Introducing the leaders, educators and ambassadors of our 2020-21 Student Docent Team

The Block Museum of Art is pleased to announce our 2020-2021 undergraduate student docent cohort. Selected from a competitive applicant pool, this group of fourteen Northwestern University undergraduates from across disciplines, schools, class years, and all levels of museum experience have come together to serve as facilitators, guides, educators, advisors and leaders at The Block.

A paid museum position, the primary role of a Block docent is to facilitate museum learning experiences through tours, research and writing, creative responses, dialogue, and more. They lead museum tours which engage the full breadth of Block audiences, including their Northwestern peers, faculty and their students, adults visiting the museum from neighboring communities, and K-12 visitors.

Because of their deep involvement in The Block, docents also serve as ambassadors on campus and act as an in-house advisory group for Block staff, leadership and the Board of Advisors.

“We are thrilled to work and learn alongside our student docent team. Their ideas and questions about the Block, and shared thinking about why museums matter, deeply enriches our work, and moves us forward.”

Erin Northington, Susan and Stephen Wilson Associate Director, Campus and Community Education and Engagement

This year the Block student docents will also be leading a series of online interdisciplinary talks for public and NU audiences to place objects from the collection together in new dialogue; researching and writing labels for our upcoming Fall 2021 exhibition; updating our Campus Art Walk audio guide entries, and continuing our ongoing Collection Selections series. In Spring 2021 the group will culminate its work together by researching and selecting a new acquisition of art for the Block Museum collection.

Ayinoluwa Abegunde

Major in Chemical Engineering (2022)

From Nigeria

What brought you to The Block? I was drawn to The Block when I was exposed to the art of hair while I explored hair care from a scientific perspective. I’m from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and hair has always been an integral part of our culture, but only a few years ago did I realise I wore art on my head everyday. My pursuit for understanding the different intersectionalities of art and science, but also desire to see people who weren’t exposed to museum art enjoy their experiences with art, is why I decided to join the Student Docent Program.

What should we know about you? I love to dance and explore different facets of my creativity through calligraphy and DIYs. I’m slowly getting the hang of hair art and I love to go on adventures.

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why? Floor One 9 by Caline Chagoury. I never got to see it in person but found out about it through Cardi B’s Instagram story. She visited Lagos, Nigeria and uploaded pictures of “Chroma: An Ode to J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere’” by Medina Dugger. It was a stunning representation of hairstyles you would see in Nigeria but with bright colored hair. I was able to see it online and comparing it to other artwork on hair opened my eyes to the many possibilities with hair.

Fiona Asokacitta

Major in History and Art History, minor in Anthropology (2021)

From Jakarta, Indonesia and living in Chicago, IL

What brought you to The Block?: I’ve always loved public speaking and joining museum tours, so when I saw there was an opportunity to be a student docent at the Block, I was thrilled!

What should we know about you?: I love arts and crafts—anything from making miniature houses, to paint-by-numbers, to taxidermy. I also love to travel, cook, and collect creepy antique things.

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why? My favorite exhibit that I visited recently (well, 2019), was Cy Twombly’s Lepanto cycle at the Museum Brandhorst in Munich, Germany. The cavernous, white-walled space of the gallery, shaped like a semi-circle, displayed the twelve massive canvases. Lepanto, based on a Mediterranean battle in the 16th century, is a narrative sequence of paintings. The experience of seeing the story unfold visually was stunning. Standing in the middle of the room, I was engulfed in colors and dramatic brushstrokes. Not to be dramatic, but I nearly cried from how beautiful it was.

Erin Claeys, Docent Coordinator

Major in Legal Studies and Theatre in the Playwriting Module (2021)

From Arlington, VA

What brought you to The Block?: Having grown up right outside of D.C., I was raised surrounded by some of the best free museums in the world. I always loved exploring exhibitions and galleries. After visiting The Block my freshman year, and meeting the amazing people who were docents at the time, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the work the museum does.

What should we know about you?: I love any body of water, baking banana bread and skillet cookies, and, pre-COVID, attending concerts in Chicago.

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why?: Last summer after studying abroad in Morocco, I visited Berlin where I went to the Jewish Museum. I was amazed by the architecture and the flow of the permanent exhibit. The way that the building itself worked to evoke emotion and contemplation was completely unique. I also really appreciated the temporary exhibits that examined modern aspects of Jewish culture in life in fun and interesting ways. However, my favorite part was a temporary light exhibit, “Aural” by James Turrell, in a giant white room. It was simple, but astonishing.

Claire Corridon

Major in American Studies and Political Science (2021)

From New York City

What brought you to The Block?: Since working as a research assistant for Professor Rebecca Zorach’s project on the Chicago Mural Movement, I have been fascinated by questions surrounding the canon of art history, ephemerality, and the political power of art. My love for being in the museum space and curiosity about future work in museums brought me to The Block.

What should we know about you?: Outside of my studies, I am a mentor with Supplies for Dreams, intern for the victim services non-profit Safe Horizon, and am writing my senior thesis on contemporary feminist artists and futurity.

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why?A favorite exhibit I’ve visited is the Hilma af Klimt: Paintings for the Future exhibit at the Guggenheim; Klimt was the earliest Western abstract painter and a woman whose art was long erased in the canon.

