How Quickly We Make Friends of Strangers

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How Quickly We Make Friends of Strangers

By Kathleen Hutton, Director of Education | @KathleenHutton
My daughter will be graduating from college this Mother’s Day. These days she is finishing up her final class projects and saying her goodbyes to the elementary and middle school students she tutors while also winding down four full years. She is trying not to think about saying goodbye to her friends and her professors with whom she has grown so close in such a short time. Days are zipping past while every individual moment seems to remind her that this particular chapter of her life is coming to an end . . .
To a much lesser extent but in the same way, I am experiencing a crazy range of emotions from exhilaration to exhaustion and triumph mixed with sadness as we enter the final week of American Moderns, 1910-1960: O’Keeffe to Rockwell. We’ll have to do the final number crunching when it’s all over, but it’s clearly been a huge success. We had an incredible Community Day on April 12, welcoming more than 1,800 visitors to the grounds and Museum. 
The Education staff and Reynolda docents have led seemingly innumerable groups of 8 to 10 or 12 visitors per docent for 90-minute tours. It’s been a continual challenge to fill all the tour requests for this exhibition; our docents have seen their mailboxes fill up with pleas for assistance—and have responded enthusiastically. Many times this spring I heard the familiar ping of an incoming e-mail message at close to midnight from docents who tell me they will help the next morning, or I arrive in the office to a message saying that they are on their way in for the tour. My colleagues have stepped in to help with our tours numerous times over the past three months. And – it’s not quite over! We’ll be welcoming tour groups all the way through Sunday afternoon when the show comes to an end.
So much for the exhaustion! The exhilaration the educators feel comes from pride that a small staff and core of docents, with the constant support of our security colleagues and front desk staffers have, somehow, satisfied the extraordinary public demand for this wonderful exhibition from a broad and varied range of K-12, college and adult classes and groups despite snow and ice, spring breaks, and Easter holidays.
But now, it’s almost over. It’s dawning on me today that after this Sunday I am never going to work with these works of art again! I’ll arrive to work next Monday morning to the sound of colleagues de-installing what has been one of the most popular exhibitions in Reynolda House history. In February, when the show opened, there were so many works in the gallery that I didn’t know which ones to start a conversation with. By now, I have made good friends with many, and love some dearly. I also am looking at one or two with a pang of regret that I didn’t get to know them better. Like my daughter, I’m trying not to think about saying “goodbye” on Sunday. 
My resolution: to spend every spare second I have in the exhibition this week. Come join me in American Moderns final week, and I’ll introduce you to all my friends!

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