Friday, April 10, 2009

Something old, something new, borrowed and blue

I feel a little like a bride on her wedding day as I set out into the new land of blogs. Or perhaps a better analogy would be to the "bride" in Duchamp's Large Glass (a.k.a. The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors Even) for she is forever separated from the bachelors below. As someone who has spent over 30 years in art museum education, I have often felt that separation between museums and their audiences very keenly. I have made a career out of trying to bridge that gap.

Over 20 years ago, in 1988 I accepted the AAM's Museum Educators Award for Excellence with a speech. I was thinking I would begin by posting that speech on my new blog but of course, I can't find the paper file and the diskette on which the digital version is stored cannot be read by my current computer. If memory serves me well--which it does not--I would say that my main point was this: museum eduction is important because the humanity of human beings is important. So many of the institutions in contemporary society work to separate us from our humanity by making us numb to our own feelings and blind to our own creative potential. Museum educators work to remnid people of their own creative potential by being the museum workers who put people above objects (art museums in particular used to get their priorities a bit confused in those days long past).

While in the past we used to talk about "empowering" our audiences, we now live in a world where audiences not only feel empowered, they feel entitled. Social networking and cloud computing were not even ideas that had hit consciousness in 1988when many museum workers still did not have computers. The challenge now is to harness the energy of the enormous communities being created every second as people enter the cloud, and to figure out ways in which museums as spaces for social contact and creative renewal can continue to play an active role in people's lives. For art museums, burdened with authentic objects (to say nothing of fixed expenses and long-term debt--I do think more like a museum director these days)the challenge is to stay inclusive and essential while continuing the commitment to showcase inspiring examples of human creative endeavor.

I borrow my ideas regarding social networking from peole who are far more advanced in it than I am, from younger people who are not burdened with the biases of their own past. I love learning from my daughter Marcelle and I am grateful to her for helping me set up my Facebook account and from showing me new ways to use it. I love following Nina Simon's Museum2.0 blog. Her fresh ideas and boundless energy inspire me every day.

I won't dwell too much on what makes me blue. The economy is not it. It's the fact that when we talk to so many people about what we do in the arts we are met with blank stares if not downright hostility. Why were the arts so central to FDR's recovery package and so marginal to Obama's? I guess it shouldn't be surprising that after years of not having any arts emphasis in most of public education we are now faced with diminishing participation in the arts. But it does still make me blue...I'd love to hear what readers of this blog might have to say!


  1. Write on Danielle - LOVE-ED it!

    Laurie Norton Moffatt

  2. Welcome to blogging Danielle! I absolutely agree with the points you make.

  3. Danielle! Thoughtful, insightful and heartfelt as always. While you might borrow from a younger generation in navigating the ever-more complex world of social media and the web, many of us learned the principles from you that inform our work in art education in the 21st Century. I continue to be inspired by your commitment and passion to opening minds and inspiring connections to art in audiences universally, whatever the method or technology might be. I'll be looking forward to more posts!

  4. Thank you all for your warm welcome! I will try to keep my creative juices flowing as I play my usual balancing act!

  5. I appreciate that you've embraced everything Web 2.0 but still remain true to the art world and all it represents. Looking forward to reading more!