Karan Gowda

Major in Biological Sciences (2022)

Originally from Algonquin, IL, residing in in Evanston, IL

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why? This probably a cliché answer, but my favorite museum experience was the Louvre Museum in Paris. After hearing so much about it, it was very overwhelming for me to actually be there and take everything in. I mean, just the amount of stuff that is in there to explore is astounding and it makes you want to keep coming back.

Chayda Harding

Major in History (2022)

From New York City

What brought you to The Block? I love the Block because it’s the only space in which I get to engage with art outside of class! The docent program really centers its students and allows us to lead conversations and actively shape the museum. It is one of the most valuable parts of my time at Northwestern. 

What should we know about you? Outside of work I love to knit and crochet! I’ve also recently gotten hooked on the world of historical costuming and it has inspired me to learn to sew. I generally do one of the three while watching British comedians on really silly game shows for maximum coziness.

Brianna Heath

Major in Art History, Minor in African American Studies (2021)

I’m calling in from Chicago

What should we know about you? I love cooking! It’s a great way to destress and is one of my favorite creative outlets.

Hyohee Kim

Major in Learning Sciences and Asian American Studies (2022)

Grew up in the suburbs of Chicago

What brought you to The Block? I am interested in the intersection of education, art, technology, and social justice. I am excited to work with the exhibits and Docent team to co-facilitate (virtual) community engagement events! 

What should we know about you? In my free time, I love spending time with friends and family, cooking, listening to music and resting.

Mina Malaz

Major in Art History and Psychology (2021)

From Istanbul, Turkey

What brought you to The Block? I was introduced to the Block through Caravans of Gold and after taking a class on this exhibition I decided that I wanted to pursue a future in museums or other art related fields. I had been very excitedly looking forward to becoming a docent to get better acquainted with fellow art lovers and also the Block family and community. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to engage in further discussion and conversations surrounding art.

Lennart Nielsen

Major in Theatre and International Studies, minor in Creative Writing (2021)

Born in Heidelberg, Germany, and spent the first ten years of my life moving around Northern Europe, but have since called Belmont, MA my home

What brought you to The Block? I have spent my whole life in museums because of my mom, an art historian and antiques dealer who has made it her life’s goal to expose me and my siblings to as much art as possible. The Block has given me an on-campus home for that passion.

What should we know about you? Outside of the Block, you can find me writing or in a theatre.

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why? My favorite Museum in the world is the one I have spent the most time in: The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Giboom Joyce Park

Major in Political Science, History, and International Studies (2022)

Born in Busan, Raised in Beijing, but have since called Houston my new home

What brought you to The Block? I’ve always been an art fanatic. Having to move around a lot since I was a kid, I often struggled to adjust or make friends in new countries. Art museums and galleries were always my solace in these situations. Likewise, the Block Museum was a safe haven on campus where I could fully immerse myself in my passion. I loved it since day 1!

What should we know about you? Outside of my studies, you can catch me watercolor painting at a nearby cafe or taking intermittent naps with my kitten at home.

Margeaux Rocco

Major Undecided and minor in Art Theory and Practice (2023)

From Columbus, Ohio

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why? My favorite exhibit I have ever been to was probably When Attitude Become Chairs at the Pizzuti Collection in 2019. It’s a small museum in Columbus that I love dearly. This exhibit was all chairs made by different artists. It was super cool to see how all these people interpreted a chair, something I never realized could be so fun and experimental. 

Joely Simon

Major in Journalism, minor in Art History, Integrated Marketing Communications Certificate (2021)

From Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

What brought you to The Block? While visiting museums with my parents as a child put me to sleep, it has become one of my favorite activities, always reinvigorating me with energy and inspiration. I interned at an art gallery one summer which made me eager to engage more with the academic and public engagement side of art. Now, as a senior Art History student, being a student docent is the perfect culmination of my studies and allows me to give back to the Northwestern community.

What should we know about you? I love watching old movies. My passion for film started when I watched an Alfred Hitchcock movie with my dad one rainy afternoon back in middle school. Since, I have seen all of his films. I still have a long way to go though in checking off the boxes on my movie list. And, I am always up for a recommendation!

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why? In the fall of 2019, I had the chance to study abroad for a quarter and saw an Olafur Eliasson exhibit at the Tate Modern in London and an amazing retrospective on the Bauhaus moment at the  Berlinische Galerie in Berlin. These two exhibits were highlights of my abroad art journey. While Eliasson’s sensory works elicited emotional reflection and revealed the intersection of art and the environment, the Bauhaus exhibit’s extensive archives and storytelling taught me a social, political and visual history, transporting me back in time.

Rory Kahiya Tsapayi

Major in Art History and Journalism (2021)

From Harare, Zimbabwe, and Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

What brought you to The Block? I’m committed to looking-as-learning, to seeing history and humanity through images. Working at a museum is a good way to exercise that commitment.

What is a favorite museum or exhibit you’ve visited, outside of The Block, and why? I visited the DeYoung Museum with my sister and mother. The two had spent the hot San Francisco afternoon arguing, their end-of-summer-vacation frustrations burning me out. But the museum was a fresh, zesty breath of air; it felt new and dynamic and considered, it was having fun and making big decisions. It demanded time and optimism which inevitably cooled tempers and opened hearts. The rest of the day was calmer.

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