The JMM at AAM!
This year I had the privilege of having the Jewish Museum of Maryland send me to the American Association of Museums Annual Meeting (http:///www.aam-us.org/am11/). From May 22 to May 25 I spent time in Houston where I reunited with colleagues, networked with museum professionals throughout the country, learned about forward thinking projects and ideas in the field, and explored the city of Houston (as best as I could without a car). I consider the trip a big success. I was so impressed by each of the sessions I attended that I came back to the museum enthused and excited to make new connections, update old programs, and start new projects that address the needs of our community. So much took place that I cannot write about everything from my trip, but I will re-cap some of the highlights for you.
After a crazy weekend visiting with family and friends in Washington DC I took a 6:00 AM flight to Houston so that I could enjoy most of the day there. I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my closest friends who works at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (http:///www.pmcaonline.org/) in Southern California. I tagged along with several other young museum professionals based out of Southern California and visited Houston’s Museum district where we managed to cram a lot of site seeing into one day. First we stopped at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (http:///www.mfah.org/), where my favorite exhibit was by Carlos Cruz-Diez and titled “Color in Space and Time.” My academic strength lies in cultural history and I’m often intimidated by art, but I could not help being transfixed by Diez’s creative use of optics and colors. There were several immersive rooms that when you entered you were able to actually experience the art all around you.
My other favorite activities from that day were visiting the Rothko Chapel (http:///www.rothkochapel.org/) and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel (http:///www.menil.org/visit/byzantine.php). Coincidentally I had heard about the Rothko Chapel a few months ago on NPR and was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that it was in Houston. If you want to listen to that article you can listen to it here (http:///www.npr.org/2011/03/01/134160717/meditation-and-modern-art-meet-in-rothko-chapel). The two chapels were very different from each other, but each offers people an opportunity to pause and reflect while surrounded by beautiful art.
Bright and early Monday morning I officially kicked off the conference by attending a Council of American Jewish Museums (http:///www.cajm.net/ ) breakfast at AAM. It was really great to meet with Executive Director, Joanne Kauvar, and other Jewish Museum professionals that I have heard so much about. One of the issues we talked about during breakfast was how to connect the older and younger generations of Jewish museum professionals so that they can learn from each other.
The first session I went to on Monday morning was called “Museums as Good Neighbors: Two Approaches to Participating in Placemaking” and was led by staff members from Project Row Houses in Houston and the Queens Museum of Art. I attended this session because one of the JMM’s goals is to be a good neighbor to the community directly around us. Also, recently our Education and Program Coordinator, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, and I have been working with Commodore Rodgers Middle School on a weekly basis to create an art project inspired by Loring Cornish’s work and the history of the our neighborhood. I wanted to find out other creative ways that institutions were successfully working with their community.
Project Row Houses (PRH) (http:///projectrowhouses.org/) was one of the most interesting and inspiring organizations that I learned about at AAM. It is “a neighborhood-based non-profit art and cultural organization in Houston’s Northern Third Ward, one of the city’s oldest African-American Communities” (PRH Website, “About,” http:///projectrowhouses.org/about/). From what I learned at this session PRH has several focuses and initiatives, all of equal value. They include public art, arts education, and community building. One of their programs is a Young Mother’s Program where young mothers aged 18-26 live in the PRW homes for 1-2 years while learning about art and working with artists and residence. They mothers are taught to be artistic because artists are creative and innovative, skills that are important and applicable to daily life for all people.
Another great session I attended was called “Teach with O’Keefe: 1 Traveling Exhibit, 3 Museums, and 4 Schools; A National Collaboration to Promote Arts Integration.” The Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the Phillips Collection, and the Whitney Museum of American Art all collaborated with each other and local public schools to bring a traveling exhibit about Georgia O’Keefe beyond the walls of the museum. The project was a great success and it serves as a great model for collaboration between museums. This project inspired me to think about how different Jewish museums can collaborate on large-scale projects.
Finally my blog post cannot be complete without talking about all of the amazing food I ate while there. I’m pretty sure I rolled home about 10 pounds heavier. My first meal was Tex-Mex and I felt like I was right back at home in California while eating an enormous burrito. However, for the rest of the trip I focused on Texas BBQ. One of my most memorable meals was at a BBQ place called “Good Company Texas Bar-B-Q.” We had to take a taxi to get there, but it was worth it for the delicious brisket, coleslaw, and pecan pie. Apparently several other people from the AAM meeting agreed because we ran into a lot of AAMers there.
It feels good to be back in Baltimore, but I could not be happier about my experience at AAM this year in Houston. In addition to networking with other museum professionals, I learned about amazing projects taking place throughout the country, and came back inspired to apply some of these ideas and models at the JMM.
A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.