These activities are designed to help visitors actively engage Kara Walker's complex and provocative work. They can be paired with content found in other sections of this Web site including Themes, Techniques and Media, and Types of Response.
Booking a guided or self-guided visit.
Before Your Visit
Visitors learn best when they are prepared for the upcoming museum experience. Giving your group more information will help set the stage for an enjoyable and memorable experience. Suggestions:
- Get acquainted with the Walker Art Center
- Explore the Techniques and Media and Themes sections of this Web site
- Review background material (see Annotated Resource List)
- Listen to Kara Walker in conversation with curator Philippe Vergne
In the Galleries
The following group activities are meant to enliven and deepen your group’s visit to the exhibition.
The Questions Game
Goal of the Activity:
- Viewers understand that Kara Walker’s dramas inspire inquiry from multiple points of view; they explore how her work raises questions about race, gender, sexuality, and slavery, and they see that she provides no clear or easy resolutions.
- Facilitator will use questions from viewers as a starting point for discussion.
- Select a large-scale work in the galleries and, working with the entire group or with smaller subgroups, ask individuals in the group to share the first questions that come to mind. Ask the group to generate questions for a few minutes. Instruct participants to resist the urge to answer them.
- Explore the multiple points of view or types of responses that inspired the questions (Is it a descriptive question such as “I don’t know what that shape represents?”; an associative question such as “Where did this image come from?”; an emotional question such as “Why is this work so disturbing?”; or a meaning question such as “I don’t get why Kara Walker made this?”). Discuss which points of view or types of responses are most prevalent in viewers’ questions.
- Referring to the Themes section, discuss the ways that these questions illuminate aspects of the work.
Crafting A Shared Story
Kara Walker’s work invites viewers to imagine stories from scenes that are presented frozen and disconnected.
- Prior to their visit, have participants review the Narrative and History: Collusion of Fact and Fiction sections of this Web site.
Goal of the activity:
- Viewers discover possible interpretations of stories from studying the work.
- Ask the entire group to silently view one artwork for a few minutes, noticing as many details as they can.
- Ask the participant to begin by imagining the setting, characters, and actions that led to the present scene.
- Invite another participant to describe the actions they see occurring in the present. Include the conflicts and motivations that create the plot of this scene.
- Ask one participant to describe how this story might continue into the future and eventually end. Include the resolution of the conflict or climatic interaction of the characters.
- Did the story's action flow logically or shift unpredictably from one teller to another? Why did this happen?
- How would you describe the genre of the story you crafted? Is it historical fiction, a fable, a romance novel, a horror tale, a biographical narrative, a political satire, or something else?
- Did participants feel that issues of race, identity, or personal experience shaped their interpretation of the work? To avoid conflict, remind participants to speak only from their point of view and in the first-person singular.
Goal of the Activity:
- Viewers discover associations and capture initial responses to Kara Walker's work. This activity may also be used to begin a more in-depth writing exercise that is completed after the gallery visit.
- Remind participants to bring pencils and notebooks or provide them for the group. Pens and markers are not allowed in the galleries. Stools are available for use. Inquire at either lobby.
- Have participants choose a particular work of art.
- Instruct them to write continuously for 3-5 minutes on whatever comes to mind as they view the artwork.
- Remind participants to refrain from editing or censoring themselves and to disregard punctuation and grammar.
- When time is up, have participants read over their free writing and circle what they think is their best sentence or phrase.
- As time permits, allow the students to share their favorite sentence or phrase from what they have written.
After Your Visit
Active learning is reinforced by self-reflection, reviewing the significance of the experience, and actively linking newly aquired information and existing knowledge.
Ask the following questions of your group near the end of your visit, as you travel back to your school, or a homework assignment.
- What one thing will you remember from your visit?
- What did you like the most?
- What disturbed you? What did you like the least?
- What big ideas or questions do you have now that you did not have before?
- What connections can you make between what you just learned and things you knew about the work or the artist before your visit?
In the Classroom or Studio
Kara Walker's Concept/Your Medium
investigate the main concepts in Kara Walker's work. Start by reviewing the different themes on this Web site, explore one or more using the medium of your preference: drawing, painting, dance, etc.
Your Concept/Kara Walker's Medium
Use the rich set of artistic approaches found in Kara Walker's work to explore new aspects of the concepts or themes in your own artistic work. The Techniques and Media section of this site will give you insights into the working methods employed by the artist.
Schedule a Guided Tour
Guided tours of the exhibition Kara Walker: My Lover, My Complement, My Enemy, My Love are available for high school, college and adult groups. Led by highly trained volunteers, these tours are designed to meet the needs and expectations of each individual group. With a focus on conversation and dialogue, a guided tour experience will enhance your understanding of the complexity found in the work of Kara Walker.
Tours are offered for groups of 10-90 visitors. The maximum number of people that can be admitted as one group may vary due to available space and tour guides. Self-guided tours are limited to 60 students. For more specific information about tour prices and offerings, visit learn.walkerart.org.
Check out resources and accomodations for visitors at the Walker: http://learn.walkerart.org/tour.wac
Host a book club
Kara Walker describes her work as both visual and literary. Works of fiction ranging from Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1852 to the contemporary novels of Toni Morrison act as influences on her work and her interest in narrative.
Reading fiction that inspired Kara Walker is a great way to help you understand her art. First, visit the Annotated Resource List to review the selection of novels and plays that relate thematically to her subject matter. Select a novel or play from the resource list, read it in your book club or group, and then visit the exhibtion. Group tours of 10 or more people receive discounted admission and can schedule a private guided tour of any exhibition for a minimal additional fee. Visit the Tours section of the Walker Web site to learn more.
If you are not part of a book club, you are welcome to join the Artist’s Bookshelf. Copresented by the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library, the Walker's book club focuses on shared themes between contemporary literature and contemporary art. The Artist’s Bookshelf meets on Target Free Thursday Nights on the first Thursday of the month. In winter/spring 2007 the Artist’s Bookshelf will read titles related to Kara Walker’s work. Participants, are welcome to join a free guided tour of the exhibition Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love at 6 pm on those dates''.
Plan a Community Dialogue
A visit to the exhibition can be used as a springboard for dialogue on the complex and often divisive issues of race, representation, and identity that inform Kara Walker's work. Planning and hosting such an event in your community may provide an opportunity to increase tolerance and understanding and strengthen relationships between friends and neighbors. However, dialogue on these topics can also reveal significant differences of opinion and experience. Thoughtful consideration should be given to all aspects of a community event where difficult subject matter is discussed. Engaging an experienced facilitator can help insure a positive outcome for your community event.
A number of planning tools are also available online to help plan your community event. A Planning Guide developed by Animating Democracy can be downloaded and used to structure your event. The Art and Civic Engagement Workbook developed by the Walker can also be helpful in hosting an arts-based civic engagement activity in conjunction with the exhibition.