The Museum, the City, and the University || Radcliffe Institute

afternoon everyone I'm delighted to see you I'm Liz Cohen I'm Dean of the Radcliffe Institute we have a very full house here today thank you for all for joining us I'm very much looking forward to our discussion the museum the city and the University our program today reflects Radcliffe's dual mission to support scholars scientists and artists as they pursue innovative research and creative work and to share the fruits of those endeavors with a wide public through lectures conferences exhibitions and discussions like today's I am excited to dive into what I know will be a fascinating discussion about the present and future of three institutions that matter a great deal to me and I would guess to many of you in this room the art museum the University and the City to guide us we are fortunate to have five leaders of Boston's major art museums as well as our distinguished moderator Harvard and Radcliffe Sohn professor Yukio lipid museums and universities have distinctive but overlapping missions in today's society both are committed to preserving cultural knowledge and abstract and material form both are dedicated to advancing new knowledge through research and they share a common mission to communicate ideas and aesthetic appreciation in a variety of ways to broad constituencies these links between museums and universities are not new they have a long history when Western European nations were first forming and monarchs were consolidating their power universities and lavish collections of art and antiquities played important and complementary roles in their societies teaching and research at universities helped solidify national identities and royal collections glorified the crown and conferred legitimacy both also preserve the ideological and Tyrael culture of their patrons for the future in the 18th and 19th centuries when many of the major museums we know today emerged as important cultural institutions in cities around the world they took on important societal objectives and engaged a much broader public not only did their collecting and research commitments expand but as Democratic government took hold in the Western world museums aspired to use their cultural Trebek treasures to cultivate enlightened citizens here in the United States the 19th and early 20th centuries also saw massive immigration to Boston New York and other major cities the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York both founded in 1870 aimed to serve as Americanizing institutions in urban centers that were exploding in size and population much has changed of course between the 1870s and today but deep connections live on between national identity and collections of visual and material culture between museums and universities as preservers and promoters of new knowledge and between museums and their publics to highlight one very recent example earlier this year our five panelists wrote an open letter eloquently defending the National Arts and Humanities endowments and articulating their shared belief and I quote that access to the Arts is at the core of a democratic and equitable Society and quote these issues have taken on greater urgency and importance in recent years and even months we are watching as public support for the Arts and Humanities is increasingly contested we are experiencing a new wave of nativism and pressures for Americanization that surely have implications for the missions of universities and museums alike and as American city struggle for economic survival their museum face pressures to be engines of growth and development in addition to their traditional roles in education and research potentially leading to conflicting agendas finally current political realities make museums efforts to engage the public in the arts and humanities both more important and potentially more difficult than ever before I am grateful that we have with us this afternoon such a distinguished panel to help us explore and better understand some of these issues and surely others as well before I hand things over to Yukio Lippitt let me invite you all to continue the conversation with our panelists and with each other at a reception immediately following this program right next door at Fay house now to get our program started please join me in welcoming Yukio Lippitt to the podium Yukio is a professor of art and architecture at Harvard an expert in Japanese art with extensive experience curating museum exhibitions and the Johnson kulakundis family faculty director of the arts here at the Radcliffe Institute hello everyone and let me join Dean Cohen and welcome you to what promises to be a special event in the Greater Boston area were fortunate enough to have art museums of the highest caliber the Museum of Fine Arts is one of the great encyclopedic museums and you were in the world with collection a second to none the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum close by is a real cultural treasure of the city of Boston one of the remarkable museums that emerged out of the Gilded Age in collections housed in an unforgettable setting through dynamic programming and landmark exhibitions the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston has been a leader in the art world since its opening in the 1930s similarly the lists Center for the visual arts at MIT has been a true center for innovation and experimentation in the arts since its founding as the Hayden gallery in 1950 in the Harvard Art Museum's together constitute one of the leading research museums worldwide these museums represent very different kinds of institutions but each in their own way constitutes an important part of the region's history and contributes vitally to its character in the present this evening we're fortunate enough to be able to engage in conversation with their respective directors they come from different backgrounds but I'll share a broad set of experiences touching upon many different aspects of the art world they have curated exhibitions authored scholarly articles purchased art hired museum staff discovered new works written opinion pieces founded in pios conceived of innovative programs crafted partnerships and strategic plans and overseen complex building projects they have also been known to raise money they are art lovers first and foremost but also scholars historians curators planners educators designers and leaders of the community as witnessed among other things in the powerful letter cited by Dean Cohen that they co-authored in February of this year to protest proposed cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities in the summer of 2015 we were faced with an unusual circumstance here in the Boston area three of the region's museums the Gardner the MFA and the Harvard Art Museum had vacancies in the director's position there was a feeling that once these seats were filled there would inevitably be a shift in the cultural landscape we hope to invite whoever assumed these directorships to the Radcliffe Institute in to participate in an event such as this one however time has a way of passing and at this point they already seem like veterans of our local art world so we decided to shoot for the moon and not only invite our new directors Peggy Fogelman Matthew Teitelbaum in Martha Tedeschi but also asked them to be joined by our longer serving directors Jill met Vidal in paja in a wide-ranging discussion here at the Radcliffe Institute before our Harvard Radcliffe community about the museum the city in the university and somehow we succeeded it goes without saying that they're extraordinarily busy people and were extremely grateful for their time and enthusiasm in joining us today and before introducing our participants and inviting them to the stage let me just say a few words about how this evening will proceed after our roughly hour-long discussion there'll be time for a question and answer period and microphones will be placed in the center of the aisle here and if you have a question we ask that you come to the aisle and state your name and any affiliation before posing your question then afterwards as Dean Cohen said we invite you to join us for a reception in Fay house next door now let me introduce our participants peggy Fogelman began her career as a curator of sculpture at the jay paul getty museum has had a distinguished career as a curator educator and in senior management not just at the Getty but at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem and serving from 2009 as the chairman of education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art subsequently she served as director of collections at the Morgan Library and Museum before moving here in night 2016 to become the Norma Jeane Calderwood director of the Gardner Museum paja was formerly the director of white columns Art Gallery in New York before becoming direct deputy director of programs at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2002 we moved to the Contemporary Art Museum in Saint Louis where he served as director and oversaw the construction and opening of its newly expanded facility there he created the first major museum exhibition for a wide range of now internationally recognized artists and he has served as director of the list since 2011 Joel Medvedev served as the first curator for contemporary art at the Gardner Museum as well as the deputy director of programs before assuming the directorship of the ICA in 1998 where she now serves as the Ellen Matilde past director she was the founder of 911 Contemporary Arts in Seattle and has served as deputy director of the New England foundation for the Arts and as many of us know here she oversaw the building and opening in 2006 of the current I see a building in the Seaport District in South Boston which has become a true cultural landmark of the city martha Tedeschi began her career in the department of prints and drawings the Chicago Art Institute specializing in British and American art after a distinguished and award-winning career as a curator and author she became deputy director of art and research in Chicago where she developed innovative