Inside the Addison: Jamie Kaplowitz

Equipped with a pair of white lint-free gloves, Jamie Kaplowitz moves from photo to photo, drawing an English class’s attention to the details of images selected for the class. Kaplowitz’ job, a natural extension of her lifelong love for art, centers on creating meaningful connections between students and art.

“I’ve always been an art kid. I always loved expressing myself and always took art classes after school when I was younger. Art has been a big part of the way I express myself and a big part of my identity throughout my life,” said Kaplowitz.

“I do remember one of my first ‘whoa’ moments in a museum – I grew up right outside New York City and I have a really vivid memory of being at the American Museum of Natural History and standing in front of the enormous cross section of a white spruce that lived from 1441 to 1931 and thinking ‘Wait, this is real!’ I think those ‘is this real’ moments are one of the reasons that museums are really important. There’s something about seeing that real thing that can’t be imitated with a JPEG,” said Kaplowitz in an e-mail to The Phillipian.

After years of artistic training in art-making on various media, as well as methods of teaching and learning, Kaplowitz found what she describes as the “perfect job” in 2008 when a fellowship position in Education Department opened up at the Addison Gallery of American Art. For almost six years as the Education Associate and Museum Learning Specialist of the Addison Gallery, Kaplowitz has been working closely with visitors of the Addison, learning and teaching, discussing the collections, and exchanging knowledge and opinions about the Addison’s works of art.

According to Kaplowitz, the Addison is largely a “teaching museum.” Its Museum Learning Center allows visitors to not only be inspired by artwork not on view in the galleries and learn about it, but to reflect upon the artwork they see and relate it to their own experiences. As the Museum Learning Specialist, Kaplowitz shares her passion for art with visiting Andover students and faculty members by giving tours of the exhibitions, teaching the visitors about the history of the collections, and conducting thought-provoking discussions.

Kaplowitz strives to create an open, interactive, and analytical atmosphere at the Addison that gives students and faculty members an opportunity to look deeper into the artwork.

“I ask visitors questions about the artwork, helping students to really learn to look, to identify details, and to use those details to back up their analysis… Teaching art isn’t my focus. It’s not about teaching artistic styles, it’s more about using images to support the teaching of other subjects,” said Kaplowitz. “Just like in English class, where the teacher emphasizes reading in between the lines to really understand what an author is trying to say, it’s incredibly important to be able to read between the lines of an image. We live in an incredibly visual world, and processing visual information is a skill that everyone should learn and practice.”

Kaplowitz feels fortunate to have a job where staff members, students, faculty members, and visitors can all contribute their opinions, participate in flexible, intelligent discussions, and learn from each other’s experiences and knowledge.

“My favorite part of my job is that it involves co-teaching. In a way, it’s like we’re all teaching and learning from each other,” said Kaplowitz

According to Kaplowitz, even though she has learned about the Addison’s works by Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe and Winslow Homer for years, students and visitors are always bringing fresh ideas and new perspectives to the table, helping her to see the works in new ways and make new connections. Since Kaplowitz never knows which direction a conversation will flow, she thinks on her feet and discusses the pieces students are most drawn to.

“The faculty bring their knowledge of the content area and can prompt students to make connections between the way we’re talking about the artwork and something they read or talked about in class,” Kaplowitz said. “Students each bring their own individual interpretations, based on their interests, their past experiences, and their prior knowledge.”

Kaplowitz plans to continue teaching and learning from the students she meets. “I learn so much from both faculty and students, on and off campus. I might have four different conversations in one day about one painting with four different classes, and every conversation is different. I walk away from that painting each time seeing it in a whole new way, and I hope students do too.”