Tag Archives: AAM Annual Meeting

AAM Annual Meeting Reflections – Museums: Catalysts for Civic Renewal

SESSION DEETS – Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chaired by:
Beverly Sheppard, President and CEO, Institute for Learning Innovation, Edgewater, MD
Penelope Cuff, Senior Program Officer, Partners For Livable Communities, Washington, DC
Juana Guzman, Vice President, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL
Prerana Reddy, Director of Public Events, Queens Museum of Art New York City Building, Queens, NY

This session will articulate new opportunities and a growing imperative for museums to become catalysts and partners in strengthening and revitalizing their communities, focusing on principles and processes for integrating diverse voices, artistic strengths and collaborative learning. Speakers will examine the theoretical bases for leading through cultural expression and will share provocative examples of the processes at work.


Juana Guzman of National Museum of Mexican Art

  • Museum serving as catalyst for social and economic change.
  • Art can create income for communities. As museums, we have to look at ourselves in non-traditional ways. Demographics are changing.
  • 45% of NMMA’S operational budget earmarked for education!
  • Capacity building for museums. Visitors are not only visiting to see museum but also the community. They want to experience what local businesses and artists have to offer. This infuses the economy in neighborhood. [MJ: This brings to my mind the First Friday Artwalks I have been a part of in both my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona and my current town of Eugene, Oregon.]
  • Anti-immigrant issue – The museum can serve as a diplomat to this conversation.
  • Broader dialogue between Mexican community and museum facilitated by exhibit, “The African Presence in Mexico.” This show has traveled as well, initiatiing educational civic dialogues, dialogues that went with this exhibit. They included discussions about racial healing and racial identity. Arts can do this. Workshops for families and teen dialogue to occur because a lot of tension existed. Accessed faith-based groups and health service providers.
  • Her museum is interested in transnational dialogue. In one exhibition, they explored the influence of Mexican artists on artists like Jackson Pollock. Another exhibit brought attention to the Juarez women who were murdered.
  • Gift shop generates money for us – objects from local artists and artists in Mexico. Finding fit between tourism and community.
  • “Uprooting” – The root issues: housing in Chicago. Gentrification. Issues of displacement. Identifying sense of home to involve the neighborhood. Brought people in museum at Dia del Ninos with medical testing.

Prerana Reddy – Director of Public Events – Queen Museum of Art

  • Reddy has a film and political education background.
  • Highways separates museums from community where most visitors come from. Psychological barrier to Coronoa “shifting sand” neighborhood.
  • Their businesses and activities still very much part of visual landscape.
  • Revival of jazz history in this neighborhood because of Louis Armstrong House Museum.
  • New Corona is 70% now Latino and 10%  Asian immigrants. Over 168 languages spoken in this area!
  • 1/4 – 1/3 percent illegal immigrants. Hesitant to take advantage of institutions. Museum could be neutral agent in connecting community with these services. Arts, culture, and social services.
  • Using art to change perceptions about community members. Using exhibitions to create dialogue. Exhibit about immigrants. “New” New Yorkers – not just separating out everyone from immigrant city.
  • Leadership through arts – working with young people because time prohibitive with adults. Entry way to their families. Help directly with programming and have a stake; are given staff badges. Power relations – who has stake, who needs access to technology, access to define.
  • Beautification – community organizer. Activation of public space became space for community celebrations. DOT grant as a result. Collaboratively programmed with 40 organizations in Corona Initiative (more about this here).
  • What does this have to do with exhibitions/curatorial? “Spotlight on Redlines Housing Crisis Learning Center.” Needed conversation with housing activities. (13,000 foreclosures in mid 2008; only three in Manhattan). Opening the “Learning Center.” Thank you party for housing activities – ploy as well to get them to see work/exhibit in larger context. There was a panel on the panorama. 2 hours long conversation. There were town halls in foreclosure neighborhoods. Also Redlines family day – how do you explain this? (2 art therapists on staff). Offered free space to run fundraisers after exhibit over, keep up with partners. Important to have people on staff who can keep these partnerships alive.
  • Culture Shapes Community!
  • Institutions may subvert activist parts of organization. Museums as “good neighbor.” Local, transnational institution. Not choice to be activist versus collecting curating but deciding for organization identity will be. Developing visual literacy. Changes how we think of exhibitions in the future.
  • Important to bring people into conversations why art is important to them. Not repositories but resources. Reflectors of/to leaders in community. Stable, reflecting organizations.

Safe, sound, and on the ground in L.A.

View from the hotel...Staples Center in the distance.