Caren Hackman Takes Us On A Behind-The-Scenes Tour With Norton Museum Docent Jo-Anne Weingarden

The Rickie Report takes you behind the scenes into the life of a museum docent with Jo-Anne Weingarden.  We thank Caren Hackman for interviewing Jo-Anne and taking some photos at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, FL.  While her path was not straightforward, we wend our way into a deeper understanding of what it means to lead a group into the vast collection of art and special exhibits.  Enjoy this interview and some peeks.





“What started as a journey to learn more about art for her personal purchase became a passion that has never waned”.





Jo-Anne Weingarden at Olafur Eliasson’s Cosmic Gaze at the Norton Museum of Art



Jo-Anne Weingarden and her husband wanted to buy some artwork for their home, but they wanted to know exactly what they were buying; not just pieces that might match their sofa. To help with this purchase, the couple decided to take classes to learn more about art.  And so began a life’s journey that led Jo-Anne to a 40-year career as a docent, first at the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA), and now for the Norton Museum of Art. What started as a journey to learn more about art for her personal purchase became a passion that has never waned.




Jo-Anne Weingarden with Constantin Brancusi’s Mademoiselle Pogany at the Norton Museum




While taking classes, Jo-Anne was also facing being an empty-nester; as her youngest child headed off to college. That was when someone suggested she investigate becoming a docent. She ended up applying to the DIA, one of the largest art museums in the United States. Taking this chance led to 25 years of a wonderful and interesting volunteer experience. “The museum has an encyclopedic collection and when you walk past all the art history and textbooks, the walls became alive,” she said.



Becoming a docent isn’t a simple journey – it was two years of intensive study at the DIA. In addition, being a docent obviously required public speaking skills, of which Jo-Anne had a life-long fear. She was so shy that while working as a substitute teacher in previous years, “I would eat in my classroom rather than with the other teachers.”  But, in her evolution from mother and substitute teacher to docent, Jo-Anne conquered her shyness and has become a proficient speaker to art enthusiasts of all ages, from children through adults, to art newbies, to connoisseurs.




Jo-Anne Weingarden with Yinka Shonibare  “Le Meduse” at The Norton Museum




While JoAnn and her husband, Jerry, visited major international art galleries in earlier years, it was during her studies that she gained a true appreciation. “Our first trip to Italy was in 1969. We had been to the Prado and the Uffizi museums, but it’s one thing to walk through and only have your basic knowledge to relate to; it’s another to have a rich educational background when seeing the actual art again. Art is a product of the times and can be appreciated at all levels. It’s sort of like going to Disney World. There are so many levels to experience and enjoy”. 



“Learning is continuous for docents, especially when the museum hosts special exhibits or assimilates new work into the permanent collection”.



When the Weingardens moved to Palm Beach County from Detroit, a friend suggested Jo-Anne volunteer as a docent at the Norton Museum of Art. At the Norton, due to her past education and experience from the DIA, Jo-Anne was given permission to skip over some of the basics of art history and begin her new docent education of the Norton collections. Learning is continuous for docents, especially when the museum hosts special exhibits or assimilates new work into the permanent collection. However, even as a new docent, Jo-Anne feels that while the learning is very time consuming, “It is always extremely rewarding. You continue to learn as you attend classes with and guide a new group of docents through the process.” 




Jo-Anne Weingarden with Nosadella “Madonna and Child in Glory” at Norton Museum



JoAnn explained that the Norton’s docent training is ever-evolving and that Glenn Tomlinson, the curator of education, is a strong proponent of the inquiry method, which is based on a program developed by Philip Yenawine, creator of “Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS),” method of arts education.”  “When I started at the DIA, I was trained in the inquiry method, which was not really well-known at the time in the museum world. The inquiry method requires the docent to engage the group, not to lecture to them. You interact on all levels. Jo-Anne has mentored future docents with some of these same methods and techniques that she was previously taught.




“The inquiry method requires the docent to engage the group, not to lecture to them. You interact on all levels. Visiting a museum involves more of a conversation between visitor and artwork”.