curatorial programming in partnerships with local universities before coming to Harvard in 2016 as the Elizabeth and John Moores cabin director of the Harvard Art Museum's matthew teitelbaum was previously a curator at the ica Boston and Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon before joining the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1993 as chief curator he was then appointed director and CEO of the Art Gallery and over in 1998 in oversaw a wide range of exhibitions and programming as well as the renovation of its bows our building by Frank Gehry completed in 2008 he was awarded among other prizes the Chevalier Don Lord quad they are a dialectical in 2006 and in 2015 he joined the MFA as the N in Graham goodand director please join me in welcoming our directors to the stage oh well we can read so we'd like to start off this conversation by giving you an opportunity to speak in a more personal opinion about your relationship to museums was there a formative museum experience at some point in your lives in your in your childhood perhaps that led you down this path Martha maybe we can begin with you and said something of a co-host of this conversation yes definitely for me was a sort of cataclysmic moment and it was when I was 8 years old and my family had just moved to Florence Italy about six months after the devastating flooding of the Arno River which destroyed works of art flooded the basement of the bibliotheca and that's you know a archives and where books were destroyed palazzi with beautiful frescoed walls were critically damaged and although I was a little girl I was very aware of what was happening because there was scaffolding all over Florence there still is sort of but but scaffolding everywhere mud lines on all the buildings and what was really remarkable is that there was an outpouring of help from all over Europe and conservators and especially University students were everywhere in Florence trying to help with documentation preservation just really you know triage and so it was a kind of tragic but also heroic environment and it was that year that I began to understand the sort of precariousness and the preciousness of our cultural heritage and I think ever since then I felt sort of protective of museum collections from that experience it's wonderful I would say my formative childhood experience was at the Yale University Art Gallery New Haven Connecticut where I grew up and it was a place I could take the bus to because I lived right in the city and as a young person I was completely taken by the great Duchamp to em that hangs at the at the Museum you know it well and I think that I don't know how as a young person I thought I got it but for some reason I thought I did and that made me very excited and I think ever since then that combination of verbal and visual thinking and punning and ideas it caught me then and that was a perfect Museum for me it I knew havens a small city that I love dearly but it took my pretty insular world of growing up Jewish in a Jewish community in a small city where my dad was a politician and it was the one place where the world just exploded for me and it was mine and it changed me forever it was painful that is issue to admit the Yale University Art Gallery is really one of the gold standards of the University I would have to be an ad for them all the time well this leads to a question that we also wanted to start off the evening with which has to do with the city of Boston and how the city of Boston looks through the prism of your visions you have all directed museums in other major North American cities Toronto st. Louis Los Angeles Chicago New York what does how does Boston appear to you and maybe that's a question we can direct to our to more recently appointed directors Peggy and Matthew well so one of the things that Dean Cohen said that you know really resonated with me you were talking about that Boston was very different when our museums were established but not so different and in fact that's that's true and the situation in Boston compared to the situation now you know at the turn of the century Boston was 35% foreign-born now it's 25% foreign-born and so in looking at the city through the prism of the gardener the the gardener has very progressive roots that one might not suspect when you think of a you know an unconventional woman in the Gilded Age who granted was was quite wealthy and quite privileged nonetheless she specifically established the museum for the public unlike other Gilded Age museums it was not a private collection that became public after death it was a mast and and intended for the public and she herself had very progressive political leanings and so I think that that's kind of embedded in the DNA of the institution and that's are impaired I think that's an imperative for all of us in our institutions to reflect the city in our audiences however in considering the city I think we have a lot of challenges and you know we certainly are not you know in this room or in many of the things we do reflective of the city in which we live and I think that is something that remains a challenge in in in Boston perhaps more so than in some other places although I think overall it's a challenge for our cultural institutions in terms of that imperative to really engage broadly and to be you know truly welcoming thank you so let me just start by saying answering your first question which maybe has something to do with the second question which is when I was about ten I went to a exhibition with my father who was an artist and his favorite artist in the world was Rembrandt and it was a Rembrandt show and I remember at the end of the exhibition he said I have to go home and have a nap and I looked at him and I said but we just looked at art he said well looking at art is work right and I never will clearly never forgot that that notion that the experience of looking at a work of art is commensurate with what you put into it and what you get back and that it is actually a project it is a commitment and I think about that in relation to the MFA so I am the only person on the stage who not only has come to a new city but has come to a new country and I suppose what I would say is in Toronto I thought a lot about how the museum that I'll and was helping create the city I'm not saying that we didn't reflect it I didn't say that we didn't reach out and pull in that energy but I was also very conscious of how a museum can create a dialog within a city and if I were thinking about the role that I think the MFA and all of us can play it's how we do create the citizen in our midst and I think we have an obligation to do that and I think that Boston is more diverse than it first seems but I have to say as a Canadian a Torontonian it doesn't seem that diverse and I think that one of my challenge is to figure out how to tap into the diversity that does exist here and how to give back a sense of citizens citizenship and community which I think museums must do what I'm observing is that there is an incredible moment of growth in the visual arts here in Boston I think Boston is facing sort of a renaissance in the arts especially in the visual arts and when you think about what institution has grown you look at Gardner you look at MFA you look at Harvard they've all you know done incredible Capitol project and have made new beginnings for themselves and in inserting themselves into art culture and art does create economy so when you think about all the money that's been put in all the jobs that's been given to create this these institutions and this is the moment when I make Jill embarrassed and I always say this and I I really feel that the we're in this position now because 11 years ago the ICA was created and this city hasn't created a new museum in a hundred years and Jill went ahead and put that museum on the beautiful waterfront and I think that got people thinking is that the city can't change we've been the same for a long time it's been fantastic but maybe there's growth maybe there's other ways to do it and I do think there's incredible organizations all throughout Boston but I think especially in the visual arts there's an enormous growth well thank you well this really I mean segues into a question about about architecture and all of you are a part of you lead museums that are housed in very different kinds of buildings this is immediately of course apparent to first-time museum visitor and the experience of the museum is one in the same as the experience of the architecture and the space and now is a really wonderful opportunity to while we have you here on stage to ask you to kind of give us a sense of it an insider sense of your buildings of your architecture as as directors or are there any ways in which the building's surprised you that's very funny I wasn't exactly intending it to be funny but I was just gonna say absolutely yes that what I've found getting to know the relatively new building of the Harvard Art Museum's which for those of you don't know opened in November of 2014 so we're getting close to celebrating our 3rd anniversary in the building I think a huge amount of work was done to try to have the mission of the museum inform the building what's interesting now that it's open is the spaces and we created a lot of differentiated spaces for different kinds of learning the spaces are actually in some cases driving the program and actually giving people more of an appetite than we thought for access to original works of art so the suite of study centers on the fourth floor for example that was a lot of real estate to give up in a museum building project but because we have that there and we are that you know making it staffed all the time last year 41,000 objects came through those study centers that is an appetite I don't think anybody could have predicted and similarly we have a kind of experimental space called the lightbox space that has started to be a site for research with collaborators across Harvard we didn't really know whether it would be a place to show film or whether you know we would commission artists working in digital media but the space itself