Friday, July 22, 2011

But what can we offer?

Halfway through our first session, in the midst of a discussion about the purpose of museums, Daniel from the Brooklyn Museum posed an excellent question: "I looked at the mission statement for this program and I have a question: If museums already have all of these smart people who've studied museums forever working to make museums better--what can we offer that they can't?" Three hands shot up. Emanuel, from El Museo del Barrio replied: "It's like how if you ask a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old what they want to do for a day, you'll get really different answers.  We can offer museums a different perspective on the same questions because we haven't been studying this for forever--our ideas are fresh.  They can help people who work in museums see things from a different angle." Joseph, from the Whitney chimed in: "Plus, we're the experts on what young people want." Fourteen heads nodded in agreement.

 In the first session of the NYC Museum Teen Summit, the conversation ranged from the role of museums in society to the power of Boards of Trustees over the "voice" of an institution!  Responding to a satirical (and mildly snarky) Pinky Show episode, youth leaders began to debate their own definition of a museum: Does it have to collect art? Does it need walls? Who gets to say it's a museum? (images coming soon!). We took these questions and applied them to collaborative collages about the role of museums in society.  After speed-drawing, writing, and magazine-cutting, we had an impressive exhibition of images...all of them with audience, community, and interactivity at the center. What can we offer?  How about a revolutionized vision of museums? Not bad for day one.