Sharing the Beauty and Diversity of Asian Art through Books

Books and catalogues about the collections and exhibitions at the Asian Art Museum are available at the McCaw Foundation Library. The library participates in an exchange program with museum libraries around the world, providing SAM’s exhibition catalogues in return for theirs. Engaging, beautiful, and diverse, each of these catalogues provides a captivating glimpse into the wider world of Asian art. You are invited to visit the McCaw Foundation Library to enjoy these and more resources to expand your knowledge and understanding of Asian art.

Book Cover: Chŏng-hye Pak et al. Celebrating Events with Banquets and Ceremonies in the Joseon Dynasty. Seoul: National Museum of Korea, 2011.

Book Cover: Chŏng-hye Pak et al. Celebrating Events with Banquets and Ceremonies in the Joseon Dynasty. Seoul: National Museum of Korea, 2011.

Celebrating Events with Banquets and Ceremonies in the Joseon Dynasty. Chŏng-hye Pak et al. Seoul: National Museum of Korea, 2011.

The National Museum of Korea celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009 with the exhibition Scenes of Banquets and Ceremonies of the Joseon Dynasty.  The Joseon Dynasty ruled over a united Korean Peninsula for more than 500 years, from 1392 through 1910. This catalogue is rich in visual descriptions of the traditional celebratory feasts, or janchi, which were characteristic events of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty. Celebratory rites and festivities of the Joseon royal court, and celebratory customs among the Joseon people and government officials are rendered in beautiful and exacting detail.  Images in the catalogue include photographs and drawings of the special clothing worn to various ceremonies, among them a headdress for a first birthday celebration and a wedding veil. The catalogue includes detailed descriptions of the events, and essays that provide cultural detail and context.

Book Cover: Bromberg, Anne et al. The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013.

Book Cover: Bromberg, Anne et al. The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013.

The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas. Bromberg, Anne et al. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2013.

The Dallas Museum of Art’s collection of South Asian art includes nearly 500 works, including Indian Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, Himalayan Buddhist bronze sculptures and ritual objects, artwork from Southeast Asia, and decorative arts from India’s Mughal period. This book details the cultural and artistic significance of works ranging from Tibetan thangkas and Indian miniature paintings, to stone sculptures and bronzes. Relating these works to one another through interconnecting narratives and cross-references, the text provides a broad cultural history of the region.

Book Cover: Strong, Susan. Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1660. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2002.

Book Cover: Strong, Susan. Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1660. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2002.

Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book. Strong, Susan. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2002.

A unique blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles, Mughal painting reached its golden age during the reigns of the emperors Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan in the 16th and 17th centuries. This gloriously illustrated book is the first to examine the Victoria & Albert Museum’s remarkable collection of Mughal paintings. The text contains fascinating research, and images include: elaborately detailed battle scenes, scenes of court life, a remarkable series of portraits, studies of wildlife, and decorative borders.

Book Cover: Yiu, Josh. A Fuller View of China: Chinese Art in the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2014.

Book Cover: Yiu, Josh. A Fuller View of China: Chinese Art in the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2014.

A Fuller View of China: Chinese Art in the Seattle Art Museum. Yiu, Josh. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2014.

In 1933, Dr. Richard Fuller founded the Seattle Art Museum and began to exhibit his collection of textiles, porcelain, and Buddhist sculpture.  From the beginning, Dr. Fuller’s collection has been particularly rich in Chinese art, notably sculpture; and over time it broadened to encompass a wide variety of art including: Japanese art, Northwest modern art, European and American painting, and decorative arts. This book, written by SAM’s former Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art, Josh Yiu, studies the growth of the Chinese art collection, and includes fascinating analysis of single pieces and the collection as a whole. Color plates throughout capture many unique and beautiful pieces that comprise the collection.

The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story. Condry, Ian. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2013.

The Soul of Anime investigates the rise of anime as a worldwide pop culture sensation. This systematic cultural study was informed by interviews with artists at some of Tokyo’s leading animation studios. It discusses how anime’s fictional characters and worlds become platforms for collaborative creativity, and that it has grown out of a collective social energy. Mostly text, this book takes on a visual phenomenon with eagerness and passion.

Book Cover: Koyama-Richard, Brigitte. One Thousand Years of Manga.  Paris; New York: Flammarion, 2014.