is suggesting possibilities to our collaborators so I could give many more examples of that but you know I think what we're finding is very differentiated spaces in a new architectural building sometimes have surprises and your recommendation is to build the building and do the programming later well I I guess my recommendation would be listen to the building and push it to see what it can do for you and I think you know what it's doing for us is growing organically and now Thank You Jill um I'm a Sam I'm more interested in the buildings around us than in our individual buildings all of which do very different things but I think that in thinking about the city part of what the questions that at least I'm grappling with are it's fantastic to be the first new art museum in a century nothing for a city to be proud of so when you to go to your first question about what's happening here in Boston I think we're still kind of trying to catch up in many ways from a you know a fairly conservative attitude towards architecture towards building towards museums certainly towards Contemporary Art and we've seen a an accelerated pace in the last decade but when but I think that it's important to look at the issues of zoning and planning of the relative power and roles of developers versus civic institutions in actually shaping the face of a city of where where power gets entered and in many ways my beautiful beloved ICA which works incredibly well when you get in the door and is making many many many people happy all the time but it is completely consumed by privatized large buildings and so as a city I think it's necessary to take a look at what we value many other cities have made different choices in terms of their waterfront and might have left some space open around their iconic architecture our city did not choose to do that we can handle that we we never thought we would be alone and just as I'm happy to have all my colleagues I am actually happy to have people and buildings down on the waterfront but I think that it's a much bigger question than than our architecture we are punctuation marks in a city that is in its center exploding but it's a city that extends well beyond the fenway Harvard Square and the Seaport in Kendall Square and so I think we have some really different questions to grapple with architecture away sorry well in that context one of the qualities of the architecture that expresses itself in different ways in our different spaces because each is unique is this idea of sanctuary of putting yourself in a different kind of space a different kind of mental space a different kind of physical space and they think that in some ways the growth of Boston and the the pace of development and the pace of work and the pace of life in Boston which is ever increasing in fact creates both a hunger and an opportunity for our cultural organizations our cultural spaces our performative spaces to serve a role in terms of civic life and in terms of quality of life that perhaps they didn't so much before when things weren't you know necessarily booming and every corner all around us so and that's that's physically manifested around the ICA but I think it's emotionally and psychologically manifested throughout the city even when it's not basically right next door yes so I might say that I'm not particularly interested in the idea of sanctuary I'm not sure whether you said you were but the challenge with the MFA is in fact to move away from that and if the future of the museum which I believe it is is about invitation welcomed engagement how do you invite people into your institution and say we want you here how do you welcome them and say you belong here and how do you engage them and say you can learn here and share experiences here then when I think of the MFA and you ask about surprises I am constantly surprised maybe I shouldn't be at how forbidding the exterior of the building is how uninviting it is I do have folks around the MFA who don't understand me when I say that to say but I feel comfortable here and I think that's my point is you noted my response is if you like going to the Supreme Court or the central bank they're good so what do you do with the outside of the building and I had a great privilege in fact one of the great privileges of my life was to work with Frank Gehry on the Toronto building and he taught me a lot about architecture in fact I had a rule that whenever he said something that I didn't agree with there didn't understand I'd ask him to say why because I thought when am I gonna have an experience like this again and it was really life-affirming but one of the things I realized was that a building is not a building I never actually said that to him but a building isn't a building we weren't building a building we were building an experience and if you think about a building as an experience then you end up thinking about it as a journey and one of the big surprises for me about the MFA as a building is how unrewarding it is as a journey I'm not saying we don't have great things I'm not saying that we don't have great moments of course we do but the notion of how you feel when you move through that building not so rewarding not so exciting not so firming the art is the building needs greater coherence thank you that's the beginning of the capital campaign inside how do you figure would you like me to follow up a little I just want to address the concept of sanctuary because I and and and I think this also goes to the issue of welcoming audiences I think we have to become as organizations as institutions much less judgmental about what is a valid experience in our spaces and we know from a lot of evaluation and visitor research that people particularly Millennials who seem to be leading very overstressed lives actually come to museums seeking a sort of sanctuary a sort of ability to take themselves out of their everyday heads and inhabit a different kind of mental space and of course the gardener you know kind of broadcasts an idea of you know reflection and sanctuary in terms of its courtyard which is this sort of you know heart of the place which does not mean that we're not also engaging people very actively in terms of participatory experience as an performative experience but I do think if we talk about being truly welcoming and wanting very broad diverse audiences to find meaning in our institutions that means every mode that are every mode of engagement that doesn't endanger the collection needs to be validated because for so long for for you know centuries in fact we have conditioned our audiences to be to conduct themselves certain ways in relation to art and much of that has been you know very intellectually driven by a certain kind of pedagogy and I think to be truly meaningful we have to let go I know that our architects Diller Scofidio and Renfro were fond of saying that the ICA was built to be Civic from the ground up and contemplated from the sky down and then yeah and I think it's worked in many ways in that sense but of course the word sanctuary today has such a particular meaning and so I think that we we are so many things I mean museums and we're among the smaller ones you know relative certainly to the MFA but work complex institutions museums are complex institutions and beings and they have all these different ways in which we all these different centers of business and operation different collections different approaches to collections diverse constituencies donors that I do think we are we are used to being many things for many people and regardless of how we say it we are all trying to I think be as open and inviting as we can to offer this wealth of learning teaching reflection engagement some of its individual and private and some of it is in fantastic groups of young kids teenagers Millennials and seniors it's like the gamut it's our great strength I think I think for museums it's not really about the architecture and having overseen three capital projects working with a young Stan Allen and overseeing the Louie Kahn building one thing I know is you know just like your houses all the museums will leak one of these days and that's what we live with but I think once the building gets built we don't really think about the structure but what we think about as a program and ultimately I think my job is to put someone in front of an object and it's about how do we get someone in here and it's great to have an iconic building that can that the the mayor can show off and tower does a to say what progress were making but in the end it's about creating programs and ideas and getting people in so they feel invited and welcomed and it becomes their space yes we're starting a new building program which I think we'll learn quite a bit from but it's we're taking a condemned building so in a neighborhood that in East Boston in the East Boston shipyard in Marina and taking it out of total disrepair to be a free open free all the time open seasonally space and trying to keep it as raw and industrial and honing to its history as possible which is actually a very difficult thing to do simple seems to be both more expensive and more complex then one might think very expensive to look cheap it's very expensive to look cheap I know getting good at that and but it will be I think really interesting to see how these you know these two spaces that bookend the harbor and where when we first opened on Phan pier we thought one of our great civic initiatives was access to the harbor and now we see that part of how we address the Civic role of the museum in the city is actually thinking about public transportation across the harbor so I think a lot you know over the past decade it's a different shift of our relationship to architecture and the city well thank you and I'd like to get back to that point in a moment but one of the interesting things that has emerged from what I'm hearing of this conversation is that there isn't necessarily a tension between this kind of immersive tranquil encounter with the object that Jill you beautifully described from your experiences at the Yale University Art Gallery and the more bustling kind of zeitgeist