Visiting a museum involves more of a conversation between visitor and artwork. Using the VTS method, docents engage visitors. The docent introduction should be brief, then offer a relatable “hook” to help the visitor become more involved in the exhibit. “It’s our job to have the ideas and a list of possible questions to help visitors form their own responses, to interact and make each experience their own.”  Docents ask leading questions to spearhead into another question, such as, “What do you notice? What makes you say that? Who else thinks they see the same thing?”  Followed by, “What does that mean?”, or “Where did that person come from?”, or “Where do you think you could find that information?”  Optimally a docent would like each visitor to have at least three take-away concepts about a work of art.




Jo-Anne Weingarden with Jose Bedia’s “If Only I Could” At the Norton Museum




When a new exhibit is scheduled to be installed at the Norton Museum of Art, docents are offered an “avalanche” of material. They begin preparing for the new exhibit a week to several weeks before it even opens to the public. There’s no examination to pass, however preparation is intense, involving slide shows, written texts, discussions, walk-throughs with the show’s curator, the designer, or someone who is closely involved in the exhibition and knows it well. After reviewing all the documents and materials for the new exhibit, each docent personally creates a tour that maximizes his/her own talents but is not scripted. 




When Jo-Anne begins a tour, she assesses her group. Sometimes she is faced with blank disinterested looks but has always come up with an interesting starter or that “hook”. For example, when kicking off a DIA tour with a group of disinterested teens (arms crossed on their chests), JoAnn would ask, “How many of you have been to an auto show?” Most of the students would raise their hands. The question made them uncross their arms.” Then she would ask, “Did you like going to the auto show? If you do, why?” That would get students talking about the design of the cars, the paint colors, and which cars were more powerful. 





Jo-Anne Weingarden with Nick Cave’s “Sound Suit” at the Norton Museum



One very important thing Jo-Anne learned about working with students older than age 11 is to not single out any one student as a “teacher’s pet” after they give a correct answer. “I pose open-ended questions. I will repeat the answer as a confirmation that this person gave the answer, but I may not even look at them. Beyond fifth grade, students don’t want to be teacher’s pets”.



When JoAnn works in the portrait section of the museum, she asks visitors to imagine that each portrait is a person they are meeting for the very first time. The portrait subject cannot speak directly to the museum visitor, so the visitor must use their power of observation to connect and learn about the picture. JoAnn asks about attributes such as hair, stature, clothing, fit and style and accessories, as well as the individual’s expression and surroundings. All these clues will give information about the portrait sitter.



Some of the highlights of Jo-Anne’s docent career occurred when she was least expecting them.

The following stand out in her memory: 


  • “I was on my way to do a tour that I really didn’t want to do. All the way driving there I thought, why am I doing this? They were preschoolers, and I thought this is not what I really had in mind when I became a docent. When I got to the museum, the teacher asked me if I had ever worked with “special children” before.



To me all children are special. I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, just that the group would be a little smaller and the teacher instructed me to talk to them a little bit differently.”  As Jo-Anne began the tour, the group of preschoolers, teachers, students, and aids all held hands. Jo-Anne held the hand of a little boy who seemed to be shaking. As the group discussed pieces of artwork, the little boy continued to hold her hand. He remained silent, as the other children became engaged.



Jo-Anne Weingarden with Joan Miro’s “Woman Bird and Star” at the Norton Museum


In highlighting a particular Matisse artwork, Jo-Anne asked the same group to take out magic invisible scissors and see if they could cut out the shapes from the paintings. Her young companion holding her hand just looked and half smiled. When she took the group into the German expressionist gallery, she requested the group “…become that sculpture. See if you can pose just like that.” It was then that the little boy let go of her hand, walked over with the other children, and got into a semi-pose. He smiled, then came back to hold her hand. When the tour was over, the little boy’s teacher told Jo-Anne that the boy had never responded to any command or any direction in the entire time that he had been with the school. That was the first time they saw him actively participate. 




