Outreach Within the Local Community

Posted on June 24, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Megan Orbach. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

The topic that I have chosen to write about in my first in depth blog post is Museums and community outreach in all its forms. Prior to beginning my internship at the JMM, I understood the importance of community outreach as far as donations and support go, to keep non-profit organizations, such as JMM, functioning. However, after starting and being here for a few weeks I have been privileged to learn about more ways that a museum can participate in outreach within the local community.

On one of my first days of my internship I was given the opportunity to observe a program that was held at the museum with two Baltimore city public schools. This program gave students the platform to tell stories from their lives. The students did this by making a video slideshow with the help of their teachers that would be presented to other students in their classes and to students of different schools. I got to experience watching two classes’ stories. These stories told of how students met their best friends to how they are dealing with the loss of a parent. Some of the students remarked that they liked the project because they felt that it finally gave them a voice. On the other hand, some liked it because it allowed them to see how similar others’ stories could be to theirs and in turn, sparked the potential for new friendships.

Students from Morrell Park and Graceland Park participated in Personal Stories: PROJECTED, coming together to share their short films with each other.

I was pleasantly surprised by this program because of the impact I saw it had made on students just by observing one session. Further, as a younger student myself, I had been on field trips to various museums but I had never participated in any programs with both my teachers and museum educators like the one I observed.

Museums exist to educate their guests and to tell stories. I have realized since starting my internship that museums also exist to reach out to their local communities and to help make a difference. I read an article written by Caldor Zwicky who is an assistant director at the MoMA for teen and community partnerships. Zwicky details his firsthand experiences working with local students through art classes and school visits. He also discusses an art program, likely similar to the story telling program at JMM, in which he recalls noticing the “yearning” of students to be paid attention to. Just like at JMM where students visited and participated in a project that helped them to find their voice, Zwicky’s art program encouraged the students he worked with to find theirs. He also told of his own participation in an art class at a museum when he was younger, recalling that it changed his academic and general life for the better, so much so that it contributed to his working at a museum today.

Calder Zwicky in 2016, working on an art project in association with his work at the MoMA.

All the programming that JMM does with local schools and other organizations in the community makes me even more proud to be an intern here. Of course, these programs are able to be in existence because of generous donations from community members and this allows me to see, once again, the importance of fundraising/development (the department for which I intern) and its essential role in making a difference.

As someone who is looking to work for a non-profit organization one day, potentially a museum, I am so appreciative of being afforded the opportunity to observe programs like the one I did and to see how much of an impact they can make.

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