Carolina People

Carolina People: Jenny Marvel

Jenny Marvel sees parallels between her life and her work at the Ackland Art Museum.

Jenny Marvel Head of K12 and Community Programs (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)


Jenny Marvel  


7 years working at Carolina

What’s a typical day like in your job?

Each day varies based on the time of the school year, the special exhibitions on view and the teaching needs of the week. Throughout the year, I develop, implement and evaluate K–12 student and teacher programs, provide arts integration sessions for students in the School of Education’s master of arts in teaching program, supervise and train our volunteer docents and oversee tour programs for our community members and organizations.

How does your WORK support Carolina’s mission?

The Ackland’s mission is to provide experiences that spark insight into ourselves, each other and the world, which echoes
Carolina’s mission for teaching and public service in North Carolina and beyond. The Ackland offers free experiences for all, while encouraging meaningful encounters with art. We provide tours to thousands of K–12 students and community members each year.
In addition, we are developing collaborative partnerships with UNC faculty in occupational therapy and with community organizations, such as Charles House Eldercare Center, to serve adults with dementia and their care partners.   

What do you like most about your work?

I love learning about the objects in our collection and exhibitions and making connections to disciplines like social studies,
language arts and science. With the learning comes the teaching, and I often see objects in new ways based on thought-provoking discussions and great observations, especially from our youngest visitors.

How do you teach at the Ackland?

All teaching at the Ackland begins and ends with art. Everything in between depends on the visitor’s experience. Art is inherently interdisciplinary — the gallery activities, such as discussion, writing and sketching, build on the visitor’s prior knowledge and encourage experiencing art in new ways. One example requires visitors to look closely at a work of art, then write nouns, adjectives and verbs on sticky notes based on what they see. These are used to create short poetic phrases to describe the work.

What does art and art education mean to you?

I love learning about art, architecture and world cultures and often travel to experience the things I have read. After studying Jusepe de Ribera’s “Portrait of a Knight of Santiago” in graduate school, I was inspired to walk 500 miles across Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. There are parallels between how I live and how I teach. It is about slowing down, looking closely and being aware of everything that you notice, and that is essentially what we do in galleries.

Carolina People is a regular feature in each issue of the Gazette that asks one of your fascinating colleagues five questions about the work they do for the University. Do you know someone with an interesting or unique job at Carolina? Please email your suggestions to and put Carolina People in the subject line.