Public Observation Essay

The place I have chosen for observation was the American Folk Art Museum. In fact, the museum is located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, so the place was quite busy and I had a chance to observe many people outside of the establishment as well as inside the museum, though I should admit that the outside observation provided me with an opportunity to observe more diverse public than inside observation.

Nevertheless, the observation of the public provided me with ample information concerning people visiting the museum, as well as with information on those, who were either working in the nearby area or who simply were there at the moment of my observation. Anyway, I believe that my observation were useful for me and enlarged by experience consistently.

In fact, I attended the site twice and both times I made observations outside the American Folk Art Museum and inside the museum. The first time I started my observations was September 5, 2008. It was 11.00 a.m. and the second time I visited the site was September 19, 2008 at 2.30 p.m. The site was vivid both outside and inside at the moment.

At first, I started my observations from outside, where I spend about fifteen to twenty minutes looking at the people passing by the museum, entering in and going out of the museum. Basically, the people I observed were quite different. They were of different age, though the majority of passers-by were of the middle age from 40 to 50, though people at the age of 30 and older were also numerous. They represented different ethnic groups, but whites constituted the majority of people I saw there, though there were represented other ethnic groups, including blacks, Asians, and a few Hispanics, though non-white ethnic groups constituted less than a half of all the people I saw in the site. This is why I concluded that the area is mainly inhabited by whites who either work there, or have some business, or probably live there.

The gender differentiation of people I observed was less significant and both male and female were represented equally. As for visitors of the museum they also represented both genders equally, so I believe no gender biases concerning the attendance of museums and American folk art. In this regard, gender representation is consistently different from ethnic representation because apparently white people are dominating in the area not only near the museum but also among visitors of the museum, though I should say that the museum is interesting not only for local population but also for foreigners so it is apparently open to all people, regardless of race, gender or age, but the interest to the museum may be different among different ethnic groups.

A considerable part of people passing by the museum had a busy look and I made a conclusion that many of them are working in the nearby area or have some business there. At the same time, some people could have a launch time. I stood near the museum and simply observed people passing by. Basically, the majority of people I saw went on their own, while there were also groups of two or three. I noticed that people attended the museum in groups mainly and there were few people who were alone and were entering in or going out of the museum.

These people wear formal clothes and had a busy look, so I presupposed that they were probably working in the museum, while groups entering or leaving the museum were ordinary visitors.

As I entered the American Folk Art Museum for the first time, I attended the exhibition called “Earl Cunningham’s America, where the paintings of Earl Cunningham were exhibited and draw my attention at first. The paintings looked a bit unusual for me because they did not met my expectations since I expected to see either some experimental works or classical works, but, instead I found the works a bit unusual and simple, though I am not a connoisseur of visual arts. The visitors who drew my attention were students at the age of 12-13 who were accompanied by their teacher. Some of them were really interested in paintings, while others looked rather annoyed. So I believe that the attendance of museum by students indicates to the importance of art and aesthetic education in the local schools.

The next time I was in the museum, there was the exhibition called “Dargerism: Contemporary Artists and Henry Darger”. This exhibition was more diverse because it exhibited works of Henry Darger and other artists who tended to experiments in visual art. The visitors I observed were apparently foreigners because they did not speak English and I failed to find out where they were from exactly, but they were of Asian origin, so I suppose that they may be from Japan, Korea, or another Asian country. Hence, I concluded that American folk art is interesting not only for the local population but for foreigners as well.

Thus, I made my observations and it was the easiest thing to look and remember people and the site, while the most difficult was to look beyond, to understand what the people do at the site and what their occupations are and so on. In other words, interpretation of my observations was consistently more difficult than the observation itself.

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