blockbuster exhibition where there is a more of a density of visitors but let me reframe the question a little bit in terms of modes of attention this is something that we struggle with a lot at the University how to well how to capture student attention at its most basic level but also how to understand the way attention is changing and to not try to reverse trends but to try to understand and accommodate and kind of take advantage of this the state of things and we're doing it you know where were yes we're banning laptops and wireless devices from classrooms on occasion but we're also flipping classrooms and trying to get students to talk to each other more and take a more participatory rule of course in class and how does um how does this question get addressed today in the museum question about attention I'm happy to jump in there um specifically thinking about engaging students which is such a big part of our mission and we really find that the students want to use us in many different ways and one of the things we have to keep reiterating to them is that there's no right way or wrong way to use the museum in its collections and we try to make sure when we have when we had our kickoff student late at night we thought about the modes of attention very clearly and we created all different levels of kind of intimacy all the way to you know as sort of public meeting with a big sound a sound DJ who was filling the building so that was the courtyard but then as students move throughout the building we were able to get more and more intimate so that you know they could have one-on-one experiences with an object they could follow a small guided tour by a spear but the idea of differentiating so that you reach people at their level of attention on that particular day because I think modes of attention also reflect the reason you came to the museum in the first place well I think museum research often shows that visitors will have a good or bad experience in a museum based on what they wanted the outcome their visit to be so if you're coming with a social purpose let's say you have friends from out of town you're gonna want to make the experience work for your friends you want to feel empowered to show them around without getting lost there are certain things you need on the other hand we hear from students all the time that where their favorite place to go to be sad which sounds like you know not a compliment maybe but think about it you know for students who are sharing dorm rooms don't have much privacy you know may not feel comfortable going to church but need something along those lines to help them calm down slow down think feel get in touch with their own feelings have some privacy you know we also hear that students want that and then we also heard that behind our building was the best place at Harvard to smoke pots if you could tell your students that we have eleven Mark Rothko paintings they could come and be sad for the next 11 months at the MFA but you know it's interesting everybody has their own way of understanding their audience in studies that we've done we found the two reasons why people want to come to a museum our number one to be with other people and secondly to confront a point of view to confront a point of view so when I think about that and where I go is and how does their understanding get expressed so I'm certainly interested in our position and what we say but I think that public institutions like the MFA and I run into trouble when I say it's a public institution and what I mean is we serve the public have a responsibility in this moment to think about voice how do we create voice for our audience how do we create voice for our community within our walls and that's maybe why sorry to come back to it I have trouble with this relatively passive notion of sanctuary reflection because I think museums more urgently than in my experience need now to create the enlightened citizen and create activity and action in our communities I don't think we need to be polemical but I need to think we have to create action and the way I think we have to do it and the way that I want the MFA to be judged is through the eyes of the artist I think that if we can create the MFA as a platform for the artistic sensibility that artistic thinking the sense of new possibility of putting things together in new ways we will both be doing the right thing generally and more specifically giving the voice to our audience because they will find a way to be with each other to learn something new to confront a point of view that will make them more engaged as citizens and I believe that how we do that is the constant conversation that we're that we're having but I think we need at the MFA to do that more than we've done yes I've grown up doing both political organizing and art in art history so I toggle quite a bit but I when I hear your question I'm going someplace a little bit different which is the need to ensure that we part of being that part of being somebody growing up and then an adult and participant does require the ability to read closely whether it's as you said being able to give something to a work of art so that you can take something back or I think about language and written language or literature or poetry and I was reading something over the weekend that made reference to a really prescient article by George Orwell that he wrote right after World War two ended I think in 1946 talking about how sloppy language sloppy language is so I'm so complicit in sloppy thinking and in political danger so Hana I rent us the same kind of connection and I think that we also have an obligation and an incredible opportunity with our collections and with the art we present on stage or on on our walls to try to also at the same time as we get people to speak out and feel engaged active citizens who vote that part of what we want them to do when they vote is to have thought critically and deeply and paid attention to the words and the language and that does require attention and so I don't know if that's what you're getting at but that's the sort of made me think about yes thank you well I wanted to follow up on this a little bit citizenship happens to be the research theme of the Radcliffe Institute this year and next the it is in part a lead-up to the celebration of the centennial of women's suffrage and the ratification of the 19th amendment of the US Constitution and we're living in a time where it's never felt more pressing to raise questions about what it means to be a citizen it's never felt more urgent to get involved in civic engagement so could we elaborate a little bit on this about what what where museums play a role in the present discourse on on civic engagement may I ask a question in reference to your question and that is why do we why do we or do we make a distinction between civic engagement and cultural engagement and I I guess is can one ounce the question is cultural engagement actually civic engagement if we believe in the power of art to give voice to ideas to politics to human condition to this and I I guess I would wonder what my colleagues you know might think that particular spin on the question thank you so as museums I feel like our duty is to present you present things and so when things occur moments happen and then the staff has a meeting to say how do we react to this or not to react to it what can we do should we do something many questions the exhibition we have up now is called civil disobedience and it's a survey of how people have protested from 1920s on to currently and so and we're showing all sides of political statements and their their dedication their belief why they're doing this and also presenting how they went about giving their voice to the cause giving their concerns raising their voice and so for us to be political perhaps not but to present to reflect the current what's happening now I think you have to be reactive to what's happening now I would also add that I think you have to be reactive but you can be specific and maybe have more impact so the thinking in terms of civic engagement and museums and how they might foster that I think you know really looking at your proximate communities and looking at their needs and figuring out whether the museum is actually a good partner to help solve a problem you know a very small example from the work that the Harvard Art Museum's is doing with Cambridge Rindge and Latin the high school in Cambridge which is an incredibly diverse high school we were contacted by teachers there to let us know that their AP World History students had identified a real gap in their textbook which was there was very little discussion of Islamic lands or culture the students were asking for this it's a very diverse school and includes many Muslim students and so we have actually kept done a kind of intervention in this world AP class and we're addressing that lack in the textbook through the collections in the museum's so I think sometimes those very specific projects are really a great way to begin to foster civic engagement in a very doable way that impacts your immediate community so let me I don't know if I can respond to Peggy or not but let me talk about my doubt my doubt is around the question of what is the right action for a public institution at this moment in our history what is the right position to take and which is what is the personal point of view what is the institutional point of view and what gets activated by taking a position which maybe goes to the notion of being civically engaged so I think that my role as a leader is to help the people of whom I work to stay in the question of why rather than what and the what follows but the real question is why should we do something so I'll share hot-off-the-press example which I was sharing in the green room before we were actually talking about personal things and relatives and kids that were misbehaving but we actually talked a little bit about art when we were waiting and I was sharing that a curator whom I don't know which one it was at the MFA suggested that we pulled together fairly quickly my kind of word a small exhibit