Book Cover: Koyama-Richard, Brigitte. One Thousand Years of Manga. Paris; New York: Flammarion, 2014.

One Thousand Years of Manga. Koyama-Richard, Brigitte. Paris; New York: Flammarion, 2014.

Manga originated in Japan in 1814, gained steam in the 1950s, and continues to evolve in today’s popular culture. Earlier echoes of manga can be seen in centuries-old temple paintings and medieval scrolls.  This book is a both a textual account of the history of manga and a visual delight. It contains over 400 illustrations – some rare, some familiar, all charming.

Book Cover: Osaki, Tomohiro. Art Will Thrill You!: The Essence of Modern Japanese Art. Tokyo: The National Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

Book Cover: Osaki, Tomohiro. Art Will Thrill You!: The Essence of Modern Japanese Art. Tokyo: The National Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

Art Will Thrill You! The Essence of Modern Japanese Art. Osaki, Tomohiro. Tokyo: The National Museum of Modern Art, 2012.

The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012. To mark the occasion, it presented a major retrospective of its Japanese modern art collection. The emphasis on Japanese art of 1950s showcases pieces that transcend genre boundaries, in a period when artists collaborated in experimentation and mutual development.  This book includes text in Japanese, and images of paintings, sculptures, and photographs.

Book Cover: Mr. by Mr. Tokyo: Kaikai Kiki, 2003.

Book Cover: Mr. by Mr. Tokyo: Kaikai Kiki, 2003.

Mr. by Mr. Tokyo: Kaikai Kiki, 2003.

Taking his name from the national baseball superstar Shigeo Nagashima’s alias “Mister,” Mr. began as the protégé of Takashi Murakami, and has worked as an artist for over eight years.  Mr.’s works are “Japanese” in their anime-inspired, large-eyed characters and flat color fields.  This book is written in Japanese and contains full-color images of painting, and black & white photographs.

– Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

sam-vernon-osp-1

The Masks We Wear / The Ghosts We Share

Artist Sam Vernon’s stunning black-and-white graphics just took over the PACCAR Pavilion of the Olympic Sculpture Park. The installation, How Ghosts Sleep: Seattle, is a prelude to Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which opens June 18 at the Seattle Art Museum.

Her project for the sculpture park’s pavilion began with a visit to see the Seattle Art Museum’s collection of African masks and the Art Deco architecture of the Asian Art Museum. Afterwards, she mixed in designs from textiles and inspiration from formal studies of leaves, trees, flowers, and animals; which she fit into a frame of bold, abstract shapes.

sam-vernon-osp-3

sam-vernon-osp-12

And all that’s before you get to the ghosts. Her wallpaper covers the interior of the pavilion and fabric canopies hover overhead, filling your eyes with visions of hidden characters who emerge from and then disappear into the walls and ceiling. Vernon has digitally combined photocopied drawings of ghost characters with a hand-drawn/collaged pattern of disembodied figures so that the ghosts are no longer visible—they’re masked. If it sounds layered, it is.

It’s a heady, expressive environment that Vernon hopes will “allow spectators to live in the world of the work rather than next to the work…”

sam-vernon-osp-14

sam-vernon-osp-7

When I met Sam, she was just coming from the sculpture park with Loide Marwanga, the graphic designer who worked with her on the installation. They had just spent their first day in Seattle overseeing the installation of Vernon’s wallpapers and canopies.

Even though it was the end of the day, Vernon was full of energy and enthusiasm (maybe her super cool black-and-white Nike sneakers helped her keep her pep). She said she couldn’t wait to see it all come together.

sam-vernon-osp-13

What’s it been like working on this installation, working with SAM, working with SAM curator Pam McClusky and consultant curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi?

From the project’s conception, I wanted to create an installation to highlight the stunning architecture of the space, stimulate the imaginations of all who enjoy the park and explore the proposition of disguise as a drawing technology. It’s been an honor to work with Pam and Erika—they’re innovative, open, and willing to deeply engage in the critical aspects of my work and practice. Bringing this project to fruition is truly a team effort and I can’t thank them enough for their scholarship, insight, and thoughtfulness.

sam-vernon-osp-4

sam-vernon-osp-5

sam-vernon-osp-15

sam-vernon-osp-8

What speaks to you about the exhibition of Disguise: Masks and Global African Art as a whole? What are you excited about?

