As a museum educator, I find most of my days at work to be wonderful, but, every once in a while, my job provides me with some truly extraordinary experiences. Like when eight Colorado Scholastics winners were chosen by the Denver Art Museum for an “artist encounter” with our current Native Arts Artist in Residence, Rose B. Simpson. The artist encounter on March 24 was a rare opportunity for these young sculptors to speak with Rose, tour her works on view, and spend a little time in her studio creating. (Photos in slide show below.)
Conversation between students and artist
The entire morning felt intimate and personal, and was an inspiring moment for those of us able to join in on the conversation. It felt like an introduction to art school and provided an idea of what the next decade might be like. The students expressed their concerns and worries, and Rose displayed a calm knack for putting them at ease and focused on what they all had in common. She mentioned many of her different experiences, and the recent culmination of those paths. She even spoke about her time away from the visual arts, when underground hip hop was her scene, taking the opportunity to teach students that life is multifaceted—stressing there isn’t one defined path that an artist needs to take. Rose showed that spending time with the passions she had, whether art-related or not, was an important part of her growth. She gave them ideas to consider, but most of all, she inspired them to stay dedicated.
Rose asked the students to create something of a talisman with the materials provided. She described what it feels like to have something to take with you, to remind you of your strength, and to help you to continue on your path. I imagine this talisman representing this particular moment in time for these students.
I was reminded of a similar memento that I have held onto for nearly a decade, a small red wooden ring that I have held onto the past nine years. After seeing Pablo Picasso’s Guernica for the first time, I immediately needed to buy something to take with me—something I could physically attach to the moment. Every time I touch that ring, I imagine the feeling of standing in front of Picasso’s masterpiece, and how much that meant to me.
I imagine these students may keep these talismans for a long time, reminding themselves of the poignant conversation and inspiring words spoken by Rose. It may help them remember what it felt like to hear her stories. Rose didn’t speak to the students like a teacher, nor did she present herself as a peer. Instead, she seemed more like a guide, someone who sheds a little light on what life might be like in the coming years.
I believe that the DAM truly made a difference in connecting these students with Rose, and that Rose was impacted as well, by sharing her stories. Rose made a statement during the encounter that resonated with me. She said, “Truly, you can only tell people what it feels like to be you.” So, I can’t speak for Rose, nor the students. I can only tell you that I left with an uplifted spirit.
Learn more about student art showcases & Rose Simpson
You can learn more about our student art showcases here and see photos of the Colorado Scholastics artwork chosen to be in the Scholastics Showcase here. If you want to learn more about Rose, she is on-site at the DAM until April 27 and will be at Untitled #66 (Rebel, Rebel) on Friday, April 25.