figures that are kneeling and my first thought was if a cured at the MFA wants to do something like that I'm gonna yes and then I said I didn't think so because I think that's a what question rather than a why question and I think we would have really blurred the notion of the artists intention we would have blurred the notion of what we were saying as an institution around what issue but I love the fact that there was a curator again I don't know who it is who wanted to find a poet find a way to say something that they were feeling about but my doubt is that the answers are going to be easy to come to my doubt is that there's an obvious right or wrong my doubt is that I'm gonna get it right because I've never worked I should say this with a staff that I feel is more anxious and concerned about the times in which they live and the way in which they have agency to do things and I'm trying constantly to balance that urgency which I am completely sympathetic to in any situation with the right role of the institution and that's my doubt and it's not a bad place to be it's actually takes me straight into the why do museums do what they do but I'm in that all the time more than I expected I'm kind of on the proactive end of the spectrum I would say because I think that the one of the great ways a museum gets to demonstrate its civic 'no siz n't so much public as it actually shows up in one's budget which is where do we spend our money and what priorities does that actually demonstrate and so the decision to invest in teenagers which almost all of us do in one way or another right that's a priority that's a civic Inc to me that defines civic engagement figuring out what groups of students we work with thinking about you know where the the relationship of you know you had originally asked about the humanities and museums and what what's going on there and you know of course then you begin to think okay well here in this August beautiful Hall you know we're part of the what 400 selective liberal arts institutions in the country of which there are almost 4,000 right so that means the majority are not quote-unquote highly selective which means they don't accept right more than 50 percent it's not even that selective ah no offense um and so I think about the civic engagement really is a set of choices about who are poor our partners institutionally who are the people we serve and to what degree because again we're all trying to do pretty much everything and but but I think that there are real choices and real consequences to all of the choices we make whether it's to work together on a letter about NEA and neh funding self serving on the one and of course but speaking very much to a national and policy and an investment in our future or many of us are part of an amicus brief filed for the Supreme Court challenging the travel ban right so there's at many different levels I'd say we are all quite proactive and that that is one way of thinking about civic engagement your point about the budget is really well taken I mean even when we have to sit down and decide how to use our marketing dollars abs engage right question right and to homework and it's go sort of goes back to the city issue which is where's all the new building where's the new Boston the Boston that's on fire well it's not in Dorchester by and large I can tell you that it's I was this morning in you know when Dudley at a meeting and it's mostly not there either there's so dense East Boston is gonna be like like my neck of the woods with the strip there it's the strip of the waterfront which is you know gonna be quite expensive condos meanwhile it's a neighborhood of 58% immigrants mostly Central American so there's like these three communities in tension the long term Italian working-class families all these immigrants and now all the new people buying condos so we all make complicated choices but we do make those choices well because you brought up the humanities Jill it's I did that for you it's true we had originally I we thought very much you know universities are so are focused on the humanities and particularly the need with every generation to chant to be champion the humanities this may fall more into the the what as opposed to the why in in Matthews formulation but let me ask a slightly different question that's more specific to museums and museum collections which is which has to do with the study of the art of the past two of you are oversee newzeas that are specifically contemporary art museums although how we define contemporary art is of course ever-evolving and Matthew you come from a contemporary art background although you oversee an encyclopedic Museum there does seem to be at least from where I sit in a academic art history department a kind of a more and more of a present astern among students you see the ascendancy of Contemporary Art in the art world as well within this situation what is the value of the study of the–of the art of the past how does it relate to the presentation of contemporary are we to present it present it in our presentation of art right now they're the ones with the collections if I can jump in being a collection largely of the art of the past although we have a very active contemporary program and an artist-in-residence program that's been that's twenty five years old actually Joe was involved in its inception when she was at the Gardner Museum and now we have a wonderful curator of Contemporary Art who oversees the program I'm gonna go back to your very first question in terms of you know an experience from our life that sort of moved us or inspired us toward museums and it was with mine was with a piece of art of what was then the past it was a 20th century piece but you know now 20th century you know blue-chip artists the art of the path I mean it might as well be a Renaissance painting for you know many many people's minds and I was in front of a Franz Kline painting and talking to a friend of mine about the painting and talking about just you know trying to look at the imagery and and and seeing it as kind of barbed wire and talking about the brutality of war and the vocation of violence and this you know black and white sort of dichotomy and and I passed out so I had a stand all moment or I was extremely moved by the painting or something but I literally woke up in a guards office with someone waving smelling salts over you know I somehow I'd gotten from the gallery down the stairs this is that the the RISD Museum of Art where they're used to having students pass out is in for all kinds of reasons other than the art but anyway it does bring me back to this idea of both the the potency of art that once it's created I think sometimes because all of us I think are very supportive very jazzed very energized and deeply believed in the creative act and the artist process that sometimes you know we we don't equally broadcast our conviction in art once it has been created right I mean and that's what the art of the past it's art that's been created it's of its own time and that that retains its potency although we unlock it in different ways right that's the challenge how do we unlock the power of that art because it is still it still has that potential and that was one lesson one takeaway and the other was how much conversation and this goes back a little to different modes of engagement and you know is it social is it other well it's it's you know anytime there's a conversation obviously it has a social component but it also is how we attend to art how we engage with art and how conversation can be a facilitator of that that makes it that makes the art of the past relevant because it lives in the presence through our engagement with it and that and and and that's part of our job is to make art live now regardless of when it was created and so I mean that would be my you know obviously coming from the gardener I have a vested interest in making the art of the past live but I would imagine that we all want the art of the past to live in the present because we we have a stake in that and and as does the public I think because I wonder support living artists I think that's my that's the contribution that I can make and depending on which scholar you ask contemporary arts been around for quite a bit you know 17 to 35 thousand years depending on which scholar you ask but you know those K drawings and it it goes back that far but I find visual arts to be particularly interesting because it's a very different type of Arts in that you have to be really original right so I'm gonna be broadly generalist here but if in music if you play someone else's music really well you're a good artist if you're singer if you you know all iSchool of whoever you're very good whereas visual arts if you do something that's been done before people pick up on it and it's not for the pub dependent it's not for the pedestal of our history you won't make it up there if you're recreating something so we are all here to support living contemporary artists however all the artists have to know art history if you come to us with an object saying I discovered this new way of painting I put canvas on the floor and I drip paint on it it's like it's been done before you know so I think for all of us it's it's it's moving the art forward it's taken to a place that's know where it's been before but but it for the it's for the practitioners they have to know the craft and the history before they can move on to the next step so behind the strategic plan of the MFA are a few sets of beliefs and one of them is open is better than closed and what I think about leading an extraordinary staff who take care of one of the great collections of the world historical art you know is that one of my challenges is to see historical art as open and not closed and when we can achieve that which is to say other voices can come in when interpretation can be complex and not linear when maybe we believe in many disciplines as well as our history we may open it up in a way that creates life in those objects I mean one of my very first experiences at the MFA before I even knew really anybody was to walk through the Egyptian galleries