Welcome to WAM Updates

WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

We hope you like reading the Updates! If you are interested in learning about something specific, or have a suggestion for a WAM Update, please update us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Timeless Treasures: Beloved Thank-You Notes from Student Visitors

One of the joys of working in the Museum's Education Department is greeting the students arriving for their field trip tours, which are on hold for now. As students gather in the Lancaster Lobby, you can hear excited snippets of conversations and sense their enthusiasm and anticipation. Students then break into groups and meet the docent who will take them on their journey through the galleries. Museum staff and visitors can see the students as they ask questions and view art from around the world. When the students return to the lobby to gather back together, there is much chatter about their experiences. We're always curious what they thought of everything they saw.


One window we have into their time at the Museum is through the thank-you letters we receive from students. We love reading these letters! The notes are incredibly insightful and honest. As Jan Ewick, our school tour supervisor, was departing after 30 years with the Museum, she shared the file of letters she kept in her desk. Here, we share a sampling of these treasured thank-you notes from students who visited WAM on a field trip and also from those students who had a docent bring the Museum to their classroom.

This April 1996 letter from Nora stands out because of this future archaeologist’s enthusiasm for the classroom visit from a WAM docent.

Dear Louise,

Thank you very much for your effort and the time you spent with us. I really appreciated the information about Ancient Egyptian art and life. It helped a lot with the planning of our pyramid. My friend Angela and I are planning to move to Egypt and work as archaeologists in Giza and the Valley of the Kings. Your activities on hieroglyphics have helped us determine what to write in our plans. Thanks again.

Sincerely, Nora

This letter from the same visit shows a wide range of enthusiasm for the Egyptian topic in the classroom.

Dear Louise,

Thank you so very much for coming to Miss Greene’s sixth-grade classroom. I enjoyed having you come to our class and talking to us about Egypt. Some people didn’t like doing the things that you gave us to do. But I did. I enjoyed every bit of it. When you first came I thought, "Boy I would love to know all the stuff she does." But truly I really did enjoy having you come to our class, and hope you can come again.

Sincerely, Nikki

Many people, including our student visitors, are curious if the works on view are replicas. They often voice that the artwork looked “real.” Students also are often surprised and appreciate seeing the contemporary works along with the ancient works. This letter from Donny mentions both of these aspects from his February 2017 note.

Dear Worcester Art Museum,

Thank you for opening the museum early so that we can see your work. The statue that interested me the most was the Knight in armor because he had a shield and other things on him. I also liked the mummy case because it looked like a real mummy. I saw a lot of pictures in one room that had a Rocket TV and the TV was really bright and colorful. I thank you Worcester Art Museum for showing us around.

Sincerely, Donny

One letter, in particular, from Amy in Florida, reveals many of the interesting questions we receive from students.  

I am 9 years old and in fourth grade. I’m in art class. I have questions to ask about your museum. I am wondering if you buy or rent your paintings? Did anybody ever rob your museum? Do you have a kids museum? How do you get big art through the door? Do you have a restaurant? Why do you show Egyptian art? I think I have asked enough questions. May I please have some pictures of your museum?

Thank you, Amy.

Our WAM docents do a great job of answering our student visitors’ questions and sharing how museums work.

Our fourth-grade Worcester Public Schools students can draw and write on their tours. They have specific works for their curriculum that they stop at and discuss with a docent. One artwork is Phillip Evergood’s The Rubber Raft (about 1945). 

The label for this work reads, “When this painting was included in the summer 1945 ‘Contemporary American Painting’ exhibition at San Francisco’s California Palace of the Legion of Honor, a reviewer for Time magazine singled it out as ‘a war footnote in which two helpless, parched men sprawl on a raft surrounded by voracious sharks.’ Like viewers today, the reviewer was no doubt captivated by the bold, violent colors and dramatic draftsmanship that helped emphasize the ominous storyline—as well as the detail of the vivid red mouths and snapping teeth of the hungry sharks encircling the doomed sailors.”

Discussions of this work combined with students’ natural curiosity in sharks have inspired many drawings that have been shared with us, like these here.

Some of our student tours see work from the Middle Ages and meet Neal Bourbeau, our programming coordinator and resident knight, who shares the armor and stories of knights with them. The students honest reflections on their tours provide a glimpse of the work our docents and staff do to keep an excited group of students focused on the learning goals their teachers have for the visit! Here are some snippets from sixth graders’ thank-you notes. 

Arms & Armor Presentations are popular with school children.
Here, a field trip visitor participates in an interactive session
with Neal Bourbeau, WAM program coordinator (right). 

Dear Neal & Mary,

I am a sixth grader who said that the sword is "shiny." I wanted to thank you for an amazing field trip we had today…I was surprised that dogs back then wore Armor. I like that Mary was still talking when my friends sometimes go wander off. Also that Neal was nice and that people said it was pretty fun. --Lexi

I am writing to you today to say thank you for the tour and excellent field work you have prepared for us. I have learned many new things on the visit. For instance, all of the heavy armor knights have to wear. I learned that the art work in the museum is thousands of years old. Thanks gain for the presentation because it was awesome. --Helen”

I am writing to thank you for teaching our group more about the medieval times. Even though my group was distracted with the iPads, you still wanted to keep going with the lesson. I learned a lot more that I didn’t know. --Jayda

We went to the Art Museum because we are learning about religions. I learned that Jesus when he was a baby looked more like an adult. Also that the armor they wore in the Crusades was really heavy. Some feedback that I have is you actually explained to us really good about the paintings and stuff we learned and you showed us more about their weapons and some of the armor they wore so thank you very much for being nice and sorry that we might of got off track.--Carina

I really loved the tour and the beginning when we got to learn about the things they wore to battle. The tour was awesome because we got to see paintings and sculptures they made. The things that people got to wear was also cool because they got to see what is feels like. Thanks so much! --Lindsay”

Honestly I think you guys did an awesome job presenting. You did an awesome job about explaining everything carefully. Keep up the good work and keep putting smiles on people’s faces.--Justin

This last letter is one we've treasured for many years and reminds us of the importance of sharing works of art with young visitors. Students can learn important history and visualize techniques of creating art from our collection, but they also can find beauty and learn about themselves.  

