Stories

Edgar Degas Woman in a Bathtub, 1889 Minneapolis Institute of Art


Edgar Degas
Woman in a Bathtub, 1889
Minneapolis Institute of Art

How can I be more relaxed in specific situations? That was my [Museum Sage] question. Degas’ sculpture of a woman in a tub reminded me to be more aware of my body and connect to my senses. There’s a carefree innocence about the bather that maybe I’m being invited to return to.”  

- Avivah Brown


Paul Gaugin, Clovis, 1886, Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME

Paul Gaugin, Clovis, 1886, Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME

“[Museum Sage] was the single most powerful experience that I’ve had in a museum — and I’ve been going to museums my whole life and worked in them for the past five years."

– Caryne Eskridge, Yale University Art Gallery Fellow


The Queen Anne period room, c. 1720-1730, unknown artist, England, styled as a Jane-Austen­-themed reading room; Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The Queen Anne period room, c. 1720-1730, unknown artist, England, styled as a Jane-Austen­-themed reading roomMinneapolis Institute of Art.

"I’m a writer who hasn’t written – and hasn’t wanted to – for several years. My [Museum Sage] question was about how best to express my creative energy. I was led into the museum’s Jane Austen room and found myself in confrontation with a wooden desk strewn with letters and a pen. Not what I’d hoped for. As my [Museum Sage] Guide engaged with me, though, I discovered deeper layers of meaning in the installation and left feeling like I’d let go of some inhibitions and discovered some new possibilities for my creativity.”

- Eric Larson


Antonio Montauti, Leda and the Swan / Ganymede and the Eagle, c. 1710, Bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Art

Antonio Montauti, Leda and the Swan / Ganymede and the Eagle, c. 1710, Bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Art

"My personal question was, 'How do I slow down?' When I first opened my eyes and looked at these sculptures, I took a deep breath and slowed down. Here are two people receiving warmth and strength from animals. I recently got a rescue cat named Bridget. When I’m with her, I’m calm. I can use my relationship with her to carve out moments to ground and connect during busy times."

- Chrissy Mignogna


John Singer Sargent, Crucifixion, c. 1899 cast, bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Art

John Singer Sargent, Crucifixion, c. 1899 cast, bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Art

"What makes me feel alive? When I opened my eyes, I was in a beige corner with a bronze crucifix that was literally titled, 'Crucifixion.' NOT what I had been expecting! However, my [Museum Sage] Guide did a great job of leading me through the process and I got a ton of great information from this heavy artwork. My favorite part was when I chose to turn around towards what DID feel alive, and I had been standing in one of my favorite rooms in the museum the whole time. [Museum Sage] was a delightful experience that made me think about things from a really fresh perspective."

- Amanda Fischer


"During my session I was excited to see what art object would answer my personal question. When the other people in my group shared their thoughts, one man pointed out something in the upper corner that I had missed. In that dark corner I saw my father's face. Over the past few weeks when I think about the artwork, I now feel my father's guidance. I guess my question was waiting patiently to be answered... just like my father was waiting patiently for me to find him in my [Museum Sage] object.  Having this powerful experience led me to take the Guide training a week later.”

- Allison Thiel


How can I be happier at my job as a high school teacher? The museum piece that answered my question was about sacred music. The first thought that popped into my head was that I need to be meditating with my classes for three minutes each hour. But I immediately said, ‘The School Superintendent will never go for it.’ My Guide coached me about this fear and challenged me to try it anyway. So I have! And I’ve experienced nothing but administrative support for it. It’s helping the kids to focus on their schoolwork, but the person it’s helping most is me. I like my job so much more now.” 

- Mary Clare Herrlin

Epilogue: After one year of meditating with my students for 4 minutes at the beginning of every class, they're calmer and I feel energized (I used to feel tired all the time.) Thanks for giving me the courage to do this, [Museum Sage].


Larry Rivers The Studio, 1956 Minneapolis Institute of Art


Larry Rivers
The Studio, 1956
Minneapolis Institute of Art

“Participating in [Museum Sage] at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was one of the best times I’ve had at a museum. I not only felt a deeper connection to art, I felt a connection to the people in my group as I watched them go through the experience and listened to them talk about what their chosen object meant to them. I was guided to a painting called, “The Studio” by Larry Rivers. When I was standing in front of it, taking in this large canvas, I felt both humbled and inspired. This work of art convinced me to keep going with my own creative pursuits. I’ve been back to the museum twice to visit it. The experience inspired me to volunteer as a Collections in Focus Guide with the hope that I can help create some of this same magic for visitors by helping them make connections to art and artists.” 