Jo-Anne Weingarden with James Chapin’s “Ruby Green Singing” at The Norton Museum



  • Jo-Anne and her husband enjoy traveling throughout Italy and like to be educated as much as possible before their trips. In Detroit while taking an Italian class, a fellow student, a woman in her 80’s who knew Jo-Anne was a docent at the DIA, invited them to study with her. Eventually the woman mentioned her parents had been patrons of the museum and asked if JoAnn would give her and an out-of-town visitor a personal tour. Jo-Anne was prepared to show her many sections of the museum when the woman surprised Jo-Anne by asking to visit the DIA library. “The DIA library is a fabulous place with sculptural busts all along the aisles between the bookcases and large tables to sit down and study the books and sculptures. As we were walking, the older woman was caressing the sculptures, something not allowed in the museum. I saw the librarian and thought I should let the librarian tell her she can’t touch the sculptures. Imagine my surprise when she introduced me to the bust of her mother!”  


Jo-Anne continues to give tours at the Norton. She loves to be asked interesting questions and hear different perspectives about the museum’s art exhibits. 





For more information about this interview please contact:


Locally, Caren is well-known for her tireless dedication to numerous community projects, including founding the City of Palm Beach Gardens GardensArt program and illustrating the life of George Morikami for the Morikami Museum. Her task force and committee contributions, to name just a few, include the Norton Museum of Art, ArtServe, Armory Art Center, Boys and Girls Club Gators Galore, SunFest, and Palm Beach Community College Campus Art Gallery and founding Artists of Palm Beach County.


For more information about Caren’s artwork:




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Rickie Leiter, Publisher   561-537-0291

17019 SW Sapri Way   Port St. Lucie, FL 34986



The Box Gallery Presents “CONCEPTualism 2019” In Partnership With Art Synergy And Art Palm Beach

A collaborative team of artists have transformed 4000 square feet at The Box Gallery to create a paradigm where their interdependent concepts are woven together, literally and metaphorically.  “CONCEPTualism 2019”  opens at The Box Gallery on Saturday, January 12. Kudos to Rolando Chang Barrero for his insight and vision, bringing this exhibition to fruition, at a time when many people wonder, “Is it art?”.  “CONCEPTualism 2019” takes place in conjunction with Art Synergy and ArtPalmBeach.  The Rickie Report shares the details of this free exhibit and some sneak peeks!





P r e s e n t s:


CONCEPTualism 2019

In Partnership with Art Synergy and Art Palm Beach

Opening Reception:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

7 PM

The Box Gallery

811 Belvedere Road    West Palm Beach, Florida 33405

Exhibition Dates: 1.12.2019 – 1.31.19

This exhibit is free, but please rsvp below:






Introduction by Andrea Iaroc:

In her essay,“Contemporary Issues by Conceptualism”by Andrea Iaroc, she states, ” Art needs a concept in order to exist. By definition, a concept is an abstract idea, a general notion, a plan or intention — a conception. Now, how well defined that concept is and the concern within it (e.g. sociopolitical commentary), and depending on the art piece’s placement in history, it may be considered ‘Conceptual Art’ or belong to one of the 30+ art movements in art history.


In contemporary art spaces, it is common to hear “is it art?” in reference to Conceptual Art. Instead, I propose we ask: How is the artist trying to communicate their ideas through what we experience visually, olfactory, tactilely, or even through sound and taste? Looking past the aesthetics of art requires a discerning eye and a curious mind. This means that as audiences, we should open our minds to what Conceptual Art offers us and enter into these conversations to transcend our ideas of what art is supposed to deal with and look like.


A concern with environmental issues and understanding of wildlife’s importance in our lives is fundamental part of Diane Arrieta’s body of work. She has a BFA in Ceramic Sculpture from Florida Atlantic University and a MSC in Wildlife Health from the University of Edinburgh. These two disciplines are smoothly syncretized in her work, although she uses a variety of media apart from ceramics. In observing her work, Sentinel, it is difficult to miss the references to the Disney version of Snow White, a coming-of-age tale first documented by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in 1812. In this particular work a meerkat stands guard next to the young girl, begging the thought of switching their roles: Our future planet in the hands of our young. In our current sociocultural moment of awakening, it is quite fitting that the sculpture is a girl.