I’m drawn to the way in which Pam and Erika have developed a challenging exhibition by including a diverse group of artists working in different parts of the world. We have varied conceptual ideas and unique subjective approaches addressing the past, present and future of disguise as it relates to the museum’s collection and contemporary media.

It’s exciting to be included in an international dialogue about this complex reality—it offers significant links between us and our perceptions of space and time. In this way the exhibition generates important questions about connectivity instead of converging answers for fluent coherence.

sam-vernon-osp-6

What do you think about the Olympic Sculpture Park? When you first saw the site, what did you think?

The Olympic Sculpture Park is breathtaking! I was immediately drawn to the views of the water and the works of one of my favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois.

sam-vernon-osp-2Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga

Follow Sam on Facebook and Instagram to see pictures of her time in Seattle & the art that’s drawn her eye while she’s been here.

Words: Maggie Hess
Photos: Natali Wiseman

scottareman_sam_briannova_horizontal

For the Love of Art Member Profile: Brian Nova

BRIAN NOVA
Jazz musician
Friend member since 2004

Brian Nova has been a member of SAM for over a decade. His membership—like all memberships—supports programs at the museum, including tours and workshops for students, talks by visiting artists from across the world, and the preservation of more than 24,000 objects in our collection.

When we sat down to talk on a sunny day at the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, Brian had just flown in from Napa Valley. He’s a jazz musician, and travels all over the country playing music. His enthusiasm for the arts was catching, and we all felt lucky when he picked up his guitar and played for a little bit as his picture was being taken.

What role does art play in society?
As a touring jazz artist, for me art plays one of the most important roles in society. It unites people of all races, religions, and cultures by giving us a deeper, more meaningful connection. Art forces all who look, feel, or listen, to look, feel, or listen a little deeper. Art helps us to look within ourselves as well as each other.

Art is the fiber that allows connections between those who dwell there. When we look back upon past cultures, past societies, it is the art of that culture, the art of that society, that is remembered, admired, and built upon.

You’re a jazz musician! What do you play?
I play guitar and sing.

You do this professionally?
I do. I tour all over the world doing this. It’s my job. I tour with a lot of different people. I just moved back to Seattle; I was living in the South for a while. I grew up in Seattle. I spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill and in Volunteer Park.

The Asian Art Museum was always a place I would hang out, write music, and just become one with the place.

scottareman_sam_briannova_vertical_comp

Do you have memories of the Seattle Art Museum?
Oh, absolutely. I remember coming in the ’60s and early ’70s when I was a kid. My parents dragged us through—as kids we didn’t want to come.

Since then I have brought my niece and nephew both to the Seattle Art Museum and the Asian Art Museum—twice this past year. Getting them used to the world of museums and world of history and getting a bit of art and culture in their lives. It’s getting harder and harder to find and I travel all over the world. So when we have a place like SAM here, I say, “You kids are coming with me.”

Why do you think that’s so important for them?
Well, I am an artist. This is my world. So without art…you know, it’s the lack of art in our culture that has given us no back-up. For me, when I travel around the world, what stands out from all the old civilizations is their culture and that’s all it is. No one cares about their commerce; no one cares about anything else. Maybe a little bit of architecture and science, which is still art. That is what holds true in every society. We are looking for: “What is your culture?”

To be able to look back at other cultures and get an eye into what they were thinking and going through—I think that’s invaluable. I think the arts, coming from the music side—they’re essential for growth in kids.

I think that at any age you are never too old to pick up an instrument; you are never too old or young to come into the museum and learn about the world, art, and culture. To me that’s why places like SAM are so important.

How long have you been a member of SAM?
Since the late ’90s. I have belonged to the de Young Museum in San Francisco from about the same time.

Do you remember what prompted you to join?
Yes, actually, it was through jazz. They had just started doing the Art of Jazz program at SAM. I got called to do it. I was blown away at how gorgeous it was.

Also, I lived in a building not too far away and my neighbor worked at SAM. She said if I wanted to go she could get me a pass. I went with a friend and I couldn’t believe Seattle has a place like this. With the Hammering Man and all…

I thought wow, this is really different than I remember. SAM was around when I was young but not as prolific as it is today—and with the park…! It’s pretty cool with all the events they are doing and everything.

SAM has really grown up and I am just so happy to be here.