- Rebecca Collins


Takashi Murakami Jellyfish Eyes wallpaper, 2002 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN


Takashi Murakami
Jellyfish Eyes wallpaper, 2002
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN

Molly: The eyeballs are telling me I should do something involving people, strangers. A lot of people are watching me — some of them are fascinated by me, some are scared of me. Some are good, some are bad, some are indifferent.

Betsy: Does that feel good or scary?

Molly: I feel like each eyeball is a person. Some of them are friendly, they’re supporting me. Some are people I’ve lost connection to. It makes me feel crowded and lonely. They’re all trying to help me, but I want to figure it out on my own.

I think it’s telling me I need more space. They’re expecting something, like I’m on a stage. I should do something that draws attention to myself. I’ll be talking to a lot of people.

Betsy: Maybe you could find a way to close the eyes, so you can be alone when you need to be.

Molly: Maybe each eyeball is one of my thoughts! 

- Betsy Burns and her daughter Molly


John Wesley Jarvis Portrait of Captain Samuel Chester Reid, 1815 Minneapolis Institute of Art

John Wesley Jarvis
Portrait of Captain Samuel Chester Reid, 1815
Minneapolis Institute of Art

My husband, Brad, had a question about the meaning of his life. With his eyes closed he chose a painting of a young man. At first it didn't make any sense.  Then our Guide realized the similarities between Brad and the man in the picture. I instantly made a connection: the man portrayed is a romantic and an idealist with high standards, modesty and some stoicism. Exactly like my husband!  We joked about it and took this photo. The next day Brad shared some hopes and struggles about his life and our life together. This sharing gave us an opportunity to talk about our spirituality and our hopes for the future.

- Maru Ruzicka Dominguez


Henry Hunt (Kwakwaka'wakw [Kwakiutl], 1923-2012), Eagle and Wild Woman, 20th century, Ink on paper, Peabody-Essex Museum

Henry Hunt (Kwakwaka'wakw [Kwakiutl], 1923-2012), Eagle and Wild Woman, 20th century, Ink on paper, Peabody-Essex Museum

"My question: How can I streamline my business so that I’m not going crazy all the time!!!? Interpreted Answer: Fly with your strengths: design for natural history. This comes easy to you and gives you confidence, joy, and velocity.

- Matt Kirchman


Mathew Zefeldt Repetition, Simulation, Repetition, 2013 Minneapolis Institute of Art


Mathew Zefeldt
Repetition, Simulation, Repetition, 2013
Minneapolis Institute of Art

What color should I paint my room? The art piece that answered my question was an installation that looked like a giant video game. I love different colors so much I can’t pick just one for my bedroom, so I decided to paint the walls blue but have big paintings that are squares of colors I can move around whenever I want to. Kind of like this art piece.”  

- Sienna


John Burt, Porringer, c. 1725; Simeon Soumain, Tankard, c. 1719; John Coney,Tankard, c. 1710; John Coney, Footed Salver, c. 1702; Minneapolis Institute of Art

John Burt, Porringer, c. 1725; Simeon Soumain, Tankard, c. 1719; John Coney,Tankard, c. 1710; John Coney, Footed Salver, c. 1702; Minneapolis Institute of Art

What does my professional future look like? The art that I got was a case of silver objects. My first thought was, 'Oh, I’ll do many little things that are beautiful and functional.’ Beautiful and useful is one of my mantras, so this art really resonated for me!”

- Kris Woll


Developmental psychologist Charles Nelson and colleagues used photos of monkey faces to study how infants perceive their world. They found that infants six months and younger can recognize different monkeys as easily as different people. Science Museum of Minnesota

Developmental psychologist Charles Nelson and colleagues used photos of monkey faces to study how infants perceive their world. They found that infants six months and younger can recognize different monkeys as easily as different people. Science Museum of Minnesota

"How do I stay more focused? I can view my life as a video game that I'm creating. This exhibit is about how babies spend as much time examining monkey faces as human faces because they see everything with fresh eyes. I can be willing to take a moment to reset and see my task with new eyes so I stay focused."

- Charlie


Geli M. Korzhev, Nude, Sketch, 1972, oil on canvas, and Night, Study of standing nude with raised arms, 1953, oil on board, Russian Museum of Art

Geli M. Korzhev, Nude, Sketch, 1972, oil on canvas, and Night, Study of standing nude with raised arms, 1953, oil on board, Russian Museum of Art

Am I prepared for the next stage of life? My question was about my upcoming retirement that I’d been planning for with anxious number-crunching. I burst out laughing when I ended up in front of two nudes. The artworks were inviting me to relax, drop my guard, and be open to information that comes from my intuition and being in the moment. I was reminded, from past experience, that this is the most valuable information I can access. When I was finished I felt somewhat giddy: I have all that I need and I’ll be fine.”