Feminism, like any ideology and movement, exists in a spectrum. What was acceptable or unacceptable to second-wave feminists is not acceptable or acceptable to fourth-wave feminists, but a constant remains true: the acknowledgement of female bodies, personhoods, and identities as fully human – with rights and opportunities for all. Linda Behar goes beyond the trappings of the present and gives us tools to forge a better future through her varied artistic practice. She captures womanhood without the boundaries imposed by society, be it body shape, comportment, or any other conventions given to that role. Conventions that are also challenged by Sibel Kocabaşi in her work, as well as pressing issues of violence against women, global effects of war and migration, and environmental consciousness.



History without revisions has a lot to teach, if only proper attention is given. And yet events that should redefine our ways, are collectively forgotten and mistakes are made again – impermanent lessons. Impermanence is one of the concepts that underscore Giannina Coppiano Dwin’s work by using ephemeral materials. Her practice in general touches upon socio-cultural issues and in this particular exhibit, the #MeToo movement. At this point in history we have to reckon with the fact that women are simply not believed when reporting sexual assault, violence, and abuse of power. Yet Arrieta, Behar, Kocabaşi, and Dwin not only represent feminine power and truth channeled through their work, they assert it in all its Mother Gaia greatness for everyone to see, feel, and act upon. Policy changes and societal attitudes need to change in order to actively move the current system forward.



In a world of faulty systems, denialism, paranoid conspiracies, and extreme polarities, the need to create bridges of understanding and compassion is urgent. Technology has been a key factor in these divisions but it is also the key to repair that rupture. It can help people recognize the importance of understanding climate change and its connection to increasing natural disasters, smart usage of green technology to provide alternative energy sources, and sustainable living. These ideas are hard to ignore when looking at Rick Newton’s work from the jump. Remnants of the Florida we know teem with technologically advanced structures and devices, yet crab claws seem to reign supreme over a post-apocalyptic world that signals the end of the Anthropocene epoch. And yet, his paintings have an aura of hope – not necessarily for humans but for the greater natural world that currently begs for a chance

Meet the Artists:



Artwork by Sibel Kocabaşi



 “Although the subject is weighty and cruel, I decided that the art should be thoughtful and contemplative.  In Istanbul, I studied manuscript illumination, (in Turkish ‘Tezhip’ which means “painting with gold”).  I also studied traditional rug design and weaving. The combination of all of those studies together have shaped my mind and my skills today. In this particular project, I wanted to emphasize the idea of the contrast between the beautifully detailed handmade rugs, and the gold disposable emergency blankets which were given to the refuges when they arrived in Europe. Gold has many meanings in different cultures (predominantly as a signifier of wealth). The old rug has its own story, its own journey.  Nomadic cultures use rugs as shelters, the rugs are handmade, contain emotional and sentimental symbolisms to the users; in contrast, the gold emergency blankets are disposable, lightweight and mass-produced but yet, they perform the same function of sheltering the itinerants”.   




“I feel the types of art being shown today has shifted a bit. I see a return to more social, message based works. Olafur Eliasson stated,  “I believe that one of the major responsibilities of artists – and the idea that artists have responsibilities may come as a surprise to some – is to help people not only get to know and understand something with their minds but also to feel it emotionally and physically. By doing this, art can mitigate the numbing effect created by the glut of information we are faced with today, and motivate people to turn thinking into doing” (Eliasson, 2016).


Artwork by Diane Arrieta



“Regardless of shrinking budgets, all the talk of unequal representations, corporate sponsors in museums…. I can see a rise in important social content being shown. That being said, I think the tense climate of society requires a really gentle and engaging approach to these topics. I am not a fan of shock art or full blown activist in your face art. [I used to be, but things mellow with age!] It leaves very little room for equal conversations. People are tired and scared. This is the niche where my work comes in. I am not hammering my ideals in my art. There is an intricacy of my views in the beginning of making the work, but hopefully it transforms into universal ideas and topics that help move the conversation forward”. 


