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Jackie Baldwin jackie@story-lovers.com
Kate Dudding kate@katedudding.com

Innovative Projects

Picture Perfect, The Power of Storytelling in Museums

by Joan Leotta

Keywords: elementary school, middle school, high school, adult, museums


This workshop has been given at the Sharing the Fire, National Storytellers’ Conference, and Virginia Storytelling Alliance to tellers and to Museum Theatre Professionals at an International Museum Theatre group (IMTAL) Conference. In addition, Joan performs at many museums and trains docents.

Storytelling in museums is the magic of making objects speak. Museum story artists wrap history in a cloak of tales, reveal the heart of scientific discovery tells the tale of an artist's life or brings life to characters within, and provides a verbal context for objects that enables visitors to engage more effectively with those objects (paintings, sculptures, hangings and more). The object of the workshops that Joan Leotta provides is to guide other tellers in the intricacies of this market and prepare them to bring their own programs to museum venues.

The workshop includes: Increasing attendance, approaching museums, differences in museum and other venues, working in a gallery, participation, location, timing, accommodation for special needs, determining the purpose of the program, creating custom programs for exhibits, the need to balance fact and imagination.

Performances are custom-prepared to meet the needs of a special day for the public that highlights an exhibit or ethnic group or fitted to meet the needs of a period of history, a group of animals (e.g. Sharks) an historic period, or even to elucidate a painting—for example, Joan performed an original story on the Luncheon of the Boating Party for the Phillips. I’ve done Egyptian tales for elementary children, tales from the Steppes for a Smithsonian show on Tamerlane at the Sackler in DC and Russian tales in Richmond.

Recently Joan did a group of tales, including an original story about cats to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Chapin.

Joan has also trained docents in the use of storytelling techniques as an aid to presentation and crowd control.

Sample from list of museums where Joan has performed, using the methods outlines in her workshop: Smithsonian’s Hirshorn, Natural History, American History, Air and Space and Sackler. Boston’s Sackler. Pittsburgh’s Children’s Museum and Frick Gallery. Phillips Gallery of Art (DC) Chapin Museum, Myrtle Beach, SC. Walters Gallery in Baltimore, Richmond Museum of Fine Arts and many more. Seminars for tellers given at conferences in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006. Performing in museums, 1985-present.

Contact Info:
Joan Leotta
1002 Montgomery CT NW
Calabash, NC 28467

An article was published in the Virginia Association of Museums magazine (Cover story, Fall, 2001) on Joan's work in museums that presents her theories and methods. Click here to read an online article from Verge Magazine of the Arts, May 2001.

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Copyright 2007 by Jackie Baldwin and Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.