Art Education Student Puts Skills to use at Newly Renovated MoAD

Academy of Art University senior Traka Lopez has been interning at the Museum of African Diaspora (MoAD), putting the skills she acquired during her art education class to use.

MoAD, which is located in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Arts District, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring African heritage and the migration of people from their homeland. The museum aims to connect people from all backgrounds, creating an inspirational, educational community. Not only does it help preserve art, culture and stories, it is committed to sharing these findings with people all over the world.

Lopez first became involved with MoAD after she submitted her resume and portfolio to the education department, asking if she could do a series of fieldwork observations for her art education class. “My goal during this mission was to show the director that I’m passionate about art education and how I could be an assistant to her and the MoAD,” said Lopez.

After asking to be more hands on instead of simply observing, Lopez was accepted in a voluntary capacity. “Along this time period, I became eager to learn about museum education. And then I became an intern (assistant museum educator coordinator) instead of a volunteer before the semester was over,” said Lopez.


Traka in MOAD

Lopez went from volunteer to intern and then found her niche as a museum educator. Photo by Bob Toy.

This internship included working in the museum’s education department, creating museum interpreters, assisting with educator workshops and creating lessons for community programs such as the Behind the Lens program, as well as working in the exhibition department.

“During my internship I became more confident to see myself as a museum educator rather then a traditional art teacher,” said Lopez. “My work ethic, flexibility and willingness to learn really helped me to mold myself into a museum educator, and how to focus my lessons not only on art making, but art history, culture awareness, diversity.”

“Traka’s contribution to our education department has been keen,” said Lovisa Brown, director of education at MoAD. “Traka’s artistic eye encourages our young visitors to imagine, identify and bust a move to the music being danced to in Elizabeth Catlett’s ‘Never Stop Running.’ … Hopefully our collaboration of AAU art education students working at MoAD will continue.”

Thanks to her time at the Academy, Lopez has been able to put her skills to good use at MoAD. “Being in the art education program helped me with lesson planning, how to make lessons for all learners, and creativity, which I used so much at the MoAD,” said Lopez. “I really felt that the skills that I learned in art education helped me with landing my position at the MoAD and allowing the opportunity to promote me from a volunteer to an intern, then a museum educator.”

This is an exciting time for MoAD, which reopened in December 2014 after a $1.3 million makeover. Having first opened in 2005, the building was redesigned by Gensler, the architect firm known for reimagining San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 2, as well as the headquarters of Pixar and Facebook.

MoAD now has more space for exhibitions, which will enable the museum to transition from showing temporary exhibits to being a fine arts museum that can host rotating collections alongside those that are permanent. The museum will also be able to continue its outreach programs, expanding them throughout the community and providing education for more and more people.

“We could not be more excited to unveil MoAD’s grand makeover, which will give us the space we need to explore how African culture has—and continues to—influence our world,” said Linda Harrison, executive director of MoAD, in a press release. “Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a MoAD alumnus, we hope this transformation of the museum and our new exhibitions will help you to understand the important connections we all share with Africa and the African Diaspora.”

Along with enjoying a creative reimagining, MoAD has also been named an official Smithsonian Affiliate, joining over 190 organizations across 45 states. The museum can now access the 136 million artifact collection of the Smithsonian Institution, which may be used for exhibits, research and programming.

Until April 5, 2015, MoAD will be hosting the new two-part exhibition “Lava Thomas: Beyond,” where Thomas’ past and present works come together in an inspirational, reflective space.

For more information on this and MoAD’s other exhibits and projects, visit Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for seniors (65+) and students. Children (12 and under) and MoAD members are free.