Dear Staff of the Art Museum,

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed going to the Art Museum with my school and seeing all of the beautiful art work. Never in my whole life have I ever seen so many beautiful sculptures and paintings. Most of all I liked seeing the realism paintings. They were so graceful and real. Every time I look at them it makes me feel good about myself and happy to be here. I hope that next year I will get to go to the Art Museum again.

Sincerely, Cassie


We look forward to welcoming students like Cassie back to the Museum when it is safe for them to return for docent-led tours. We miss seeing their smiling faces and witnessing the joy they experience when they explore our galleries. 

—By Aileen Novick, WAM's manager of public and education programs, and Jan Ewick, recently retired school tour supervisor at WAM

December 15, 2020

The images of Museum staff and docents pictured with school children were taken at the Museum prior to March 2020.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Shining a Light on Hanukkah at WAM

Hanukkah, the eight-day holiday, which means "dedication" in Hebrew, commemorates the rededication of the second Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of a sacred lamp putting an end to a dark period in Jewish history. The Hanukkah miracle? The lamp, which only had enough oil for one day and night, stayed lit for eight full days and nights!

In the darkness of December, we welcome the lights to brighten our homes and warm our hearts. Holiday lights—from Diwali to Christmas to Thai Floating Lanterns—show up across myriad different cultures and traditions; these festivals all invite their celebrants to spend time focusing on the joy of bringing in light to brighten our longest nights.

Last year, the Worcester Jewish Community Center (JCC) and WAM made their own Hanukkah history with a truly special celebration at the Museum for nearly 600 people who enjoyed the Hanukkah-themed art, crafts, activities, food, and story times.  JCC preschoolers sang Hanukkah songs in the Renaissance Court, the Wachusett Jazz ensemble performed, and the Chubby Chickpea food truck was a big hit—especially their mouth-watering donut holes ("sufganiyot") and cider. The holiday spirit associated with the Hanukkah lights as they glowed on an otherwise gray, snowy day was surely felt by the attendees.  

Almost immediately after last year’s successful event, we began planning our 2020 Hanukkah celebration. Unbeknownst to us, the COVID-19 pandemic attempted to foil our plans. But it could not; the community would not let that happen! Food, family, lights, and love will be guests again this year as we usher in the spirit of celebration into our lives and into our hearts—this time, in a virtual way.  

Hanukkah 2020 is calling. The JCC and WAM 2020 Hanukkah program is answering. The second Hanukkah at WAM celebration is Sunday, December 6, 11am – 2pm, on Zoom. Be sure to check out the full schedule of events, with a mix of live and recorded happenings, and plan to join us. We are thrilled that Rabbi Valerie Cohen and Cantor Rachel Reef-Simpson of Temple Emanuel Sinai and Rabbi Aviva Fellman of Congregation Beth Israel will participate this year.

Throughout the virtual Hanukkah at WAM program, we will hear from five local individuals—Maxine Glassman, Ron Rosenstock, Nina Ryan, Steven Schimmel, and Wendy Wong—each sharing a “show-and-tell” story about a family menorah. From one family’s first electric menorah, to a musician’s unique harp-shaped menorah, we’ll discover more about these important personal ritual objects. 

Another highlight of the day is the collaboration of WAM’s Library with PJ Library and PJ Our Way/Young Jewish Families of Central Massachusetts. PJ Library is a free program created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that sends age-appropriate Jewish books and music monthly to families with children ages newborn to 8 years old. 

PJ Our Way is a related free program allowing older children to select their own books online. This year’s Hanukkah at WAM features three story sessions, with the first beginning at 11:45am. The readers are Mindy Hall, Outreach Director of Jewish Federation of Central MA, and Rebecca Morin, WAM’s Head Librarian.

Hanukkah at WAM also will feature a preview of the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, What the Nazis Stole from Richard Neumann (and the search to get it back), which will open in May 2021. Claire C. Whitner, Director of Curatorial Affairs and the James A. Welu Curator of European Art, will share the extraordinary story of  Dr. Richard Neumann (1879-1959), a discerning Austrian-Jewish collector committed to promoting the important role of the arts in civic life. Neumann escaped from Nazi-occupied Vienna and Paris during World War II. His family led a 50-year effort to reassemble his art collection alongside restitution advocates, provenance researchers, and museum allies.

The small fraction of his collection successfully restituted to his heirs, will be on extended loan to WAM in keeping with Dr. Neumann's lifelong desire to have great art accessible and enjoyed by the public. 

Rounding out the special virtual festivities will be an edible dreidel craft, cooking demos, a suncatcher art activity, Hanukkah music, and blessings brought to you by dozens of exceptionally talented special guests. 

Here then is the 2020 Hanukkah miracle: counting our blessings, realizing the joy of being together to celebrate, and annual lights that cannot be extinguished. While all our activities will be virtual on December 6, we hope to gather in-person next year. 

Please help make this day shine like a fully lit menorah as Worcester community partners gather to celebrate.

Pre-registration is required to participate in the Virtual Hanukkah at WAM 2020 on December 6. Register here and view the full schedule of events here

—By Emily Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Worcester Jewish Community Center. 

December 2, 2020

All images are from the 2019 Hanukkah at WAM.

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