Always ready with nuggets of knowledge
If you’ve taken one of our gallery tours, you’ve experienced the breadth of knowledge, creativity and humor our gallery guides hold. These staff spend hours researching — and hours in front of — artworks on view, cultivating tidbits and need-to-know info for their guided tours, from cheeky insights about the artists to fascinating facts about the works.
"Each guide brings a unique passion for art to their tours,” says Coordinator of Tour and School Programs Rae Stone. “I beam with pride every time I get to tag along on one of their tours, because they connect with our visitors on a personal and meaningful basis. They are rock stars, and every visitor who goes on a tour will gain knowledge about contemporary art."
This #ThursdayThree highlights a few of our talented guides, their passions and cherished moments in the galleries. Whether you meet them on a School Group Visit, Second Saturday, group or weekly public tour, this crew is filled with insider details, and they’ve chosen their favorites to share with you.
Dana is from OKC and attended both Baylor University and Oklahoma Christian University’s School of Law. Practicing law was her first career, being a full-time mom to three kiddos her second, and she’s found herself in the arts at Oklahoma Contemporary as her third. As an arts enthusiast, Dana finds joy in supporting and promoting the city’s arts community.
Being a gallery guide means learning all about the artists and artworks on view — their stories, their influences and their journeys — and that’s Dana’s favorite part. Gaining insight from those who attend her tours is a top contender, too.
“I enjoy meeting the public who attend the tours, hearing their perspectives and observations about the artworks,” Dana says. “I especially enjoy the kids on school tours. They share without inhibition and are remarkably insightful!”
One of Dana’s favorite Oklahoma Contemporary works is Ed Ruscha’s Chocolate Room, on view in Ed Ruscha: OKLA.
“People couldn't believe that we created the installation on site, melting over 100 pounds of Hershey's chocolate bars, then silkscreening the chocolate onto 360 panels of special paper,” Dana says. “It was also fun to share that his original 1970's version was eaten by ants!”
Nym has a history in a variety of artistic practices, largely centered on immersive and interactive installations, with a focus on storytelling through art. An artist of many mediums, Nym experiments any chance she gets, exploring oils, photo manipulation, inks, metaphorical self-portraits and underwater realms. She even showed her work in the staff exhibition, art_work_2022. After joining our VE team in 2022, it felt natural for Nym to also become a gallery guide.
Like Dana, Nym is inspired and fascinated by the interactions she has with visitors during a guided tour.
“By far, my favorite part of giving tours is when a guest completely knocks me out of the water with a question, angle or interpretation I’d never considered,” Nym says. “I tend to spend a very long time with each piece beforehand, and I’m a bit of an over thinker, so I love that surprise that forces me to reconsider my assumptions and interpretation of a work.”
“Kids do this a lot; they make wild and bizarre connections, just pure creativity. I ask them, ‘What happened to the people in this painting?’ And they tell me, completely sincerely, that they all turned into pickles. I love how those unexpected discussions cause an evolution in the narrative of the piece — it deepens my own analysis and enriches every discussion afterwards. The more bizarre, the better.”
A fun-fact enthusiast, Nym revels in the opportunity to share hidden details or lesser-known insights with viewers. When The Art of Food: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation opened, Nym was ready: A Wayne Thiebaud piece would be on view. During her childhood discoveries of art, Nym gravitated toward Thiebaud’s work, and now, with Thiebaud’s Sandwich hanging in the Main Gallery, Nym has learned even more.
“The more I research him, it really gives the impression he was just a genuine, sweet, kind man from a similar background to my own, who loved to paint things that made him and his loved ones happy,” Nym says. “Fun fact: He used to work for Walt Disney Animation Studios. Specifically, he was a tweener, which is a pretty thankless, repetitive, laborious job that only paid $14 a week. He worked on the original Disney 1940 release of Pinocchio and some Goofy-centric shorts. He got fired after a few months. Rumor has it he was trying to unionize! Love that for him.”
Taylor is a senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, majoring in museum studies with an emphasis in art and graphic design history. She expresses herself through writing and yoga — she’s acquired 200+ hours of yoga training.
Her top moments in the gallery are watching and hearing visitors’ reactions to her favorite works.
“As a guide, I’m meant to be knowledgeable in order to give the best tours that I can, but you never stop learning and having conversations with visitors,” Taylor said. “It keeps my mind open.”
When Taylor was prepping tour material for The Art of Food, she dove into Neal Ambrose-Smith’s The World According to Monsanto, researching the Monsanto Company and the troublesome history represented in Ambrose-Smith’s on-view print.
“As soon as I mention Roundup, visitors’ eyes light with connections and deeper understandings, making their own meaning of the piece,” Taylor says.
Now that you know what to expect from a public tour, it’s time to take one! Join us any Saturday at 1 p.m. — bring a friend, the fam or hit it solo! Our gallery guides have you covered.
Return to New Light.