When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

Barbara has been giving tours for the Milwaukee Art Museum over a half century.

“When I first came to the museum, there were eight employees.”

This January I started my fifty-second year.

I retired when I was 50,

but I’m still going in,

teaching and working

‘cause I don’t want to sit at home.

I train the docents

and they tour about 80.000 people a year.”

She’s taken 75 trips to Europe,

“I counted it all up when I retired.

England was the first country I went to.”

Last year she took her docents to Belgium and Holland.

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And she made her own dress.

 

Being an art museum docent is hard.

“People expect you to know everything.”

When you look at some modern art it can stump you.

“Ellsworth Kelly’s “Red, Yellow, Blue,”

that’s one people have a hard time with.

Red, Yellow, Blue II

But you have to understand,

it was hand done,

he mixed the colors, that yellow

is the yellow he wanted,

he copied it from nature,

like a bird he saw,

he didn’t just go out to Menards!

How can I make these people understand?

Their grandchildren can’t do it!

When Kelly was in the war

he asked to be in the camouflage department.

Once in a while I’ll be lucky

and a student will be in

Ellsworth Kelly camo.

I’ve met Ellsworth Kelly several times.

He’s a very kind person,

a little on the shy side.”

 

What are Barbara’s favorite areas of art to talk on?

“American History and Decorative Arts

furniture, silver, ceramics.

My favorite is probably seventeenth century colonial.”

 

“Over the years a lot of people have visited Milwaukee

and I’ve taken them around,

Madame Chiang Kai-shek.”

(I hadn’t heard of her, so I looked her up,

former first lady of China, 1948-1975)

23325_web_ThisDay-Madame-Chiang-Kai-Shek-AP

“David Hockney, I loved him.

“I loved this young man who is now a rock star, but when I met him he was just coming up, um, I can’t think of his name. It’ll come. He works on China, Africa and America… Kehinde Wiley!

Gilbert and George when they came from England,

I met Andy Worhol. He never talked. My brother had a friend who knew him quite well.

Mark Rothko,

Tony Randall of the Odd Couple,

he knew everything,

he was the smartest man I ever met.

I let him do all the talking and I did the anecdotes.”

Barbara has never watched Star Trek,

but she gave Dr. Spock a tour.

“He gave me a Dr. Spock ear,

I didn’t know what it was or what I was supposed to do with it.

Ginger Rodgers,

Ray Milland, he never took his hat off because he didn’t have his toupee on,

Vincent Price,

Noguchi,

Sofa and Ottoman
Noguchi!

di Suvero,

Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 11.38.44 AM
This is what googling di Suvero’s “The Calling” looks like.

 

George Shearing, he’s blind and I got a call from him asking to take him around.

A grandmother had the same thing, I took her around.

Gordon Parks,

and when the Beatles came to Milwaukee the first time,

I held the door to the war memorial open for them.”

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“Excellent Broth! I’m going to have it every time I come.

I’ve been begging for broth here.

I like soup very much but,

I don’t like heavy duty,

I like to have broth.

It kinda curbs your appetite,

settles your stomach,

it’s good for your bones,

and I just love hot broth.

Right here at the café counter I met Shaquille O’Neill.

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Right there!

He wasn’t feeling well.

I didn’t know who he was.”

Shaq’s manager worked on a crossword puzzle with Barbara,

and explained who Mr. O’Neill was.

Barbara gave Shaq a ticket to the art museum,

and he went.

 

A Poem By LeVar Burton

Recently, Sharp Literacy, an organization devoted to the educational flourishment of urban children held a fundraiser at the Pfister. Actor LeVar Burton, who hosted all 26 years of Reading Rainbow on PBS spoke.

 

“My mom’s about four foot ten and a half,

weighs about a buck and a quarter.

I’m fifty-seven years old

and to this day

I am still afraid of this woman

when I was a kid she was both father and mother

she held and set the standards.

I am the man I am

because my mother

is the woman she is.

 

What if?

Two of the most potent words

in combination.

 

That which we focus our imaginations upon

is what we tend to manifest as well.

That’s how it works.

 

Because of Star Trek

today we have the Bluetooth,

cellphone

and iPad.

 

I’m sorry to tell you

there aren’t any pockets in the future

I’ve been there.

We had no pockets

on our spacesuits.

 

Everything happens for a reason, y’all

there are no accidents in this universe*

 

I got a call

“I know you’ve never done a television series

but would you be interested in doing a new Star Trek series?”

I had one question only,

“Is Gene Roddenberry involved?”

Gene was a huge, huge hero of mine,

Gene was not just a visionary

he was a social scientist,

an advocate for civil rights.

Gene taught me:

in order to be a complete storyteller

it is necessary to move the culture forward.

Star Trek was responsible

for the first interracial kiss

on network television.

Gene was also a man

who insisted

on seeing women in short skirts in the future.

You see we’re all human.

There is a dichotomy that exists in humanity

sometimes difficult to resolve.

 

No Child Left Behind

insisted we make the choice

between teaching our kids how to read

and fostering in them a love of the written word

in a healthy society

we don’t make that choice.

3,000 seniors drop out of high school

almost every day

in America.

Most of them are poor readers.

We have spent an inordinate amount of money

in the past ten years on war and machineries.

We have sacrificed our children

and for me that’s not okay.

 

If any of you ever hear of LeVar Burton

running for public office

you have my permission to slap him upside his head.

 

When I met Fred Rogers for the first time

I was so excited because I thought

“Finally, I’m going to meet the man behind the Mr. Rodgers Personae.”

I did not believe that anyone could be that nice

but as it turns out

he was.

Fred was Fred. Always.

No matter where he was

or who he was engaged in conversation with

he was consistent.

We were once together at the White House

for a conference on children education in television.

When you fill a room with Washington politicos

and Hollywood egos

there’s hardly room to breathe

so Fred encouraged us all in the room

to close our eyes

for thirty seconds,

remember a teacher who had impact

on us in a very profound and personal way

and ladies and gentlemen,

everybody in that room

from the president of the united states,

to the heads of networks,

everyone closed their eyes

and engaged in the exercise.

 

I know because I peeked.

 

No one can become all that they are meant to be

unless

they are a lifelong learner.

The key to becoming a lifelong learner

is to be a reader

for life.”

 

*Mr. Burton emphasized this point, repeating it four times throughout his speech.

 

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Artist Sally Duback and 5-8th grade students at Lutheran Special School teamed up to make this mural through the school’s Sharp program.
It was also funded by baseball player Ryan Braun and his wife Larissa.  So the kids included him in the composition.
It was also funded by baseball player Ryan Braun and his wife Larissa. So the kids included him in the composition.
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11 kids drew the scene and then Duback projected it onto three panels that they covered in homemade tiles, shells and found objects like compact discs.
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Each panel weighs 75 pounds.
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Teacher, Jill Bell (whose outfit matches the mosaic) tells me that this was a wonderful opportunity for her students. Each one of them has a different learning disability.
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This is as good a picture I was able to get of LeVar Burton. Sunflowers and heads packed the room and view.