Join Brian as a SAM member today.

Plateau Artists’ Book on View at Bullitt Library

In conjunction with the exhibition, Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection, this installation features the Native American artists’ book, Terrain: Plateau Native Art & Poetry.

terraincover2a

Cover of Terrain: Plateau Native Art & Poetry. Olympia: Self-published at Evergreen State College, 2014. SPCOL E 78 C64 F43 2014.

Terrain: Plateau Native Art & Poetry is the print portfolio/artist’s book that was curated by artist Joe Feddersen, Evergreen faculty emeritus and member of the Colville Confederated Tribes. Corwin Clairmont, Salish and Kootenai, was responsible for printing the works’ monotypes and creating the embellished folio cover.

Enos_ElephantRock

Elephant Rock, monotype by Vanessa Enos.

As one reviewer described, “[Terrain] presents a visual and verbal journey through physical, emotional, and visionary landscapes.” Feddersen, in the volume’s introduction, explains:

“Defined by the crest of the Cascades to the Continental Divide, touching northern California extending far north into British Columbia, Terrain speaks of the textures of the earth—the homeland of the Plateau people. This compilation of expressions, relief prints and poems, breathes the life of ongoing cultures inherent to place.”

carraher_homelessterrain

HomelessTerrain.info, monotype by Ron Carraher. By moving a QR code scanner over the image, the viewer can connect to Carraher’s website.

In a phone interview, Feddersen impressed upon me the importance and purpose of this project. It was a chance to shed some light on artists of the Plateau area, who don’t often receive the attention that artists from the Northwest Coast and Plains regions receive. It was also an opportunity to bring people together. More than half of the participants were present at the printing: older artists working alongside younger artists; well-known artists working alongside emerging ones. It became a very multigenerational experience.   Editions were produced for museums, the artists themselves, and people who volunteered on the project. When the artists came to Evergreen State College in the spring of 2014 for the exhibition component of the project, they got to exchange prints with one another. Feddersen described it like a “coming home week”—a time when people came back together after being dispersed in their various locales, away from their Native culture.

passmore_unnecessaryhousing

Unnecessary Housing, monotype by William (Bill) Passmore.

The portfolio is comprised of prints and poetry by thirty-four Plateau artists and writers: Leo Adams, Sherman Alexie, Neal Ambrose, Gloria Bird, Ron Carraher, Vic Charlo, Corwin Clairmont, Cameron Decker, Alyne Watamet DeCoteau, Debra Earling, Vanessa Enos, Carly Feddersen, Joe Feddersen, Ryan Feddersen, Jennifer Feddersen, Frank Finley, Ric Gendron, Cheryl Grunlose, Michael Holloman, Van Holloman, Rochelle Kulei, James Lavadour, Miles Miller, Ramon Murillo, Ed Archie NoiseCat, William Passmore, Lillian Pitt, Lawney Reyes, Susan Sheoships, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Kirby Stanton, Toma Villa, Ramona Wilson, and Lizzy Woody.

The SAM Libraries are grateful to have this distinctive work. Artist’s books by Native artists are unfortunately rare. Feddersen hopes that projects like this will continue. We do too.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Terrain: Plateau Native Art & Poetry is on view just outside the Bullitt Library on the fifth floor of the Seattle Art Museum, during the library’s public hours: Wednesday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm. During the run of Indigenous Beauty, we will rotate the selection of prints and poems being displayed.

For the Love of Art

For the Love of Art

When we think about what SAM is—What makes us stand out? Why do people want to spend time here?—the first thing that came to mind is you.

Without all the people walking through our doors every day, bringing great energy, insight, and passion to the art, SAM wouldn’t be the same. Without your voices and active eyes and ears, our events wouldn’t be anything at all.

And when we drilled a little deeper, to ask why you come here, we decided that instead of guessing, we should go straight to the source, and ask our members.

Everyone had fascinating things to say. Everyone has a story to tell.

We were overwhelmed with great responses about how people feel about museums, about SAM in general, with memories of people’s creative childhoods, and explanations of what their favorite piece of art is and why.

There was a common thread—when you get right down to it, people come to SAM because they love art. They live creative lives because they love art. They come to events and connect with others because they love art.

Everything we do, too—the exhibitions we bring, the events and programs we organize, the efforts we make to bring Seattle together as a community—it’s all for the love of art.

