Growing Our Community


Today’s session – Generation X: How Soon Is Now – at the California Association of Museums annual conference was a standing-room-only affair. We probably crammed close to 100 mostly GenX-ers into a room at the Napa Valley Marriott – as I joked, probably all of the GenXers at the conference were in the room!

Our presentations ran the gamut from personal stories about growing up as latch-key kids to introductions to 19 international museum leaders (who happen to be GenX) to career advice to look for institutional needs and match them with your own strengths. 

As at our original session at AAM in 2012, we struck a nerve. The Q&A following the presentations went on well past the official end of the session – until finally I “pulled the plug” at 11:30. 

Hopefully some of you reading this were at the session – we’d love to know what you though. Tell us in the comments – or if you have a lot to say, become a blog contributor! Email me jennifer at caleshu dot com and I’ll be happy to invite you.


We’re baaaaaack….

It’s been almost two years since we started this movement and community, and the Gen X Museum gang is back together again – this time for the California Association of Museum‘s annual conference in lovely Napa, California.

Join me and this diverse group of museum GenXers for our session: Generation X: How Soon Is Now from 10 – 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, March 6:

  • Jennifer Caleshu, Director of Earned Revenue, Bay Area Discovery Museum;
  • James Leventhal, Deputy Director for Development, Contemporary Jewish Museum;
  • Amparo Leyman Pino, museum consultant;
  • Renee Donmon, Membership Director, Charles M. Schulz Museum;
  • Salvador Acevedo, Principal & President, Contemporánea;
  • Jada Hansen, Executive Director, Hennepin History Museum;
  • Michael Wall, Vice President of Research and Public Programs, San Diego Natural History Museum;
  • Paloma Patterson, Museum Staff for Development and Administration, Mendocino County Museum
Gain a wide perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing Generation X and reflect on your own leadership practice as we fly through our presentations pecha kucha style – 20 slides each for 20 seconds per slide. We’ll have a rockin’ soundtrack and plenty of time for our open mic. 

Well just like a GenX workaholic I was sick in bed this weekend and just thought I’d animate my old Master’s Thesis.. couldn’t I have just rested?? No!! Now my video is being shared this week in one of the Professor’s classes that I originally quoted in my thesis! All before 8am Monday.. this is why I love working (wait I don’t actually have a job) … and social media!

I feel like I finally did something important.  Something bigger and beyond anything I have done before. Yes, I have been making art my whole life and many works; paintings, digital art, sculptures and videos, caused people joy & happiness.. this is nice, I love this.. but those works don’t actually help save lives or influence positive global change or directly help contribute to healing the world, Tikkun Olam in Hebrew.

Well, actually I do feel my other work is important too.. but in a different way. Museum engagement, using social media to mentor teens & teach art history, and creating innovative digital art IS really important and our world is a much better place for it!!! But I somehow feel different, this time, because I used all these components together to address the idea of using art history for social change.. in this video I use 14th century Jewish art history, during the Black Plague, to address cultural intolerance, social violence, genocide through a feminist perspective. I use the ‘marginalized of the marginalized’ in this story to confront issues that are relevant today.

In this video, I share a story of the Erfurt Ring, its history and other objects that relate to the 14th century bride and recovered treasure. I propose the idea of a strong feminine game character and offer an opportunity for the future development of a Digitally Immersive Engagement Experience. I would like to use it as an Introductory Video for a future Kickstarter Campaign to produce a Game for Change experience for museums, audiences, and people who wish to learn more.. Learning more and sharing (two vital actions in most social media sites) helps contribute to healing the world too!!

GenX Museum Staff – What are your stories?

Join our Pecha Kucha during the 2014 California Association of Museums Conference in Napa, March 5 – 7. To apply, send up to 100 words on what you’d want to present about to by August 10 and we’ll select a diverse array of voices to share their stories.

Generation X – How Soon Is Now? Nine presenters with 20 slides each and just 20 seconds per slide will share their Gen X leadership stories of museum life sandwiched between the much larger cohorts of Baby Boomers and Generation Y. We are no longer “emerging museum professionals” – so now what? As the response to our 2012 AAM session makes clear, this is a generation that hasn’t been heard. Generation X (born early 1960’s to early 1980’s) is squeezed between two much larger generational cohorts: Baby Boomers who won’t (or can’t) retire and their Generation Y children who are moving up the professional ladder. We are no longer “emerging museum professionals” – but are we in charge? The pecha kucha format will allow for a diverse series of voices to highlight the opportunities and challenges we face, and to build a community so that we won’t feel so alone stuck in the middle.

One Day Artist Residency

#DrawArt images created for One Day Artist Residency  

I recently enjoyed participating in a One Day Artist Residency. A progressive and new program by Adam Reed Rozan, Director of Audience Engagement at  Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts.

New mobile technology is how I conducted the entire Artist Residency – by using digital media, the museums’s online resources, social media and new innovations in audience engagement. Please read more about how I used mobile and digital technology along with new media innovations with #DrawArt

The highlight of audience engagement was that I included a link each time I shared an image for others to Watch it Live on a #DrawArt Digital Sketchbook that I created just for the One Day Residency which indefinitely extends the audience’s experience with the ability to watch video playbacks of the drawings and the opportunity to learn more about each work, see the original art and link back to the museum online.

GenX in the Guggenheim


I have been honored by an invitation to be a participating artist in Gutai: Splendid Playground at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Feb 15 – May 8, 2013. For this exhibit I was asked to create 200 postcards for the Gutai Card Box, a recreation of the original performance in 1962. My response to this project was to make GUTAI REDUX, 8 self portraits appropriating art history that are in the playful Gutai spirit.

The cards I created are Digital Trading Card Stickers. They were drawn on my iPad in the #DrawArt program I helped create for museum engagement. Each card has a QR code directing museum visitors who receive a card or others who see the stickers plastered on the streets, subways and signs of NY to a video on YouTube. The video allows you to “collect them all”.. and watch & learn more about Gutai art!

Watch the video here

If you want a Digital Trading Card Sticker in the mail just send me your address!

Optimus Prime is Jewish


Many of you have been working hard this Summer in museums, traveling with your families or even getting married.  I have been exploring the world of computers, games and cosplay.  Did I really write that? Yes, cosplay. I went to an Annual Sci-Fi Games Convention called CONvergence in Minneapolis. I dressed up as a back-up dancer in my favorite childhood cartoon The Jetsons..the episode with Jet-Screamer singing EEP-OPP-ORK-AHAH (means I love you). My computer scientist friend Clement Shimizu (from AAM2012) designed a headband with dual video monitors playing the song!

Please read more about how I attend this crazy Sci-Fi Games Convention. I compare my experience to other museum conferences I’ve attended in the past and explore the beginning of the development a Strong Feminine Game Character for a 14th Century woman in Erfurt, Germany who must evade angry mobs, flagellants and disease to gather and hide Jewish ritual objects, including the Jewish Communal Wedding Ring, part of the Erfurt Treasure Trove.

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!