- MJ


 Edgar Degas, Woman in a Bathtub, 1889, bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Art

 Edgar Degas, Woman in a Bathtub, 1889, bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Art

"How do I stay present? I asked the question in a context of tension and conflict. The [Museum Sage] process took me to this beautiful bronze sculpture. The experience provided so many incredible insights: Bronze can be used for a shield or for artful expression. Staying calm, peaceful, aligned and continually returning to balance keeps me present to what is emerging even if I can't at first identify what it is. A whole-hearted thank you to my Guide, Karen Olson! I heart [Museum Sage]!!”

- Kara Marie


Michael Lin, FreePort [No. 005], 2012, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA

Michael Lin, FreePort [No. 005], 2012, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA

How should I approach my process of moving from my home of 28 years to a new home? My answer was a painting of a large home in the process of being packed up, next to another painting of people carrying furnishings to a small cabin near a river. I interpreted this as my move would happen, I should pack with care, and get help. After having procrastinated this move for several years, I proceeded with a focused approach. I sold my house and found another place near a river. Moving day was much like portrayed in the first painting, with many people working. Wow! [Museum Sage] taps into and aligns the truth that is always out-there and in-here at the same time.

– Paolo, aka Paul J. Scoglio, MSW, LICSW, CPCC, Beverly, MA


Salomon van Ruysdael River Landscape with a Ferry, 1656 Minneapolis Institute of Art


Salomon van Ruysdael
River Landscape with a Ferry, 1656
Minneapolis Institute of Art

“I did a [Museum Sage] session shortly after I retired and wanted to get some direction about where my life was going. Most of the painting was sky and clouds but there was also a lot of very rich grounding of trees, buildings and people.  This was letting me know that there was no hurry in me finding my place and that I was crossing on to new adventures.  I could go across the river and continue on my journey of adventure not knowing exactly what was on the other side.  I might even want to change course and head down stream. I often return to this painting to remember how full my retirement can be.”

- Jerry Boardman


Sol LeWitt Lines in Two Directions and In Five Colors, 1981 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN


Sol LeWitt
Lines in Two Directions and In Five Colors, 1981
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN

Betsy: The yellow colors are passionate and positive, the blues are cool and intellectual. The red says “yes”, black says “beware,” these colors have a specific connotation for me. I’m afraid of red but I’m drawn to it. This room overall says, “go ahead.” 

Molly: This art piece is telling my mom that she’s very passionate about her writing but there’s some caution, there’s a fear in the back of her mind that she won’t be able to live her passion but she should go for it. Passion can override fear.

Betsy: That gives me confidence. I thought the squiggly lines were Morse Code, it could be saying SOS, that I need help. Or that I need to learn a new language. I’ve been wanting to learn Italian. I tried to learn it along time ago but I gave up. It’s the language of Dante, of Petrarch, of history.

Molly: There are so many color combinations. What does that suggest to you?

Betsy: That could mean there’s no end to surprises in my writing. 


Ary Scheffer, Christus Consolator, 1851, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Art

Ary Scheffer, Christus Consolator, 1851, oil on canvas, Minneapolis Institute of Art

Why does enough seldom seem like enough? My question was about why acquiring things eventually leaves me wanting more and more things. The painting I chose shows Christ comforting the brokenhearted and liberating those crushed by their chains. I don’t consider myself a religious gal, yet I’m comfortable with the Christ figure due to my upbringing in the Lutheran church. The message I got is that when I seek community and share from a vulnerable place, my mundane desires become quiet because I’m filled up in deeper ways.”

- Lee Tomsyk


Mariotto di Nardo The Coronation of the Virgin with Five Music-Making Angels, 1408, tempera on poplar panel.  Minneapolis Institute of Art

Mariotto di Nardo
The Coronation of the Virgin with Five Music-Making Angels, 1408, tempera on poplar panel. 
Minneapolis Institute of Art

How can I open my heart to my wife more?  I’m not attracted to religious art but I got to have an experience of this artwork that was incredibly evocative and responsive to my question. Now when I feel my heart not being open to my wife, I connect back to the image in my painting and remember the simplicity of Jesus putting a crown on Mary’s head. That gives me a shortcut to opening my heart. Using the Museum Sage process transformed stuckness and confusion into flow and love.”
- Adam Gordon