To continue our series about the departments of the museum, today we are talking to Susan Baley of the education department.
Name: Susan Baley
Job Title: Director of Education
Educational background: BFA in Art History from Wichita State University and MA in Art History from OU
Why did you want to work in museum education? I was inspired to work in a museum when I visited the St. Louis Art Museum as teen and saw an exhibition of Monet’s waterlilies. When I walked into that gallery and was surrounded by Monet’s extremely large paintings, I knew I wanted to be involved in bringing those kinds of experiences to people. Perhaps the education part of the equation was in my genes because my mom was an elementary teacher.
Describe what your typical day looks like: Each day is different, so it’s certainly never boring! Most days, I am able to do some teaching, writing, and lots of thinking about art. It’s the ideal environment for someone interested in continuing education because there are always new exhibitions and collections to learn about. I spend time at my computer each day doing research and planning, but I also get to be out in the galleries interacting with people as they experience art. I am very lucky to work with a great team of educators, and we have a lot of fun with our own brand of “art history humor” on a daily basis.
How do you organize activities that will interest people of all ages? As we plan programs for people of all ages, we try to always explore new ideas and respect different learning styles. I focus primarily on planning programs for adults (including the museum’s docents, our volunteers who give tours of the museum). The other two members of the education department focus on planning programs for children (K-12 students and families) and the University (OU students and faculty). We pay attention to trends in museum education by participating in professional development and online resources for museum educators, and we frequently brainstorm together about programming ideas for audiences of all ages. We also do surveys and talk to people about the kinds of programs they would like to attend.
What is your favorite part of your job? It’s exciting working with people of all ages. I have taught at the high school and college level, which is great, but in those settings you are working with one particular age group. At the museum, I can sometimes interact with preschoolers in the morning and senior citizens in the afternoon. I am constantly inspired by our museum visitors and volunteers as they experience the great art that surrounds me each day. They help me see it with new eyes.