Staff Connections: Annette Cohen, Volunteer Docent

Running a museum takes a whole team of professionals whose different skills help make the Rubin Museum of Art one of the premiere places to visit. To get to know us a little more, and to explore different careers in the arts, each month we will be asking a Museum staffer/intern to answer six questions about their position at the Museum, their favorite artworks or exhibitions on display in the museum and other personal attributes.  For the eleventh installment of we’re going to be introduced to Annette Cohen, Volunteer Docent for the Rubin Museum of Art!

Annette Cohen, Volunteer Docent

RMA: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at the Rubin Museum.

I ‘m an artist with a background and undergraduate degree in Fine Arts and Art Education.  My graduate degrees are in Art Therapy and School Psychology.  My 28 years as a School Psychologist in an East Harlem school gave me the opportunity to work with students where I was able to develop innovative classroom based projects as well as a weekly Art Club with P.S. 146 students.

I’ve taken extensive teacher training courses at museums throughout New York, including the Asia Society, Japan Society, China Institute and The Korea Society.  A few years ago I attended the Japan Society’s workshops on Buddhism.  Thanks to a Korean Society Fellowship Grant in 2007, I had the opportunity to visit Korea to learn about the art and culture, while taking photographs and visiting ancient Buddhist Temples.

I retired from the New York City Department of Education in 2012 and I now have more time to dedicate to my serious work in photography and using Photoshop to revise and recreate my images into visualizations of my experiences and interactions with the urban world.

I’ve been a volunteer docent at the Rubin Museum since the fall of 2006. The magic of the works in the Rubin collection has captured my heart.  The docent-training program is amazing and I have been working online to increase my knowledge and understanding of the museum’s art and visiting exhibitions.

RMA: Where are you originally from and how did you end up at the Rubin?

I’ve lived in and around New York City my whole life.  I attended The High School of Music and Art, The City University-Hunter College and for graduate school at The College of New Rochelle.

I enjoyed my visit to the Rubin Museum of Art during the first month that it was open and returned often to keep up with the marvelous changing exhibitions.  While at a workshop at The Museum of Modern Art, I was speaking with an attendant and shared my interest in becoming a volunteer docent at the newly opened Rubin Museum and she connected me with the museum.  With luck I was able to interview for the position of Volunteer Docent and I began their in house training.

RMA: What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on at the museum?

I spend much of my time increasing my understanding of Himalayan art and upgrading my tours for each presentation.  Presently I’m increasing my knowledge of Wrathful Deities.  They fascinate and amaze me.  I’m especially taken with Shri Devi.   I find Hindu mythology enchanting as well and continue to search for the deeper meaning of the stories and increase my understanding of spiritual truths.

 RMA: Out of all the current exhibitions at the Rubin Museum, which one is your favorite?

Currently I love the exhibition, Count Your Blessings-The Art of Prayer Beads in Asia which is based on the on aesthetic and ritual aspects of the prayers beads

RMA: What’s the most interesting or unusual thing you’ve experienced working at the Rubin Museum?

I continue to be amazed by the love the people who visit this museum bring with them.  They come into the museum with an open heart and enjoy a fulfilling spiritual experience.  Each visitor I meet gives me some of that love and appreciation.  I really enjoy having the opportunity to share their wonder at the gifts the Rubin Museum provides during museum visits.

RMA: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow the same career path?

I would tell people to follow their hearts and find delight in the work they do.

RMA: What do you do when you are not at the Rubin Museum?

I’m a photographer and I’ve exhibited in many venues in New York and Connecticut. I’m an exhibiting member of the Ground Glass Photographic Society and I’ve had work published in “Double Exposure”, Blue Door Gallery in May 2013.  The show “FOTOFANTASMICS” was featured at The Kanner-Kurzon Museum room at Beth El Synagogue Center in New Rochelle, New York.

Visitors to Ms. Cohen’s exhibition, FOTOFANTASMICS

RMA: If you could travel anywhere in the Himalayas where would you go and why?

I believe I would love to visit all of India and especially travel on a pilgrimage and meditate to Boudhanath, Kathmandu in Nepal.  It’s one of the holiest Buddhist sites. I’ve had dreams about that shrine.

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