Brian_Nova_1000px

We had such an amazing time talking to our members! Your feedback fuels our work, and makes us want to do even more to connect art to life.

Keep an eye out for these member stories over the coming year. We’ll feature the interviews on the blog once a month. (Pssst: Sign up for our enewsletter so you know when the interviews go up!) You’ll also start to see “For the Love of Art” pop up in the museum and in SAM magazine, our print newsletter for members that goes out three times a year.

And—we’re going to want to hear your story, too. Keep an eye out—we’ll be asking you why you love art and what you do to show that love.

Want in on the fun? A great way to start building your art community is to join SAM as a member and get to know all these other amazing people.

Photos: Scott Areman.
Photo: Justin Gollmer

From Arts to Zoos: How You Can Make a Difference

Did you know that communities with vibrant cultural organizations are more competitive for high paying jobs and high quality workers, and enjoy greater economic prosperity?

Studies show that students who are engaged in cultural activities excel in school and are more comfortable working in diverse communities. Science, heritage, and arts experiences advance education, enhance the economy, and enrich our quality of life.

SAM is part of the Cultural Access Washington (CAWA) coalition, an alliance of business, nonprofit, education, labor, and government leaders across the state who are proposing legislation to support cultural organizations in our communities.

Our goal is to increase access to cultural experiences (from performing arts organizations to science centers, museums, and zoos) for children and adults across Washington. CAWA legislation will be proposed in Olympia in early 2015 and if passed, counties will have the right to allocate locally collected sales taxes to support community access to cultural organizations.

If successful, sustainable funding will make cultural education programs widely available to students and residents, and school transportation will be provided to these experiences. Everyone will be able to experience and feel the positive benefits of cultural assets.

This will have a tremendous impact.

If you are in favor of allowing counties to control their own funding in regards to cultural organizations, please contact your local legislator and ask him or her to support CAWA.

Let’s give communities the ability to fund the creation and expansion of access to cultural organizations— from arts to zoos.

Not sure who your legislators are? Use the Washington State Legislator Finder!

Photo: Justin Gollmer

SAM Art: SAM <3 YOU!

Elizabeth, Paris, 1931, Andre Kertesz, American, born Hungary, 1894–1985, gelatin silver photograph, 9 11/16 x 7 1/2 in. (24.6 x 19.1 cm), Gift of Jerome D. Whalen, 86.232, © Estate of Andre Kertesz. Not currently on view.

Elizabeth, Paris, 1931, Andre Kertesz, American, born Hungary, 1894–1985, gelatin silver photograph, 9 11/16 x 7 1/2 in. (24.6 x 19.1 cm), Gift of Jerome D. Whalen, 86.232, © Estate of Andre Kertesz. Not currently on view.

Happy Valentine’s Day

from your friends at SAM

 Celebrate the people you love at SAM this weekend, with great art and activities. You can even extend your celebration, and stop by the downtown Seattle Art Museum on Monday—we are open downtown on Presidents Day!

#MuseumBowl

SAM SO CONFIDENT IN THE SEAHAWKS THAT THEY CHALLENGE EVERY MUSEUM IN NEW ENGLAND TO A WAGER

Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we are challenging TWO different New England museums to wagers on the Super Bowl!

We challenge the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA

Terms:
The loser funds an all-expenses paid vacation to SAM for one of their major artworks. Oh, sorry, that assumes the Clark Art Institute will lose. Well, that seems about right.

Ok, ok. The winner gets the privilege of displaying a major work of art from the other museum for three months. The wagered masterpieces respectively showcase the beautiful landscapes of the Northwest and the Northeast.

The Artwork:

At stake is SAM’s majestic Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast from 1870 by Albert Bierstadt from SAM’s American Art collection, which is wagered by Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO.

bierstadt

Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870, Albert Bierstadt, oil on canvas, Seattle Art Museum, Gift of the Friends of American Art at the Seattle Art Museum, with additional funds from the General Acquisition Fund, 2000.70.

In 1870, Albert  painted one of the most stunning subjects of his career: a vision of a stormy Puget Sound. This spectacular, eight-foot-wide view of Puget Sound was the result of the Eastern Seaboard’s newly awakened interest in this faraway region that the artist had visited only briefly seven years before. It’s more than just a landscape painting—it is also a historical work, a narrative of an ancient maritime people, and a rumination on the ages-old mountains, basaltic rocks, dense woods, glacial rivers, and surf-pounded shores that have given the Northwest its look and also shaped its culture.

