped between helping at the rod-puppet-making station and checking in on all the volunteers. Watching all of the young artists express themselves was the best feeling in the world.

Making Connections with Works on View

William Williams
(American, 1727-1791)
The William Denning Family, 1772
Oil on canvas
40 ¾ x 57 in.
Gift from the Martin Andersen-Gracia Andersen Foundation, Inc, 2022.33

I asked a couple of young artists when they were finished, if they wanted to take a photo in front of the artwork that inspired the puppet. They were so excited as I guided them through the gallery. When one girl saw The William Denning Family, as pictured below, she got so excited. She had made a similar dress pattern without seeing the painting before coloring her puppet!

It was a hot day, so making sure everyone swapped into inside roles and had enough water was my main concern. It was so rewarding when David came up to me after I had done almost a full swap of volunteers from outside stations to inside ones and told me that I was doing great and on the ball.

Designing a Gallery Guide

RMA has an interactive Gallery Guide for children to use while going through the exhibitions. It is a huge hit. Every time I see a child in the gallery with the guide they are happily drawing, writing notes, and answering questions about the art. When the time came to create the guide for the summer, I met with the head curator to figure out which of the works she thought would be the best to highlight for the children. I took the eight works we discussed and narrowed them down to six, explaining a key aspect of the works and creating activities to go with each work. Once all the content was created, I got to design the booklet, making the activities appeal to a wide range of elementary-age children.

Summer 2024 Gallery Guide designed by Sami Wilde

What I Gained From Working at Rollins Museum of Art

Overall, my time here at RMA has taught me many tools that will help me in my future endeavors. I have now created a tour and know how to research contemporary art. I planned art activities, created materials, and oversaw volunteers for Spring Fling. Often children can become bored in a museum if they are not stimulated, so being able to create the Gallery Guide for the summer, I was able to help them connect with the art on display. The fellowship has prepared me as I take the next step in my life, of going to graduate school. I understand so much more about the inner workings of museums and how I can contribute to an education department.

— Sami Wilde (’24), Romano and Mariolina Salvatori Education Interpretive Fellow

Learn more about Spring Fling at Rollins Museum of Art

Visit Rollins Museum of Art’s Learn & Engage page for activities, events, and family resources

Front view of the Rollins Museum of Art brown buiilding

Enjoy FREE ADMISSION to Rollins Museum of Art Tuesday through Sunday! Visit our website for hours of operation, exhibitions, and upcoming events.

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