and I just kept looking and I don't know a lot about Egyptian art I didn't know anything then I know a bit a little bit now but what I know is there are a lot of broken noses in there right like you walk down and then I started looking at the text panels and there wasn't one single text panel that addressed what you were seeing when you walked through and you know so my legacy at the MFA very simple a room of broken noses okay it'll happen by the time I leave but and then text panels that explain why the noses are broken and that's open to me that's an open way of creating a way of understanding an object through the voices of many because to really answer that question is complex it talks to a religion that talks to a whole range of things and that notion of openness is what I think we have to achieve in our historical collections I think another thing that can be really powerful is artist speaking about earlier art particularly the art that inspired them themselves and you know I think that can be wonderful for students it's often very mesmerizing and compelling for the general public to think about the fact that an artist even a very well-known one started somewhere and what were they looking at as they began to make art and what has their inquiry looked like in you know where has the art of the past intersected with what they're trying to do they can be great conversations well I mean it's no surprise that we would that we've heard so many that I think inspiring formulations about the value of the art of the past from our participants and I wanted to ask one of the jobs of a museum director is to be inspiring and but as you pointed out museums are such complex institutions now you have to manage so many different roles and one of the questions I like to ask is how you have seen the position of the museum director change over the years what what is the museum director now and and tell us where its leading what is the museum director going to be like in the future in the year 2030 or beyond well the question that none of us can answer is what the role of the museum director will be in its formation as the custodian of objects that are increasingly value increasingly rare more contested and we can't answer that question I don't there's some trustees the MFA here so I reach and say this but but I don't actually think being a museum director is so complicated really I I think that you're an advocate for the meaning of art in your community and you are looking at different ways to activate the people with whom you work in order to have the biggest loudest most effective platform you can create and if you have the passion around what art can do in your community a lot follows from that and we all have extraordinary teams around us of people who are expert in areas that we're not expert and our job is to make sure we understand how to connect to them so that we don't assume that we know the answers that other people know better than we do but you know I if the passion is in the middle you can take a lot to the edges yeah I think it's getting kind of calm I mean I do think it is complicated so I'll have to get a private tutorial or something hmm figure it out better but you know aren't you all struck I mean we're here in a room almost everyone here from where I sit looks white I'm sitting not where your services are you looking out but at the ICA we've just come through I don't even know that we're through it a fairly complicated situation regarding on exhibition we have on view right now with the painter Dana Schutz and Dana Schutz some of you may know made a painting called open casket which depicts in a somewhat abstracted way the open coffin of Emmett Till and it was included in the Whitney Biennial now that painting never was intended to be part of the ICA exhibition and it is not part of the ICA exhibition but the controversy of the painting has come to the exhibition and to the institution and I do think it is as we go forward in a city that is in a world that is changing so much that is divided that has real real inequities and issues that our job I don't know what it'll be in 2030 but I do think that we are all being asked to change whether or not the controversy is an our doorstep today or last year or whatever we need to change our staffs need to change our audiences changing history needs to be augmented and retold storytelling is changing digital life is changing and juggling all that now I think I find that complicated myself challenging I love it but I don't know the answers and I know I have changed myself through the Dana Schutz exhibition and grappling with it so I feel my own movement both personally and institutionally a sentence about how you've changed or how what that movement is well I would say wasn't not soup so prepared here but what I would say is that I think that that what the question is shifted to me is not one just of cultural appropriation or sensitivity to audience but actually a question of authority and how is the issue of cultural Authority changing and how does it need to change and how without stepping down myself and getting rid of half my staff how am I going to make some of those changes quickly enough to change who has voices of authority in making decisions in understanding the implications of decisions we make just for example so I don't know the future I definitely don't but I do find it to be an extremely challenging important time to lead a civic institution it's a great privilege but I find it a great responsibility and not easy I think directors role and responsibilities will change as the institutions change and right now all of us in addition to the visual art world are in flux so every institution whether it's a symphony or the opera library we're all in a crisis we're all in crisis mode and we're all looking to see how we can create reach the larger audience reach the next generations of participants and users and so I'm sure thing I'm sure all the institutions will adapt or change or disappear but whoever takes on that role in 2030 and all I won't be there for that probably but they'll be they'll I'm sure the board and I know Matthew says we're leaders we're leaders but we're also saying at the same time middle management right so we had we're sort of stuck in between our board and the people that we serve and we're sort of trying to figure the best directors are good problem solvers and I'm sure the board whoever does the hiring will hire the best problem solvers and who are sensitive and capable and who can see that the widest vision to serve the best that they can with the institutions that didn't given it that task – one of the interesting things we heard some of us were there I think at the last meeting of the Association of art museum directors was part of a session on philanthropy that was held at the Gates Foundation in Seattle and what we were being told by several heads of major philanthropic organizations is that the big funders the Gates Foundation you know funders of that category they want to tackle the world's problems right now and unless museums can kind of become places for solutions we're going to be sort of out of the out of the loop so you know if we had to guess who knows what 2030 will look like but I'm gonna guess that directors are going to need more capacity in terms of understanding things that are outside of their traditional areas of expertise but they're gonna really have to have a much bigger understanding of global problems and we're talking about you know poverty disease climate change migration how museums will engage with these issues will probably vary from institution and its to institution but I think among other pressures philanthropists are going to insist that we engage with the bigger problems of our world the other thing that the Gates fellow said and that there's another philanthropist there was not just that but they certainly said that powerfully but that their support was going to go to those cultural institutions that cross disciplines right and that actually found a way to partner outside of the discipline of the cultural institution and I don't know if that's temporary or or not but but picking up on what Jill said and I continue to think it's not that complicated although I do think that it takes a lot of attention and openness but I do think what you're saying which is extraordinary powerful is something that I think about a lot is who speaks for whom and that's part of what you're saying about the Dana Schutz situation I think that is the question of authority of institutions but what I mean by saying that it's not that complicated which I guess maybe it is but but but what I mean is is the way to get to the solution if you accept that it's a process that is an engagement in conversation with others you can get there it's not intractable it's not impossible it's the fact that we can't predict where we're going to be in 25 years it doesn't mean that the process of getting there doesn't have immediate and consequential rewards that's what I'm saying well this is such a rich discussion I think this might be a nice moment to open it up to the audience and ask for anybody like to ask pose a question to approach the microphone in the center aisle and when you do pose your question if you could state your name and any affiliation that would be great hi I'm Vanessa Vanessa and I'm a student at the Graduate School of Education right now in arts and education and I wanted to refer back to what Paul was saying about talking about you know educating art practitioners about the art canon in order to you know go into civic engagement and I'm thinking about Boston as a city and you guys are kind of talking about turning you know bringing the arts into Boston and I'm you know I'm from LA and these and you know it's a cultural hub and I see programs like the Getty speak PST LA and you know the Maine museums program made museums programs where they engage directly with artists working artists and that you know usually in the university settings so what I want to ask is how does the institution of the museum engage with the institution of the Academy through the university