Hey GenX Says bloggers! Summers hot and working in a museum is an ideal thing!  However, I jumped right into the heat with a new world-view. It’s only a bit over a month since I stopped working at the museum and I have been focused on going forward with my goals.  I just feel stronger each day that I made the right choice, the girl working teaching kids in the park or inventorying the galleries or main storage will not become a founding museum director of a digitally driven Jewish museum in the future without taking huge risks and going forward!!

Read more about how I’m Werk-n-IT

Dont Kid WIth Me!

A friend of mine’s brother wrote a poem she read me 20-something years ago when this guy was fifteen how he’s “just a kid- so dont kid with me”.  I remember then thinking “yeah no kidding..” — I knew that feeling of wanting to be leveled with or left alone. Those were those dark Bush I (Gulf War, Bosnia/Serbia and Rodney King days).  Kinda grim and serious.. an angsty voice of  ’90s teen-hell mixed with that certain alienated and withdrawn art-school mentality..

Today I feel differently! Kid, your voice is important and you got a place! Lets look at what kids do & how they kid around! Kidding around more would be good for all of us! We’ve been so darn serious for so long with politics, social issues, economic and global instabilities- ick!! I want to look at what kids make and think! They’re the future! They are the way out of the heavy rhythm of the past and full of bright potential.  However, I feel that if they have old soggy models to look at then their fresh thinking and progressive ways may become diluted.

As a GenX person it feels like its my place to make an intervention in a way- to step in and say hey, lets all go down a better path (because this one that I’m on has been kinda a tough one).. I think thats the Pay it Forward idea or “let me mentor you now while Im still learning and working on climbing this ladder, so your ladder is not full of barbs and rungs taken out from under you” – or simply the right think to do!!  Mentor a kid now so its a better next generation with greater opportunities and achievements. Way more of us need to do this so that we can break the mold and push for stronger innovations.  Why do I think innovations are so important? Because things are simply not good enough- I know this because I’m a GenX museum professional sitting here blogging at 4:30am full of great ideas!! 

So a month ago I was in the art supply store and a kid a bit older then my own son had a fist full of paint markers (which I like and buy my son who has ever color Sharpie and paint marker).. I asked him what colors or something about his markers and he said he was using them for shoes he designed.  I had just that week donated my first object to a museum! A pair of hand painted graffiti boots that were so cool, a few years ago when I wore them to the Goldstein Museum of Design the Curator asked me for them one day..which became my first gift to a museum.  My son has also designed some shoes that he’s drawn on paper so I got excited and asked him if he wanted to be a shoe designer. He replied that he wished to be a game designer but his Mom told him to enter every contest and his shoe design was for one. 

I had just that week applied for the NARS Curator of the Year and feeling just as on a wing but the most innocent best intentions and honest belief I could win feeling that I recognized in his eyes.  I handed him my card and said I’m about to be a Phd student and I will need a game designer. I am an art historian who specializes in Jewish art and my goal is to make iPad/mobile apps that include games. I asked if he wanted to “intern” with me and I’d mentor him while I was getting my Phd and that mentorship will be part of my methodology. He was super excited! I said I couldn’t pay him (hopefully that may change) but it would look good on his resume and help him hopefully in the future. We agreed I’d connect with his Mom and get this ball rolling!

I told him there were museum games that are fun, challenging, rewarding, educational.. some games to be like games- and some apps with elegant functions full of interactivity and participatory game-like functions..learning comes in many forms as do games and that some were more successful then others for different reasons I explained over some emails.. I suggested some apps and games to check out on his computer (shucks, he doesn’t have a smartphone).  Over the weeks he continued his interest and contacted me with ideas and questions about what I may want from him. I told him to trust me, I want lots of things but lets just first meet at a table at the museum and play with some games on my iPad and look at some art.

We met up yesterday at @artsmia and sat in their new Commons Area, a hall with conference or work tables and lots of seating areas with outlets etc.. We explored many museum games on apps and I went on an hour brainstorm with him just taking it all in.. I discussed themes and ideas for Jewish games and told him that even a game like “Polish the Holiday Silver” or “Dress the Torah” don’t have to be completely unexciting but games like “Protect the Cultural Property” or “Recover the Nazi-looted Art” in a game called “Restitution” may be more exciting (and more relevant).. and very Indiana Jones-y!

