To see more from Alana's trip to Miami, along with behind-the-scenes pics of other Wex happenings, check out our stories on Instagram.
Last month, I traveled to Miami where I listened to Will Smith, watched Biscayne Bay from the veranda of the Pérez, and ate pastries with guava and cheese. It was the week of the conference of the Association of Academic Museums (AAMG) and UMAC (University Museums and Collections, a committee of the International Council of Museums). My panel included colleagues from UNC, DePauw, and NYU-Berlin. Together, we tackled art institutions’ roles in facilitating difficult conversations on university campuses. One way to get better at it is to practice, particularly in front of others trying to do the same in far-off places. The gathering, Audacious Ideas: University Museums and Collections as Change-Agents for a Better World, brought people together from countries as distant as Brazil and Estonia.
Our panel introduced a series of case studies with their successes and failures. How have our organizations become better prepared to take on politically charged topics through exhibitions, public programs, and workshops? We emphasized that as curators, educators, and faculty, we come to art with years of looking and discussion with others. The field cannot make assumptions about our audiences and their responses and interpretations.
My paper navigated the issues surrounding three Director's Dialogue on Art and Social Change programs at the Wex: The Birth of a Nation (2016), Pens to Pictures (2017), and the upcoming Tigerland. They provide context and a space for critical debates and exchange with students, faculty, and the community. Through panels, Q&As, and resource sessions, one of our primary objectives has been to introduce frameworks and complications to worldviews. Could we equip people to bring their own perspectives to classrooms, dorms, offices, and kitchen tables? If participants reconsidered the stance they carried in, we had succeeded. If we provided paths for participation and ongoing discussion, we had made some difference. If we took time to listen, revise, and reflect, we could improve next time. I included a preview of the next Director’s Dialogue, featuring Wil Haygood’s new book, Tigerland, which will be held on October 8, 2018. Similar to previous years, we will raise more questions than answers, investigate historical power structures and oppression, and face the complexities of contemporary life.
If you have questions or want to learn more about public programs at the Wex, please contact me. To my former intern, Oscar Rieveling, now part of the education department at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, thank you for all the recommendations, especially Versailles for Cuban food.
Images: Conference materials by Alana Ryder; Alana speaking at the 2018 AAMG/UMC conference; photo: Barry Fellman, courtesy of the Center for Visual Communication, Miami FL