Noticing race and diversity in the museum

Noticing race and diversity in the museum

This summer for me has been a lot of “firsts.” It was the first summer I explored many different corners of Philadelphia, the first time I tried Rita’s, first time working at a large institution like the PMA, first time I taught students in a gallery, and first time I began to think about diversity in an art institute. It was a busy summer to say the least. As an education intern, I worked on three different big projects including leading tours in the galleries to summer camp groups, visiting a local library in Germantown to lead art activities relating to our special exhibit Creative Africa, and working at ArtSplash studio, assisting family audiences with different art projects. This structure really allowed me to see the vast and wide array of programs that the museum runs to reach out to different members in the community. In the midst of these busy weeks, I thought a lot about diversity in the museum.  these are some things I have spent a lot of time observing and thinking about. Prior to starting this internship, I was aware that the art world is pretty white. To my surprise, I saw more diversity than I thought when I started, especially being placed in the education department. However as tour groups came in, I started noticing more interesting racial dynamics. A large portion of the students who came on the tour were of color, whereas most of the authority figures they saw in the museum, their tour guides (the education interns), were white. And often, the artwork these students observed were painted by white European...
Museum on the Hill – Accessibility at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Museum on the Hill – Accessibility at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

This summer I have been interning at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the Education Department focusing on family and community audiences. Day to day at the museum, I am on my feet giving tours in the galleries and leading related art activities in the studio to camp groups ages 6-12, assisting with Art Splash – the museum’s family summer programming, and traveling weekly to local libraries to lead art workshops related to Creative Africa, a special exhibition currently on view in the Perelman Building at the PMA. Whether it be working at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford, painting in my spare time, taking trips to a museum to view a newly installed exhibition, or finding art in unexpected places while wandering Philadelphia neighborhoods, art has always been a crucial component of my life and the way I understand the world around me. I’d rather spend an entire day meditating on the artworks in one gallery space rather than try to see the entire museum in a day. Many of the children visiting for tours have never been to the PMA let alone an art museum. It’s exciting for me to facilitate dialogue around a work of art and to make them feel confident engaging rather than afraid that there’s a right or wrong way to interpret the artworks. It’s a challenge to keep the work from seeming stagnant – to encourage conversation that makes the artworks relevant to their lives. My favorite work to teach is a portable fresco by Diego Rivera because we get to talk about muralism as a form of storytelling and the role...
Summer at the PMA

Summer at the PMA

So this summer, I’m an intern in the Editorial & Graphic Design Department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of their Museum Studies summer program. My supervisor is Gretchen Dykstra, the Senior Marketing Editor, and I am grateful to work with her and with a number of other experienced editors and graphic designers in the department. The role of EGD in the museum is kind of broad, which means that my projects are always different and new, and I get to work with a lot of other departments. EGD is responsible for all ephemera published by the museum, both print and digital. That means that everything that has text or an image on it at the museum has gone through EGD. We work closely with other departments to develop content, such as copy for a new brochure for Development, wall text for upcoming special exhibitions, and images for banner replacements, and then our responsibility is to facilitate several rounds of edits and carry each project to publication (whether print or digital). The thing I’m quickly realizing is that there are often hundreds of projects in progress at once, and projects never stop coming in. So there’s always something new and more to do! As an English major with diverse museum experience, this internship placement in particular has been rewarding for me. I get to be surrounded by people who value the way words can support and augment visual art, and get to use the writing and editing skills I’ve gained as an English major and my knowledge of the museum industry to help Gretchen and the EGD staff to the best of...

A Clash of Lives!

Ever since my Summer 2011 HCAH-sponsored internship with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, I’ve continued volunteering with the department, helping with research about the photographer Paul Strand, whose core collection the museum recently acquired.  Working with the museum during the school year is a lot of fun because once a week, I get to replace my standard college student’s jeans and sweatshirt with my finest business casual, don my museum ID badge, and venture off campus (with the ever-generous HCAH reimbursing my transportation costs) to go spend an afternoon learning new things about art.  It’s kinda like having a superhero alter ego, but obviously a whole lot cooler. However, my “superhero alter ego” comparison can’t hold up, since superheroes must always keep their two lives separated – something I’m fundamentally unable to do separate.  Why?  Because a whole lot of the research I’m doing right now keeps leading me back to the beautiful tome Paul Strand in Mexico, written by none other than Haverford’s own Professor of History James Krippner.  Professor Krippner’s book has proved incredibly useful in learning about a huge part of Strand’s life, and is especially important considering that Strand’s work in Mexico hasn’t necessarily received the same sort of attention as other parts of his career. The work I did last school year helped me put together many details of Strand’s life through dealing with his personal correspondance; this year, my task is more focused on piecing together the biographies of some of the people whom Strand knew and photographed.  As all these different biographies come together, the possibilities for...