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...