Starting the New Year with a Look Back at the News of 2009

Instead of trying to put together my own overview of 2009, I leave it to those much more capable of doing so to document the news of exhibits, art, and museums from across the U.S. for 2009 as we look forward to this new year. While you still have some vacation time, take a look at the links below!

I personally look forward to featuring more emerging arts leaders on MJ Writes, as I did last year when I posted a fascinating Q & A with Colleen Dilenschneider. I hope to bring you more musings on the museum industry, especially as I delve into it head first after graduation in May. I am especially excited to attend the American Association of Museum’s Annual Meeting in Los Angeles this spring, and can’t wait to learn and network and emerge myself in all things museum-y. I encourage you to follow me on Twitter @mjfreelance, and email me at mjwritesblog (at) with comments, information, or just to say hello!

Notable Museum Shows in 2009 (WSJ)

Portrait of a Challenging Year for Museums (WSJ)

Year End Museum Wrap-Up for Cincinnati
(City Beat)

Best Art in 2009 Rooted in the Past
(Wicked Local)

Review of Arts in 2009 on Culture Monster
(LA Times)

Museum Future Predictions
(New Curator’s reflection on CFM’s post below)

Reflecting on the Future Museum
(AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums)


Happy New Year…Be Inspired, Light a Spark

Happy Holidays from MJ Writes!

Between finals, traveling to Arizona for the holidays, and catching up with family and friends, my poor little blog has been woefully neglected. So I’m going to postpone my next post until school begins again January 5. I will see you all then, and will have more profiles of emerging arts leaders, more musings about the museum world, and general ramblings about my thesis research, job searches, and new venture developing an understanding of my other passion: wine.

Have a lovely time with your loved ones and see you in the blogosphere in 2010!

Emerging Arts Leader Q & A: Colleen Dilenschneider from “Know Your Own Bone”

Colleen 2 From the time I started MJ Writes, I wanted to feature interviews with individuals I admire, who are working as emerging leaders in the arts and museum field and/or are currently enrolled in a related graduate program. Today, this goal has become a reality! Introducing the “Emerging Arts Leader Q & A” series, a monthly feature on MJ Writes. I align my understanding of what it means to be an emerging leader in the arts with Americans for the Arts definition: those who encompass the next generation of arts leaders in America, and professionals who are either new to the field, with up to five years of experience, or are 35 years of age or younger. The men and women are individuals I feel are directly impacting the current status and the future of the arts and museum sector. They are the next generation of arts leaders in the United States, and will be the familiar faces and voices of change and innovation for years to come.

Without further ado, please welcome Colleen Dilenschneider, an emerging leader in the nonprofit sector with an interest in marketing, education, and creative community engagement. She has experience working at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smart Museum of Art, After School Matters at Gallery 37, and Pacific Science Center in Seattle. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management. Colleen hosts the brilliant blog, Know Your Own Bone, which I follow religiously, and tweets about the nonprofit sector via @cdilly.

Q: What is your current job and how did you start working in the non-profit/museum field?
A: I am currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California pursuing a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management. My museum and nonprofit experience began as a sophomore in college when I served as a weekly volunteer in the Department of Integrative Exhibitions and Family Programs at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Q: What are some of the struggles and successes you have or currently face working in the non-profit/museum world?
A: I left a fun and creative position as the Special Events Coordinator at Pacific Science Center to pursue my master’s degree and the biggest struggle that I am currently facing is adjusting to that status switch. I went from being a full-time nonprofit/museum professional to a full-time graduate student—and it’s a big change! In my past work experiences, I was directly involved in the industry, and now I am studying the industry. It requires a change in perspective, to be sure, but it also requires a conscious effort to stay actively involved in the always-evolving museum and nonprofit communities.

Q: Tell us a bit about your educational background—what have you studied to get to where you are today?
A: I graduated from The University of Chicago in 2007 with a double major in English and visual arts. I received professional certification in public relations from the University of Washington in 2008. I’m pleased to be currently enrolled in The University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development as an MPA candidate for 2011.

Q: What circumstance, opportunity, or experience has influenced and shaped your career choice?
A: I gravitated toward the nonprofit sector when I realized that it was the environment in which my unique talents could produce the most “good.”  To name an example, I get excited about social causes– specifically those involving education and community-building– and that enthusiasm serves as an incredible asset for me in marketing, fundraising, and creative community engagement efforts.

Q: Always a popular question—What books are you currently reading?

Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta
Art Objects
by Jeanette Winterson
Public Management: A Three Dimensional Approach
by Carolyn J. Hill and Laurence E. Lynn

Q: Career-wise, where do you see yourself in five years?
A: In five years, I’ll be utilizing my creative thinking abilities and passion for social change by serving as a leader in a nonprofit organization that engages, educates, and generally strengthens the greater community.

Q: What advice can you share with emerging leaders in the non-profit/museum field?
A: Think big and always be growing. There’s something new to learn in every experience!

Q: If you could experience your own “Night at the Museum” adventure, which museum would you choose?
A: The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, for sure! I’d love to see JFK and Teddy Roosevelt step out of their presidential limousines and I’d like to sit on the bus next to Rosa Parks. I’d hope that the ghost of Abraham Lincoln would appear in his rocking chair and that I could have long conversations with Alice Paul, who is one of my favorite figures in American history. I might even get to meet my great, great grandfather who invented the New Idea two row corn picker that is currently on display on the museum floor!