Conversely, the New England’s West Point, Prout’s Neck (1900), one of the Clark’s greatest works by Winslow Homer, is wagered by Michael Conforti, Director of the Clark Art Institute.

1955.7-Final-cropped-100px

Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910), West Point, Prout’s Neck, 1900. Oil on canvas, 30 1/16 x 48 1/8 in. (76.4 x 122.2 cm). Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.7.

Rorschach says, “I am sure that this beautiful Homer painting will be coming to Seattle after the Seahawks defeat the Patriots for another win. We are already making plans to host this incredible work of American art in our galleries so that the 12s can enjoy it.”

Can’t wait to see how good it looks on our walls. Think we saw some staff down there measuring where the nail should go earlier.

We challenge the Clark Art Institute AND the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to a TWITTER THROW DOWN

Follow hashtag #museumbowl this Friday, January 30, at 10:30 am (PST) to join in and support our team! On Monday morning, following the game, the losing team’s museum will post a collage honoring five major works from SAM’s the champion’s collection.

Don’t miss the action as we take on basically everyone two museums in this epic Art Bowl XLIX!

think-tank-social-justice-2

#SAMSpeakUp: RACE, SOCIAL JUSTICE & MUSEUMS

When it comes to conversations surrounding race and social justice, museums aren’t readily thought of as spaces that would play much a role. However, I believe that museums can in fact be powerful and unique in facilitating these discussions.

The next time you come to SAM, you may notice that our Think Tank walls have questions that await your response: “How do you define race and social justice?” “How can art mobilize social change?” “How can museums be spaces of social justice?”

think-tank-social-justice-7


(The Think Tank is located between the Mezzanine Level and the second floor, towards the back of the building! Just walk up the Grand Staircase until you hit the room with the chalkboard walls.)

As our MLK Spotlight Tours last week highlighted, we don’t have to look too far to see that there are works and artists in our collection who are already having these conversations with you—what are ways we can delve deeper?

I see that museums can play a unique role in these conversations for these reasons:

  • Museums serve as portals and connectors—connecting us to cultures and ideas, connecting us to others and our community, and connecting us with ourselves.
  • Museums are engrained within communities—it is the community who interacts with the museum and thus these spaces exist not only to share stories about art but also to serve the community (local and beyond).

think-tank-social-justice-1

When race and social justice issues arise on a local, national, or even an international level, how can museums leverage their unique positions in order to help? And how can museums strive to become more inclusive spaces and to better reflect the communities they serve?

One recent issue that has been on my mind and on many others’ is the non-indictment rulings in the deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, and countless other similar situations. I feel conversations surrounding race relations—and the injustices and inequities that communities of color face—have reached a new height. These situations have been fostered by historical legacies and systems in the United States. This means historical institutions like museums can be a critical part of this conversation, particularly in bridging gaps in racial and cultural understanding.

think-tank-social-justice-4

In December, a few museum bloggers and colleagues also saw the need for museums to step in and thus issued a joint statement asking the question, “What should be our roles?” This sparked conversations across the country, and museums shared how they’ve responded—from hosting community conversations to collecting Ferguson-related media artifacts.

think-tank-social-justice-3

It was partly this traction that inspired our latest iteration of the Think Tank. Rather than specifically tackling #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson, my colleagues and I want the Think Tank to be a space for a larger conversation about race, social justice, and museums. These conversations are best sustained and brought to the forefront when they are incorporated into our regular practice.

think-tank-social-justice-5

And while I do believe museums can serve as catalysts, I don’t think they have all the answers, which is where our community comes in.

My hope for the Think Tank is that it can function as a free and open community dialogue space for all who interact with SAM. I want it to be a space for you to reflect on current topics and issues in social justice, examine your own experiences, share your stories, express your voice, and connect with others—and my hope is also that you will give us feedback for us to use as an institution to better serve you. I truly believe dialogue can spark change.

It is also my hope that we can continue to have these conversations together as an institution and community, and continue to strive to make the museum a more inclusive and accessible space to honor all stories, perspectives, and voices.

think-tank-social-justice-6

We invite you to join the conversation.

Marcus Ramirez
Coordinator for Education & Public Programs