Last month the museum launched the weekly Encounters tour, which highlights the connection between Philippine and Renaissance art and aims to engage Hawai‘i’s Filipino community. So far the groups have filled the tour to capacity every Sunday (except Mother’s Day) and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Lampe Cuisia, Jr. even experienced it.

The tour is the result of efforts by the museum’s Kress interpretive fellow Christine Park. She first landed at the museum in 2014, training as a Korean-language docent, and quickly moved to a part-time visitor services position before being awarded the Kress Interpretive Fellowship in August of last year. “Working as a docent and at the front desk meant I got to see two sides of the museum,” says Park. “I think that really helped to prepare me for this fellowship.”

Also helping her prepare for the fellowship are her bachelors and masters degrees in art history from the University College London. In addition, Park had a international childhood, regularly moving between boarding schools in San Francisco, South Korea, Connecticut and London.

After graduation, Park cut her teeth as a museum professional at such institutions as White Cube Gallery in London and the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul. New York gallerist Andrea Rosen offered Park a position while she was a curatorial assistant at the Samsung Museum. Park jumped at the opportunity. Then, just four months after starting at Rosen’s Chelsea space, Hurricane Sandy struck, and the gallery was shut down for months.

With the gallery temporarily shut down, Park went in search of other opportunities in the museum world, and found one at HoMA.

The Kress Interpretive Fellowship at Art Museums program aims to provide a new kind of mentored professional development opportunity within American art museums. The program is intended to encourage students to explore interpretive careers in art museums, whether as future museum educators or curators; to strengthen the profession of museum educator within the art museum community; to strengthen ties between museum educators and curators in the shared task of interpretive programming in art museums; and to expand the range of promising career options available to students of art history and related fields. For Park, whose academic experience focused primarily on Western art, the fellowship has been an eye-opening experience.

“Before coming [to HoMA] I hadn’t seen a museum in the US with a gallery dedicated to arts of the Philippines,” says Park. “It was very refreshing for me, Philippine art is so diverse, with so many connections to surrounding cultures.”

One of the reasons for the Encounters tour success is Park’s engagement with the Filipino community. She reached out to groups such as the Filipino Association of University Women to learn about the tour material so they can present it to their constituencies. “It is is so valuable for people hear from voices within their own community.”

While the Kress fellowship ends in August, Park hopes Encounters will continue beyond her time at the museum. “Art really comes alive when you engage people,” says Park. “It’s exciting to see people here figuring things out, creating new meaning, and challenging the established notions of what art is. I am really blessed that I got to know this community that I probably would have never known without this project. I’ve really enjoyed the experience.”

Click here to learn more or to sign your school or group up for “Encounters.”