Pondering “7 Habits of Highly Effective People: The Art World Edition”

Window of OpportunityAn article from Fine Arts LA, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: The Art World Edition, grabbed my attention today as I was taking a break from writing a paper on cultural diplomacy. I should tack these to my wall, because habits one-to-seven speak to my experience thus far in the museum field, both in the academic realm and based on my professional experience. Before I stick this list on the ‘fridge, I’m adding my own “notes to self.”

Habit #1: Believe that art is the alpha and the omega.
But don’t hate on people that do not.

Habit #2: Network, network, network.
Don’t be a scaredy-cat. Leaders take on challenges, not walk away from them.

Habit #3: Carpe Diem.
See art. Do not get so caught up in working for an art organization that you never see what your persistence and passion revolve around.

Habit #4: Study, worship, and emulate John Baldessari (if you’re an artist) or Walter Hopps (if you’re anyone else).
According to Wikipedia, Walter Hopps’ obituary in the Washington Post described him as a “sort of a gonzo museum director — elusive, unpredictable, outlandish in his range, jagged in his vision, heedless of rules.” Sounds like a role model any Museopunk should aim to emulate. (Update: Approach with caution…see #6 and #7. Sometimes the time is not always right to be heedless to the rules or unpredictable.)

Habit # 5: Rise above the fear of not knowing “how.”
Fear is paralyzing and can flatline even the most fervent of ambitions. We should not pretend the fear is nonexistent, because it often gives us the drive we need to “do all those things that we are not easily moved to do…,” according to Rilke.

Habit #6: Don’t try to reinvent the wheel; find your own niche.
I have to admit that a particular annoyance of mine is when people, in a fit of trying to sound really smart I think, attempt to discredit current modes of doing things. It is as if they believe that by talking about it in a frenetic and faux-intellectual manner sans action will solve anything. Often you are presented with a pre-established framework of policies and practices at an arts organization, and it has been my experience that if you are willing to work within this framework while adding your own variations on a theme and taking a leadership role, you may just be a more effective administrator in the long run. At some point in my career, opportunity and experience will align to open up that unique experience of reinvention, but until then, being effective is often my best bet at effecting change.

Habit #7: There isn’t a formula; carve your own path to success.
While it is constructive to learn from others in the field, I understand that there is not “one” road to success or a 1+1=2 formula that can be applied to my life just because it worked for someone else. I learn from others in the field of museum management, but ultimately it is my unique background, knowledge, and experience that guides me, and not the need to fit within a generic mold of what some deem to be success.

I am working up a special, new series of interviews with emerging leaders in the arts and museum sector. Keep an eye out for the first post coming soon!!

100th Post! MJ Writes Guest Blogs on New Curator Today!

My post is up on New Curator today–click here to check it out ! I’m so grateful to add my voice to this fantastic blog, and encourage you not only to check out my post but the blog in general. Plus, New Curator is the genius behind my favorite web forum, Museopunk. What’s not to love about this post, which just happens to be the 100th post on MJ Writes!!

Allowing myself to be inspired by that which I am most devoted to.


I’m usually not given to waxing poetically about the emotional connection I have with the arts; I tend to be much more introspective about those sentiments and like to focus objectively on the nitty-gritty details and facts, which I conveniently attribute it to my ESTJ-sensibilities (Thank you, Myers-Briggs).

There are occasions, though, when I break my own rules, and right now is one of them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been exposed to the poetry of Chinese scholar Aku Wuwu, along with an intensely emotional reading by the poet himself; I have enjoyed the bawdy tunes of a Ukelele Lunch Group while I studied at school on Friday afternoon; I delighted in the comic book art exhibit at my campus’s art museum; I participated in a procession as part of a Day of the Dead celebration organized by a local peace organization; I engaged in lively discussion about art education policy research over drinks and fondue at a darling local restaurant in a restored historic house; I even created multimedia art by designing a video for the first time in iMovie. On top of it all, I got to attend a presentation by an Americans for the Arts staff person, participate in an exciting Creative Conversation organized by my department’s very own student group, ELAN; and volunteer at two international music events where I listened to musicians play Serbian and Scottish bagpipes, Native American pow-wow drums, and an instrument from Zimbabwe, which I’m sure is rare to find all together in one room.

Art and culture–I study and explore these sectors, these concepts on a theoretical level and on a very practical level on a daily basis. I am immersed in a passion for research, for writing, for deconstructing, and working for the arts and for museums. The experiences of the past few weeks offered me a perfect reminder, a thrilling little nudge that I need to occasionally abandon my rational side and embrace the emotional, the tugging-on-the-heart-strings moments in life when I see a painting I can’t tear my eyes away from or am transformed by the reading of a poem in a language I don’t understand. Because these things are what propelled me to pursue a career, an education in the arts in the first place. These moments are what have shaped the person I am today and why I am where I am right now. What moments have you experienced lately that have influenced and transformed you in such a way?

(Photo credits: Sarah Brothers…fellow AAD’er)