In this series, I discuss a few cultural, arts, or museum education articles that you may have missed or didn’t have time to read in the past month. All of the resources are publicly accessible.
This month includes a thought piece on decentering Whiteness in arts education (research), writing engaging museum web content, and some really good baseline tips for teaching in an image-based setting.
(P.S. If you can’t access one of the articles or if you find something interesting that you’d like to have included in next month’s newsletter, send me an email!)
“Reflecting on a paradigm of solidarity? Moving from niceness to dismantle whiteness in art education,” Marit Dewhurst," 19 pages, 40+ minutes to read
Summary: Dewhurst takes this article to examine how practices within the arts education field—which is often dominated by White professionals—uphold and perpetuate Whiteness in the field, as well as to “try to imagine a different set of cultural values that might help … turns towards solidarity” (p. 149).
“Niceness” can be exclusionary of non-White colleagues and students in arts education, who might not have access to the same cultural cues (pp. 148-149).
The arts education field “regularly fails to acknowledge, let alone try to change patterns of racism” (p. 150).
Some important foundations: “Race is socially constructed” (p. 151); Whiteness is considered culturally superior, and along with that comes “a system of values, beliefs, and practices that shape our attitudes and behaviors” (p. 151); Whiteness is violent because of its history suppressing others (pp. 151–152); “All people are harmed by racism; though differently and disproportionately” (p. 152); positioning as a White person limits people’s understanding of certain concepts and experiences, even as they try to dismantle their own power and Whiteness (p. 152)
Dewhurst chooses to use “solidarity” instead of “allyship,” because Whiteness is so pervasive that we must all struggle together (p. 152).
Most art education focuses on White artists, and “academic standards rarely value oral histories, auto-ethnographies, or arts-based methodologies that decenter the primacy of the written word” (p. 153), further reinforcing the culture of Whiteness in arts education.
A culture of White superiority can be defined by “perfectionism, a sense of urgency, defensiveness, valuing quantity over quality, worship of the written word, belief in only one right way, paternalism, either/or thinking, power hoarding, fear of open conflict, individualism, belief that I’m the only one (who can do this ‘right’), the belief that progress is bigger and more, a belief in objectivity, and claiming a right to comfort” (p. 155). Someone who does not fit in with these values can be left on the sidelines, unable to participate (p. 156).
Binary categories such as art vs. craft, art historical movements, and nations-based classifications can all be exclusionary perspectives (p. 159).
Recognizing the roles and responsibilities that go along with racial identities can be a first step toward resisting racial oppression (p. 150). “It is possible to be both the source of oppression and to have the potential to work against it at the same time.” (p. 150)
To defeat “binary categories, individualism, and defensive pride” (p. 158) in arts education (research), Dewhurst suggests “antidotes,” such as “multiplicity and expansiveness” (p. 159), “collaboration and community” (p. 161), and “humble discomfort” (p. 161).
“Whiteness teaches me to concede no ground to the critiques that don’t match my way of thinking.” (p. 162) Humility is a willingness to accept critique and to learn more deeply; prideful defensiveness is a way to maintain the power of Whiteness.
“It is hard to imagine three words that might contain more access to cultural power and social transformation than art, education, and research.” (p. 153)
Art encompasses how “communities communicate ideas about who they are and why that matters,” “education captures how knowledge is constructed, shared, learned, and taught,” and researchers “can control the messages and values that are upheld in society” (p. 153), making art education research a hugely impactful discourse. Instead, we should focus on intersectionality and accept that “conflicting and contradictory concepts can exist simultaneously” (p. 160).
“Powerful Opening Lines to Help Museums Grab Attention Online,” Anna Faherty, blog post, 15 minutes to read
Summary: Short and sweet post on the importance of grabbing the attention of “fickle” online visitors.
Online visitors are different from physical visitors: physical visitors have already made the conscious choice to make the effort to come to your location, while online visitors are often looking for something (anything!) that will grab their attention.
“Irish broadcaster Terry Wogan once said, ‘We’re not talking to an audience. You’re talking to one person and they’re only half-listening. It’s a mistake to think that everybody’s clinging to your every word.’ Wogan was talking about radio, but his words apply equally well to web content.”
“If 100 people land on your story, about 38 will click away immediately. Another 3 will stop when they need to scroll and around 28 will disappear before they’ve made it half-way through.”
Some ways to grab people’s attention with first lines include provocative surprises and tense teasers.
There is a limited amount of time to grab the attention of online readers, so opening lines are incredibly important.
Clicks don’t tell you anything about how many people are engaged with your online content—most people click away within seconds of landing on your page, so it’s important to grab their attention as quickly as possible.
Opening lines should be 20 words or fewer. Shorter is better, so viewers can see your opening line on various formats (mobile, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
Titles, cover images, and standfirsts (a brief summary of the article just beneath the title) can also be attention-grabbers.
“Teaching Tips for Art History and Other Image-based Classes,” Art History Teaching Resources, blog post, 10 minutes to read
Summary: This blog post compiles a BRILLIANT set of foundational principles for anyone teaching in an image-based subject or setting (from art history classes at a university to guiding in a museum).
Trying to cram in too many objects can be overwhelming for students/participants.
“YOU think art history is cool! Show them why.”: don’t be afraid to dive deeper into artworks that you’re really interested in and to share fun facts and odd bits of information.
Be a good model for your students: if you don’t know the answer to a question, show them how to research it, or come with an answer the next class and show how you found this information.
Be transparent about your assignments or your teaching methods—explain the goals for assignments and allow for open discussion with your students on these topics.
If you’re using slides, avoid bright white backgrounds, which can be harder for students with dyslexia to process, and use larger font sizes.
Ask questions instead of lecturing—what can your group infer, speculate, imagine, see?
Less is more. Think about your goal with the amount of material/objects that you want to cover. Are you just including a bunch of pieces for the sake of it?
Limit how much you prepare for your classes/guided tours. You’ll inevitably know more than your students/participants because you’re a specialist, but it’s also okay not to know everything.
Teach with intention: each aspect, assignment, object in your course/tour should point toward your overall learning goals for the group.
Images should be central to your teaching—they will act as prompts throughout your lecture/course.
Don’t reinvent the wheel—there are plenty of models and information already out there for you to adapt to your purposes.
Don’t talk too much—students/participants need time to ask questions, digest, write things down, etc.
Engage in difficult subject matter/topics with your group.
Be kind and sympathetic with your students/group—we’re all human.
Fun Fact: Through the ages (even dating back to ancient Rome!), city growth and urban planning have been shaped by the desire to commute no more than 30 minutes to work. Check out how the morning commute has consistently stuck to 30 minutes since 800 BCE.
“Decolonizing the Future: museums as agents of generational equity”: Elizabeth Merritt at Center for the Future of Museums discusses how politics and museums can become future-proof, by involving younger generations and by thinking about what the world will look like in 25, 50, or 100 years in their planning, policy, and actions.
“We are the Solutions to Access Barriers”: Seema Rao from Museum 2.0 on rethinking museum accessibility (we should be more self-reflexive and start from within).