Stefania Van Dyke with Catharine McCord and 2 audio people on a bench at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Behind the Scenes of the Monet Exhibition Audio Tour

These Monet Moment blogs are designed to give you an inside look at the exhibition. For this blog, we wanted to take you behind the scenes of how we pull together an audio tour for an exhibition.

For Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature (opens in October) there will be two audio tours: one for families (which is being developed by Lindsay Genshaft, manager of family programs) and one for adults, which I’m working on.

When you hear people with deep understanding and passion talk candidly about Monet and his paintings, the authentic emotion in their voices enhances your experience looking at the artworks—some of which you may have looked at before but not truly seen.

That is why we approached the adult audio tour for Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature as a conversation. For this exhibition, I wanted the audio tour to feel like your favorite podcast, in which commentators who seem like friends chat with humor, humility, insight, and humanity. In this case, those friends are the museum’s director (Christoph Heinrich) and chief curator (Angelica Daneo) discussing, debating, and musing about Monet’s quest for the “truth of nature.”

Christoph and Angelica unify the conversation, in which guests pop in to offer new ways of looking at the paintings. I interviewed five non-art experts, each with an unexpected perspective:

  1. Mike Kerwin (professor of geology and director of the environmental science program, University of Denver) marveled at the nuanced and surprising colors in Monet’s paintings of the white chalk cliffs of the Alabaster Coast of France.
  2. Jim Fleming (professor of science, technology, and society at Colby College) evoked the damp glow of Venice’s unique climate, as depicted by Monet.
  3. Joan DeJean (trustee professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City) relayed important context for what was happening in Paris when Monet was there, and helps us feel like we’re there with him.
  4. Catharine McCord (adult programs coordinator and therapeutic horticulturalist, Denver Botanic Gardens) elicited empathy for the aging Monet, who found refuge by immersing himself in the lush expanse of his garden at Giverny.
  5. Tamara Kilbane (curator of aquatic collections, Denver Botanic Gardens) provided insights about Monet’s beloved water lilies and what makes them such special plants.

We hope the audio tour is a compelling, authentic narrative that will help you see Monet and his paintings in a new way.

Image: Stefania Van Dyke and Catharine McCord recording their interview at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Stefania Van Dyke is a senior interpretive specialist. Her favorite Monet factoid is that, in their youth, he and Renoir apparently spent an entire year surviving on potatoes.