“My artistic practice of late are calls to protect and restore the environment, to heal it, to care for the earth as we care for ourselves.  To restore it we must first heal personally, as a community and globally through mutual understanding.  The awareness that it is all interconnected and that “the welfare of one is bound up in the welfare of all” (Keller) is of prime importance”.



“For this exhibition, I will be showing images from a performance I did in a Salt Lake in Texas together with objects and installation inspired from that event.  In Spanish, almost all things have gender, Salt in Spanish is La Sal, and its gender is feminine.  Metaphorically during the performance, La Sal represented the female energy of the earth and the female body in an era in which sexual harassment, rape, intimidation and abuse of power is being brought to light because women, in acts of courage, are coming forward with what has been happening to them silently all through history as part of everyday life”.  


“I’m an artist whose interest in shapes manifests itself through a variety of media.  I seek to bring forward the contradictions between the expectations of society and an individual’s sense of self.  My focus is on women and the stark standards that have been established for a woman’s appearance.  After finding a study made by the U.S. government in 1940 to standardize the women body, I created a geometrical shape using the measurements generated by the study and presented in drawings and in three-dimensional figures”.





Artwork ( Foreground) by Linda Behar   Artwork (Background) by Giannina Coppiano Dwin

“The exploration of shape goes deeper through my work with the study of body language.  The pose is shapes, and shape is both a noun and a verb, to understand the human behavior is imperative to see it at a whole. Body language gave a visual form to identity and enhanced the visual aesthetics of communication. You are what you create, as much as you are what you perform. My goal is to create images that echo the past, confront the present, and embrace the future”.



“Road to Damascus”by Rick Newton


Rick Newton is a native Floridian born in West Palm Beach in 1967. He earned his BFA with honors from the Massachusetts College of Art, then relocated back to south Florida in 1997. Newton has taught high school level advanced placement classes in drawing and sculpture at the Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts as an Artist in Residence. He has also lectured on his work and exhibited at Florida Atlantic University and has taught workshops for the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art (PBICA) under Michael Rush. Rick Newton’s work is included in distinguished private collections across the United States and in Europe. In the last fifteen years he has exhibited his work internationally and nationally, including shows in New York City and highly regarded art fairs such as Art Miami.

For more information about this exhibit, future exhibits, or how to show your artwork at The Box Gallery:

Rolando Chang Barrero

The Box Gallery
811 Belvedere Road   West Palm Beach, Florida 33405

Palm Beach Fine Art Collections

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Rickie Leiter, Publisher   561-537-0291

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Whitespace, The Mordes Collection Announces Sale And Seasonal Closing Date On March 24

Stop by Whitespace Collection and enjoy cutting edge contemporary artwork as well as 20% off their entire inventory!  Seasonal Closing Weekend Celebrations take place on March 24th and 25th. The Rickie Report shares the details.



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For coverage of your events, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher   561-537-0291

17019 SW Sapri Way   Port St. Lucie, FL 34986



Whitespace Announces End Of Seasonal Hours For Museum And Special Col-lect Sale

Art lovers can still visit Whitespace Collection and enjoy cutting edge contemporary artwork as well as 20% off their entire inventory!  Closing Weekend Celebrations take place on March 24th and 25th. The Rickie Report shares the details and urges you to stop by before Whitespace Collection closes for the season.



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For coverage of your events, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher   561-537-0291

17019 SW Sapri Way   Port St. Lucie, FL 34986



Art Boca Raton Features Whitespace Col-lect’s Unique Body Jewelry, Wearable Art And More!

Art Boca Raton, opening with a VIP Preview on March 14th will feature Whitespace Col-lect’s unique wearable artwork from internationally and nationally renown artists.  Visit Whitespace as Art Boca Raton continues on March 15, 16,17, and 18th. Be an art advocate!  Wear Unique! Be unique!  The Rickie Report shares the details here.  Sales will benefit the Perry Cohen Foundation.




For more information:







For coverage of your events, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher   561-537-0291

17019 SW Sapri Way   Port St. Lucie, FL 34986