and its artists and then how does that funnel into I guess the engagement of these institutions with the city okay so I I think it's a great title the museum the city and the university but I think there's one thing that's glaringly missing for me which is the artists I think the artists should have been included in the title because without artists there's no art there is an ecosystem to the art world and and and the two institutions that you mentioned the teaching institutions and the museums but in addition to that there's also alternative spaces there's artists there's collectors and all those things help be tripping galleries around and we're losing more we lost Camilo who ran up a very excellent gallery in Boston Samson and so I think when I said Boston has this we're within a Renaissance of Visual Arts we are missing a couple of things here and one thing that we sort of need to shore up or support or to be aware of and perhaps point towards helping it grow is the artist community and an alternative space community and gallery community this that's three out of five that I mentioned which is not a good percentage however since the museums and the public scholarly teaching institutions are so strong that it sort of can make up for it but we do need I think those three areas and somehow get there Boston being rich with universities one thing that I've noticed because we are so close to other metropolitan cities is a lot of artists are basically commuters out of the nine months and then they go back to whatever see they're from even some live in LA which i think is ridiculous so if they're somehow collectively we can think about supporting those three additional groups or growing them I think we would have a multiplicative effect on the city the triangle between the museum the university and the artist that was conjured up in the question misses one thing for me which is the notion of the audience and you know I had a unfortunate dinner party well the dinner party wasn't unfortunate but the conversation for me was unfortunate because I made the point which I believe that the most important thing a museum creates his audience and there were some might say it with emphasis some Harvard academics at the dinner and they were making the point that the most important thing museums create is knowledge so a good robust conversation it wasn't actually unfortunate except to say that I think that when you think of the relationship of the museum the University and the artist I think you have to ask yourself in the service of what and I think the robust conversation around this would be what is the audience you produce the enlightened citizen the engaged citizen and that's where I think that the link between universities and art museums can be stronger yes my name is Laura Roberts I'm an independent museum professional and I teach here in the Museum Studies Program I've been teaching museum graduate students for about 30 years I have to say there's nothing quite like that to keep you honest because I'm otherwise an aged peer of most of you and one of the things that those students are telling me is that it's a conversation that has erupted most recently in the production of a t-shirt I have one on order that says museums are not neutral what they should say on the back is and they never have been and I'm wondering what your response is to that if your staff came in wearing a museums are not neutral t-shirt what would you say and would you own a museums are not neutral t-shirt I'll answer that I think at a certain age t-shirts don't look that well you know I I wouldn't wear one I don't know that that is I'm not sure that is the goal that museums should be neutral I agreed that they are not and that they have not been and they are not places where everyone is comfortable I'm not sure comfort is the goal of of art or museums I think that what is necessary is being able to own talk about be honest about one's past whether that's personal bias or the history of museums of as places most museums of white power and privilege so most definitely not neutral but I guess I would push back at neutral as the as the highest goal I don't know I'd have to go to the Y Matthew but I'm not sure but if my staff for one I'd be fine I mean what question would be what would neutral look like in terms of a museum and I think we're a period what does the Duke or what anywhere look I bet you and I think we can all readily investigate and and and discuss how we are not neutral spaces both from the history of you know how collections were formed and how the carrying of art history was developed frankly to you know the the color of the walls and the way that art is contextualized all of which influences not just the art you see but the way you perceive that art and all the different you know before you even get into the museum you know what you're seeing how you're greeted what the transactional relationship is at that entry desk those are all things that influence and shape our experience of art and so in so many ways we are not neutral spaces and they think we need to acknowledge that but but one also needs to ask the question what is neutral and and what is that experience because I I don't know that I've ever yeah experience something I could so no I don't know where this particular t-shirt came from but I know that the Museum of Contemporary Art their director has proposed that they think about it this way that we are not partisan but we are not neutral so in other words neutrality taking on a slightly different connotation than partisan and I think we're not neutral I mean you know we all have hopes of the kinds of conversations that are gonna have to happen that are going to happen in our institutions we don't want to direct what the conclusions and the answers are but you know I think we're very interested in being the platform for those conversations and using our collections and quite pointed ways so you know but I think maybe it helps in terms in the kind of dichotomy that was set up by the MCA I think about it that you mean in Chicago in Chicago Martha mci yeah yeah I think idea of a staff coming to the MFA wearing that t-shirt would be fabulous because it would begin it would be the beginning of the conversation you know if not neutral then what is our position and how do we discuss that position and how do we arrive at either an institutional position or a series of project positions that amount to something that would be a great conversation to be more self-aware about hi I'm Rena Nike I work at the Harvard Art Museum's my question was who are your museums for and if the answer is something like everyone or a big group how do you appeal to or attract or engage such a wide-ranging audience or group next question yeah I think that in some sense at the MFA we think we are for everybody but if you looked at our strategic plan and thought about where we saw our areas of growth were really quite specific and that comes back to the question of the utility we feel we can have in our communities so to be very precise we believe that we are for those people who self-select as our members but beyond that if we think about growth we think of students we think of multi-generational families and we think of creative industry 24 to 35 year olds because we think if we can create conversations for those communities in Boston and create a sense of belonging at the MFA that in other words we can give back to them a purpose and a kind of conversation in their communities we can be of greater use in the Civic sense in Boston I think maybe it's it's useful to distinguish between who are we for and who are the moe where are our greatest opportunities in terms of connection and in terms of you know community relevance and those may be two different things in the sense that I think we want to be for everyone in the sense that we want we want to welcome everyone who wants to come of course we don't force people to come to the museum except in school groups where we actually do force people to come to the museum and we could have a whole conversation about that but we we all I think based on the on on our institutions on our collections for the Gardner definitely in terms of our geographic location look at what what our opportunities are and for instance in terms of the Gardiner we're very focused on our sort of hyper local communities of Roxbury and Mission Hill which you know who may not traditionally have felt that the gardener was was a place for them and and for good reason and which are communities of tremendous creativity that we would like you know to collaborate with and so we've we've you know begun to co-create programs with artists and artistic leaders in Roxbury and Mission Hill that can be that can be both for tradition you know the people who come to the Gardner anyway but also to give voice to you know members of our local court local communities and to have them feel that they do have a voice in the museum so I think all of us try to figure out like where are our opportunities for each of our institutions and the answer may be different for each of us because we are not for everyone and but if you are curious about where art is going in terms of future then we are the place for you and I will readily admit that not everything we show will end up at the MFA in the collection a lot of our stuff that we show may just just disappear to the ether of art history but I feel like our job is to present to you what people are talking about right now the people that I surround myself the people that we have conversation with which we were it's a modest proposal presenting something to you and say what do you think about this is this something that's significant or is it something that we should just absolutely throw away and not think about ever again so if you want to see something that there's a small group of people that's talking about and we're the place for you but if you want generality we're not really not the place for you I don't think I have that much to add the only group that hasn't been mentioned that is very important to the ICA is teenagers we sort we have about 7,000 teenagers a year