We discussed the idea of safe polite apps and some more risky ones such as how to really handle Nazi looting and how even a restitution mock-trial can be a game. Or a “Holocaust Memory Game” where artworks from the Holocaust could be used as a memory/match game.. It’s pushing some uncomfortable boundaries but I believe may be more effective then “Polish the Holiday Silver” which both the intern teen and my own kid groaned and assured me they’d rather try Nazis and return the art then see an etrog box or a pair of candlesticks polish-up!!! I agree!!!

I showed him how each object had a story which was enough to make an entire app on… Such as a menorah – this object could be a pivot point to learn about the Maccabee revolt against the Romans.. One can look at styles of just that object or explore other parts of material culture then like coinage, costume and other ritual objects, one could make a game of finding enough oil for eight nights, defending the Temple and spinning the dreidel (in 3D of course)… 

So the meeting wrapped up great with both of us going our ways to brainstorm more.. I taught him an exorcize I liked to teach the Art-in-the-Park kids I used to teach for the museum… I asked him if he ever hears a little voice inside that says “I can’t do this, it doesn’t look right, this doesn’t make sense..etc.” he agreed that he hears that sometimes. I told him this is the Voice of Censorship and everyone gets it sometimes.. Whether you’re 8, 18, 28 or 48 this voice is no good. I had him close his eyes and reach inside and visualize pulling that voice out of him, crumpling it up & tossing it out! 

We will see how that works… stay tuned this is a game in the works! 
btw: neither of us won the contests we entered for shoe design or curator of the year.. but we both agreed we felt like winners for applying! 

Games for Greater Social Consciousness

I just have a quick minute to write. I have to quick get ready for my 12 year old’s graduation from Hebrew School. I drove him twice a week for the last many years and not sure he really got anything out of it to be honest… Obviously I don’t need to tell you how uninspiring Hebrew School is..

However, if his classes were taught on iPads with games full of incentives to learn to make better choices, not repeat history, give back and think more selflessly then perhaps Jewish art history may be a perfect agent for teaching with social consciousness.

Imagine Games Like: Recover the 14thC Treasure Trove from the Plague Riots, Uncover the Roman Mosaic, Find the Nazi Looted Art, Protect the Cultural Property, Holocaust Memory Game, Shine the Holiday Silver.. its endless how many ways to engage people through games.

I know that tonight every kid graduating Hebrew School would have a deeper sense of identity and commitment to their cultural community if they all had iPads with Jewish art history games on them..But even greater then the kids liking Hebrew School, perhaps Jewish art history games could contribute to preventing a future genocide.



Where are all the plumbers?

A high school teacher told my husband that if he didn’t try harder, he would wind up as nothing more than a construction worker. This was and is considered a punishment for “lazy” kids. Well guess what? He does work in construction and he’s doing fine. More than fine, actually, he’s doing better than most people I know with graduate degrees. He’s also pretty useful to have around. When a 100-yr-old sewer pipe broke in our yard, we fixed it (now there’s a true test of a marriage – spending 2 days up to our ankles in sewage with no running water in the house). When we needed new gutters, we installed them. Our TV stand? He made that. When the pipes froze, cracked, and leaked, we ripped out half the kitchen, installed a new pipe, then patched and finished the wall.

Photo of me at work

We rebuilt a supporting wall in our basement (which included pouring a new foundation -that’s me in the photo vibrating concrete) and we’re in the process of digging a French drain under our porch. It’s taking us a long time to fix up our house because we both have full-time jobs, but we haven’t spent a penny on labor. His mom still wishes he would go to college, but she calls him every time something needs to be fixed, installed, or built.

Gen X is going to see a dramatic decline in skilled craftsmen as we get older, because this kind of work was actively discouraged when we were in school. In 2009, the average age of a licensed plumber or electrician was 55. Soon, these people will be retiring, and there are very few people ready to take their place. We’ve somehow created a society full of academics. College is considered so vital to future wealth and happiness that now you can be looked down upon for only having a bachelors degree (trust me, I know). How ever far we might have advanced as a society, we still need people to build and fix things, and I don’t see this changing any time soon. Lack of skilled labor has an impact on global economic growth, too, by impeding national infrastructure projects such as transportation and power. Despite the struggling economy, employers desperately need but cannot find skilled welders, electrical linesmen, geotechnical engineers, civil engineers, and more.

Gen Xers have a responsibility to break down the negative stereotypes that surround blue-collar work. Encourage your kids to make, build, and repair. Don’t force them into college because it’s what you did, and/or it’s what you think they should do. Be proud of their talents, even if they are non-academic, and help bring the honor back to skilled labor. If we don’t, we’re going to be in trouble in 15-20 years when our kids hit the workforce and there’s no one left to call when something breaks.