During Her Tenure, Davitt Helped Shape and Oversee Museum’s Educational Initiatives, Including Launch of Center for Creative Connections, smARTphone Tours, and Groundbreaking Research on Visitor Experience at the Museum
Gail Davitt, Chair of Learning Initiatives and the Dallas Museum of Art League Director of Education, is retiring on June 1, 2012, after twenty-six years of service to the Dallas Museum of Art and to the Dallas community. Davitt began her tenure at the Museum in 1986 as a McDermott Graduate Intern in Museum Education, and subsequently served on staff within the DMA’s education department through her appointment as its director in 2005. For the past seven years, as a part of the Museum’s Senior Staff, Davitt has provided vision, leadership, and direction for the DMA’s education division and helped to launch major institutional initiatives, including the 2008 opening of the Center for Creative Connections, the DMA’s groundbreaking education galleries designed for active learning programs based on the Museum’s collection.
“Gail has been an influential voice at the Museum for more than two decades, and her work here has engaged, provoked, and encouraged thousands of visitors—students and teachers, families, and adults alike—into new experiences with art, both in and outside our walls,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “I am sorry not to have had more time to collaborate with Gail personally, but am grateful for all that she accomplished during her tenure and for the legacy of creativity, collaboration, and public engagement that she has helped to establish.”
“Twenty-six years ago I was hired to help the Museum build relationships with local teachers within the community, and my work expanded to include on- and off-site programs that encourage visitors of all ages and backgrounds to engage in direct dialogue with art in their lives,” said Davitt. “I cherish the extraordinary relationships of trust and respect that the DMA has formed with schools and other educational partners within the community and those that I have formed with my colleagues here at the Museum.”
"Gail has significantly enhanced the art world's understanding of engagement with art audiences of all ages. She will be dearly missed and her influence will live on for generations," stated Robert H. Dedman, Jr., chair of the Museum’s Education, Libraries, and Digital Initiatives Committee.
During her tenure, Davitt has worked to engage DMA audiences through a range of programs, partnerships, and new technologies that have enlivened the educational experience. Most notably, as Director of Education Davitt helped direct extensive research on DMA audiences, which resulted in both institutional change and programmatic innovations, and which formed the basis of the Museum’s 2010 book Ignite the Power of Art: Advancing Visitor Engagement in Museums by Bonnie Pitman. She was project director for the planning and development of the initial installation of the Center for Creative Connections, which grew out of this visitor research and established a new institutional precedent of an interactive learning environment for multi-aged visitors. She has also been integral to the launch and ongoing development of the DMA’s smARTphone multi-media tours, which allow visitors to access expanded information and materials related to the art on view in the galleries.
Davitt has worked to established partnerships between the DMA and local school districts as well as individual schools and universities, including particularly productive and longstanding relationships with Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and the University of Texas at Dallas. Eighth-grade students from the DISD Talented and Gifted middle schools work in the museum galleries for four hours approximately every other week; all DISD 4th grade students visit the DMA; and junior visual arts students from Booker T. Washington HSPVA participate in a Learning Lab class co-taught by DMA and Booker T. staff. For over ten years, UTD Professors have collaborated with the Museum on multimedia projects, student programs, and staff development for teachers. Davitt has participated in several evaluation projects with Big Thought and was part of the Lead Working Group for the Dallas Arts Learning Initiative, funded by the Wallace Foundation.
As a member of the National Art Education Association and the American Association of Museums, Davitt has given numerous lectures and presentations during the last twenty years and has presented most recently on the Museum’s visitor research, the Center for Creative Connections, and smARTphone tours at museums in Portland, Maine; Washington, D.C.; and Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, Australia. Davitt served on the Museum Education Development Committee for the National Art Education Association from 1997 to 2003 and from 2002 to 2003 as the Director of the Museum Education division, which named her the National Museum Educator of the Year in 2004. Davitt also serves on the advisory board for the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Prior to her work at the DMA, Davitt was a Research Assistant at the University of Texas at Dallas while working on her Ph.D. in Arts and Humanities, an English and Humanities teacher at West Lafayette High School in West Lafayette, Indiana, and a Teaching Assistant at Purdue University.
About the Dallas Museum of Art:
Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 25,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum welcomes over half a million visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations.
The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
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