in the ICA in our teen programs and putting them together with our artists is one of the important constituents that we serve and artists hi my name is Jen I work in the education department at the MFA sorry my question and I just first wanted to thank you all because I think this conversation has been super interesting and very energizing for me as a museum educator my question is about the very controversial topic of unpaid internships and I asked because I think it really encapsulates museums city and university because it involves university students right unpaid internships I think Jill you might have kind of hinted at this the most when you're talking about the lack of diversity and museum staffs I think that's something all museums are struggling with and we're really feeling the effects when it comes to interpretation and exhibitions and programming and unpaid internships are often the most direct filter into staff positions at museums I know that was an MFA internet now I worked there and now as someone that has interns and supervises them over the summer I've really been struck by the huge lack of diversity in applicants and our intern pool both racially but socioeconomically as well I'm wondering because you guys are in such insulation influential positions if you have thoughts about that I know it's a very I do like I promise thank you I have the mixed pleasure of sharing the professional issues committee at AMD which is the Association of art museum directors to which we all participate more or less and at our last meeting in wherever we were Seattle I great put on the agenda the issue of paid internships to try to see whether that is something that we as a field could actually adopt as a policy in the same way we have other field wide policies that govern our behavior in our practice our accreditation etc and actually this past summer for the first time the ICA only had paid interns and we're trying to embody that going further there was a mixed response I would say not against it in principle but in practice for a variety of reasons and so I think it won't be a slam dunk but there are national foundations who are trying to push this agenda I think we as a group of peers and as a field are grappling with it though it may take us a little time to have one policy and I think as we all begin to work in our own institutions we under we see it we understand it and see it because welcome to our field we need more people like you and we need more people not like you thank you so I believe in paying interns and fellows I think it's really important but I'll go even further and and one of my older institutions we created a teen program it was a weekend program where we thought we created this fantastic program for underprivileged youth and it was free absolutely free and when we started getting people to participate it all turned out that only people signed up or from the suburbs who went to private school and we just couldn't figure out why people weren't signing up because this obviously this is an incredible program free of charge and then we had a meeting with a bunch of people and they said well those people are trying to reach they work on the weekends they need to make money to support your help support their family and and for an additional two that they don't have the transportation money to come to your museum so we ended up finding us a sponsor to pay for that the bus passes and we paid them you know we started with minimum wage but that's what we did but it's just there was that's when I realized there was disconnect during what we thought was great and what was really reality of life right and so even though we mean well we really sometimes have it all wrong you know we pay our teams yeah course you do thank you I really appreciate the honesty I'm Elizabeth I'm Brad cliff I currently work at the School of Public Health and I'm a degree candidate in the Museum Studies Program as one of the few Brown people in the audience I was gratified to hear a lot of talk about civic engagement inclusion issues of power and voice and authority but also as a museum consumer and who have spent significant time in every single one of the museum's except the MIT Museum I'm sorry I won't is it but I really I'm really interested and having spent a lot of time and found that a lot of times my perspectives are not recognized and/or presented with in museums and sometimes in some cases are really kind of some case has actually been in ways of they're disrespectful and I'm wondering what your plans and goals are for operationalizing some of these things that you've been talking about because they think they're very lofty goals but how are you gonna move forward in terms of realizing them so we've begun a program at the MFA to give free memberships to naturalize Americans in the state of Massachusetts and we've set as a goal that we will judge ourselves in five to seven years on how many of those new members become either gay guys or staff members and the question for us will be how do we create that virtuous connection so that we can invite people in welcome them as belonging and engage them in creating meaning in the institution and I think that until you accept that you have to invite people in to help create meaning which is my point about voice in the end you won't get that true connection it's a big challenge and it's an exciting one I think you asked a very good question I know one of the things we've done is work with some outside help bring in outside help to train our staff we've actually invited our College staff from our sister institutions to be able to for training on how to engage with visitors around complex works of art where there might be difference of opinion or difficult difficult subject matter doing good I'm not sure I understood your question to be how are how are we operationalize this yes and so I think it's lots of training and lots of repetition actually especially because in typically a lot of our front-of-house staff is young and there's a fairly high turnover rate so it is constant but it is a combination I'd say if top-down and bottom-up work at both you know it's both and I would also say and I'm very fortunate that one of our curatorial staff is here in terms of operationalize how do you integrate this into the conceptualization from the beginning of programs exhibitions etc and so one of our upcoming show opening in October is on Henry James and American painting not a subject you would necessarily play it's going to be a very momentous exhibition as soon as the heavens will move anyway not an exhibition that you would on face value think might lend itself to a lot of exploration of you know connections with with things happening now our everyday life the other kinds of things but in fact so networks artistic networks creative networks are a you know intrinsic to the whole idea of Henry James and his connections with Isabella Stewart Gardner and John Singer Sargent and etc etc and so the curator actually decided to work with someone who is in one of our one of the the group of artistic advisors from our local community to think about how we would embed that idea of current network artistic networks and creative networks within our communities today how do we embed that in the exhibition itself not only in the programs for the exhibition but in the in the interpretative strategy for the exhibition etc and I'm you know so so moved and proud of this collaboration because it was actually kind of operationalizing way of giving you know opening up the types of voices that can enter the museum in in a major major project that is that requires very you know having investment exhibitions are one of our most cost and labor-intensive endeavors as I think anyone in our institutions would would would confirm and so you know that's that's one example of how I can begin to do that but I think one is also talking about you know how do you institutionalize experimentation because none of us have the right answer to this right it's going to take a lot of experimentation a lot of trying things and I would say that that's one of the biggest challenges to museum as museums is that how do you keep something you know how do you how do you remain an adaptive institution once you start operationalizing and institutionalizing things part of that maybe institutionalizing institutional critique so you know museums have been addicted to big data and metrics and visitor research but we've maybe not invited the same kind of scrutiny in terms of institutional critique of what we're acquiring of you know what we're showing how we're showing it I had a very interesting experience this year of walking through the galleries with a faculty member in her class who were taking a very specific journey through the museum because of the subject of their class and they were able to find some real some not-so-good things that were happening because our curators were all installing their galleries separately and weren't thinking about what the whole journey might look like through the galleries and now you know with some help from this faculty member and her students we're actually trying to think in a more holistic way so I think you know outside partners can sometimes critique us in a way that we would never do for ourselves one group that hasn't been mentioned except in passing that makes so much of this possible supporting all of our welcome and openness is that we are all incredibly lucky to have these amazing boards of trustees and advisers who in Boston and this is a different kind of architecture in Boston is not a city with a lot of foundations it doesn't have a lot of corporate support right it has an unbelievably engaged group of philanthropists and so it is a partnership that is coexists along with the partnership we have with our scholars and our artists and our teachers and our audiences and our teams and Families but it is part of the ecosystem that Paul was talking about and a really critical piece thank you for what was really a terrific honest and searching conversation so please join me you [Applause]

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