Interview with Family Programs Staff
Oct 12, 2012

A staff member shows a parent and child how to create art.

Coordinator of Family Programs Billie Rae Vinson works with a family at Open Studio: Yayoi Kusama, September 2012. Photograph by Jamie Rosenfeld

At the tail end of summer, we welcomed Billie Rae Vinson, our new Coordinator of Family Programs, and Jamie Rosenfeld, our new Education Assistant. Billie Rae joins us from the Brooklyn Museum, where she recently completed the Intern Educator Program and Jamie was a Whitney intern with School and Educator Programs for the 2011-2012 school year. Now that they’ve had some time to settle in, I asked Billie Rae and Jamie a few questions.

GM: How did you become interested in working in museum education, specifically with families?

BRV: I started working in museum education and community outreach when I was an undergraduate fine art student. I found myself meeting such magnificent people and engaging with them creatively through art. I knew at that moment that museum education was the field that I wanted to work in. Family Programs is specifically important because I truly believe in the value of adults and children learning together, where each individual benefits from the others creativity and unique perspective. For me family learning is a collaborative experience. I am inspired by artworks and the artists that create them which is also a key reason for my passion for museum education.

A family sits on the floor while they show off a collage they worked on.

Jamie Rosenfeld at a Whitney Family Program in 1997. Photograph by Eric Rosenfeld

JR: I like to consider myself a poster-child for museum education. I happen to be a “product” of the Whitney’s Family Programs. My parents used to take me and my sister to Family Fun on the weekends, and it was through these visits that I began to love and learn about art. It feels especially meaningful to have come full circle. I love that I am now able to create these experiences, that I so enjoyed, for the next generation of children. I have long wanted to pursue a career in Museum Education, especially with families, because it allows me to combine the two things I am most passionate about: children and the arts.

Families collaborate together on an art project.

Jamie Rosenfeld speaks with a participant at Open Studio: Yayoi Kusama, September 2012. Photograph by Billie Rae Vinson

GM: What are some of the challenges (and/or advantages) of taking over an entire program area right when you start? 

BRV: There is a lot to absorb when you take over a program, and it takes time to learn the ropes. But once you have settled in, it really is an exciting opportunity to make something your own and be creative. I am so excited to work with everyone here at the Whitney and so far they have made it a wonderful experience for me and have been incredibly supportive.

GM: What are some of the upcoming programs or events that you're looking forward to?

JR: I am very much looking forward to October’s Art School, a three-week art-making course. We will be exploring the works of Wade Guyton and experimenting with different techniques of printmaking, from the basic to the non-traditional. It will be great to dive into the work of one artist over the course of the three weeks and to watch how the students grow and learn as a result of this sustained connection. I am also excited to show-off my Guyton-inspired tote bag which we will be making the last week!

A black and white artwork depicting people working on sketches.

Billie Rae Vinson’s sketch of her dream Family Programs event—a week-long intensive with art making and interactive workshops

GM: If the Whitney had an unlimited budget and you could program anything in your wildest imagination, what would it be?

BRV: I think I would really go crazy with materials and processes for families to try out. In my wildest dreams we would have a huge week long intensive where families would collaborate on creating a different artwork each day. They would be inspired by the artists in [the Whitney’s] collection and make large scale artworks in a number of interactive workshops. We would have Whitney artists come and visit, discuss their work, and offer advice and constructive feedback. At the end we would have an exhibition of the work created and families would help to curate the show by selecting which piece to exhibit.  We would have a massive exhibition opening with snacks and refreshments, inviting everyone to dress up and to see the work!

By Gene McHugh, Interpretation Fellow