Silagh White: A LUAG Docent

Silagh White calls herself a “professional connector of dots,” and rightly so. As Director of Arts Engagement and Community Cultural Affairs at Lehigh she has created a web of connections between art, people and ideas all across campus. She recently decided to use her professional abilities for the benefit of yet another art program on campus by becoming a docent at LUAG. She hopes to draw in visitors, especially students, and connect them intimately with the art that hangs on our walls.

Silagh has always been a natural connector between people and ideas, and has a steadfast love for the arts. Her dad was an opera lover and her mother a creator of many folky things, such as jewelry, knitting and even “hootenannies,” which she assured me was a real word that existed in the dictionary. This exposure to such an eclectic mixture of creative energies rubbed off on her and has led her to becoming a champion for the arts throughout her performing and administrative career at various arts organizations and museums and also here at Lehigh.

Silagh’s stint as a docent at LUAG is not her first. Her first experience as a docent was at the Toledo Museum of Art, where she worked as a Community Programs Director. The docent training there was extremely rigorous, taking two years to complete and focusing mainly on art history. Trainees were shown how to consider age, background and interests of the audience in order to engage and energize the museum experience.

Silagh plans to apply what she learned at Toledo Museum of Art here at LUAG. When asked how she approaches communicating art to visitors she says she often starts by getting to know the group first. She comes prepared with references that most audiences would understand, such as ideas found in popular culture, like movies, songs, or traditions, and then she can bridge that to the artwork. She explained that it is pertinent to tailor a tour to the audience at hand. And it is this type of strategic connecting between people and art that makes Silagh tick. It keeps her on her toes to relate an artwork to organic shapes for the mind of a preschooler or to detailed historic facts for the mind of an art scholar.

The research that is required to peel through the layers of personal understanding of an artwork also seems a rewarding task for her. For instance in the upcoming LUAG exhibition …OF THE AMERICAS, there happens to be a lithograph on paper that is of much interest to her –  Rivera Diego, La Escuela de Aire Libre. She plans to visit an exhibition that features Rivera Diego and Frida Kahlo during a trip to Detroit in order to delve more into the artist’s psyche. Knowing the full spectrum behind every detail of a piece is an important part of the process for brining artwork into the worlds of others.

When asked which Fall semester exhibition at LUAG interests her most, she shares that in general she is drawn to any exhibition that brings the opportunity to engage the audience with play or the ability to explore. She believes that OBJECT AS SUBJECT would be a great tool to invite students to LUAG to sketch and promote the gallery’s mission of visual literacy. She sees REVISTING BELTHELEHM as a means to promote the community to remember places they have known from their past. Each new exhibition initiates a new brainstorm on how to connect the audience with the art. At the end of our interview she summed upped her main tactic as a “professional dot connector,” with “It is important to not push an agenda on audiences, but to pull them in,” because in the end this is what makes connecting so much easier.

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