Growing Our Community

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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.

 

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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!!

get off my (museum) lawn!

Originally posted at my blog, Cabinet of Curiosities. It may or may not be a coincidence that my opinion of the articles in question is smack dab in the middle. Such is a Gen-X life. 

Maybe it’s just me but is it “dump on museums” month? First arts writer Judith Dobrzynski bemoans how participatory museums have caused “high culture” to hit the skids. Then CNN Travel senior producer James Durston makes a point of telling us why he thinks museums suck. All of a sudden, museums have everybody’s knickers in knots.

My first reaction was of the “Oh, no they didn’t!” variety. The museum industry is my baby and resisting my first instinct to tear into this conversation like a rabid mama wolverine was pretty challenging. So I took a deep breath, read both articles and the comments multiple times, and tried to unpack what was before me.

I’m showing my Gen-X stripes here but I read most of Ms. Dobrzynski’s “High Culture Goes Hands-On” in the voice of comedian Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man: “In my day, art museums were elitist and stodgy and nobody talked or had fun and we liked it.”

Grumpy old man

Take this passage:

In ages past, art museums didn’t need activating. They were treasure houses, filled with masterpieces meant to outlast the moment of their making, to speak to the universal. Visiting one might be social — you went with friends — but fairly passive. People went to see beauty, find inspiration, experience uplift, sometimes in a spiritual sort of way. Museums housed their heritage, their raison d’être.

True, museums are repositories and stewards of human material culture. But since when has visiting anything been a passive experience? Even a seemingly mundane trip to the grocery store involves multi-layered engagement. How do you expect people to find that beauty and inspiration without activating their senses? And to suggest that the “uplift” gained from quietly viewing so-called masterpieces has more inherent value than engaging in robust conversation surrounding contemporary art is the epitome of hubris. Is the experience worthless because it isn’t the way you prefer to engage with art?

Just for grins, let’s visit the other end of the spectrum with Mr. Durston’s “Why I Hate Museums” where he takes issue with museum funding:

Many of the world’s biggest and best museums are dependent on public money. London’s Natural History Museum needed £82 million ($128 million) to operate over 2012/2013, and nearly £46 million of this, 56%, came from government grants. The Smithsonian has been government funded to the tune of $811.5 million for 2013 — 65% of its total costs. Yet these are still cited as among their country’s best ‘free’ activities.

And while he admits he hasn’t given much thought to how museums contribute to economies, he goes on to say:

But the collect-and-cage policy that defines the visible exhibits, much of which is not even visible most of the time, is anathema to an engaging experience.

More experience, not less. Caged objects, no food/no photo policies, mismanagement, and museums that glorify their architecture over their contents give him the blues. Drama, excitement, and theater should be the order of the day. On its face, this is an argument I can agree with. Audience engagement is central to what I do as a museum employee. Unlike most of the commenters, I don’t assume that Durston, a self-described “museum-phobe”, is a dundering, uncultured idiot. He’s right. Some museums come off like their administrators are allergic to fun. But isn’t saying that museums are important while simultaneously insinuating that none of them are worth supporting financially the worst kind of backhanded compliment?

These articles present as thirsty click-bait, but that’s irrelevant. What matters is the rancid divisiveness that’s sprung up as a result. As others more eloquent than me have pointed out, applying an “either-or” mentality to this discussion is ridiculous. All humans aren’t alike, so there’s no way to craft a singular experience that appeals to everyone. Yet we continue to focus on the differences when we should learn from the commonalities. It’s a distracting shell game that accomplishes nothing except pitting one side against the other in a tiresome, age-old argument.

Despite the disparity of their arguments, Dobrzynski  and Durston are saying the same thing: Museums are letting me down. So instead of name-calling, let’s put our collective brains together to figure out how to create open, encouraging environments that allow the peaceful co-existence of a variety of experiences, from quiet contemplation to boisterous activity.

That’s the only way to serve us all.

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 jcaleshu@badm.org 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.

Everyday I’m #DrawArt-ing

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I have been drawing the Object of the Day from Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum. Inspired by National Museum Month, I dedicated the month of May to drawing the collection that was presented daily on their new multi award-winning Public Alpha website. Read more about it.

Watch the Object of the Day at Cooper-Hewitt video playbacks here  (bookmark-it as an app on your mobile phone!)

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

GUTAI REDUX

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!