“Where I have been. Where I am going.”

Posted on February 18th, 2011 by

My past several blog posts have been lighthearted and full of pictures and funny comments, which I love. I’m a strong believer that blog posts should be informative, but also engaging and enjoyable to read for anyone who is interested. However, for this post I’m going to go against my own personal rules and withhold some of the pictures and fun.

“Where We’ve Been…Where We’re Going.” Photo by Will Kirk

The title of this post is inspired by a beautiful piece of work by Loring Cornish that is currently in the JMM exhibition, Loring Cornish: In Each Other’s Shoes. I’ve been working at the JMM for about 5 months now. Although I feel confident in saying that I jumped into the position of Community Outreach Coordinator pretty quickly, I feel like things are now really starting to take off. My job is not only new to me, it is also a new position at the JMM. Therefore it is really important that I always continue to think about the projects I am working on and if they are in fact staying true to the mission of my goal as Community Outreach Coordinator. I would like to publicly reflect a bit on some of the work that I have been doing at the JMM since starting this past October. I would also like to think about what my job will (and should) entail in the coming months. Ideally I would also like to hear from you (the public, the community) about what you think I should be doing.

One of the first projects I really jumped into was targeting the young adult population in Baltimore. As someone who is in my mid-twenties and new to the area it was easy for me to see that the JMM could do a lot more to be a cultural resource for this population. I’ve addressed this by working with Elena Rosemond-Hoerr on creating a set of programs dedicated to young adults and by finding community partners to help us launch a young adult initiative in the summer. So far, our most successful young adult partnership has been with the Baltimore Moishe House, a chapter of an organization dedicated to creating fun communal spaces for young Jews and “Jew lovers.” I’m also enjoying being a part of the planning process for Purim Pandemonium, a fantastic party for young adults that will be held at the JMM on March 19.

This is all great news, but my work is far from over. Yesterday I attended a meeting at THE ASSOCIATED with many other Young Adult Engagement Professionals in Baltimore. This meeting reminded me how much interest there is in this target young adult age group and hence, how much possibility there is for partnership and community engagement. However, the museum and I need to really think strategically about our goals for this group and how to make them happen. Do you have any suggestions? Are there specific organizations that we should be partnering with? Is there another age group or audience that we should be focusing on as well?

Photo by Mark Mehlinger

One of the other major projects that I hope to really start focusing on is the JMM’s Speakers Bureau. Currently we have a diverse group of speakers and lectures available, but can be dramatically expanded. The JMM has so many resources, including staff members and collections, that we should be able to offer great programming on a plethora of topics. My plan is to give this great program a bit of energy by recruiting new talent to speak (that could be you!), researching what topics people are interested in hearing about, and then getting the Speakers Bureau out to the public! This is a project that could really use the public’s help. What types of topics are you interested in learning about? What types of venues are good places for the Speakers Bureau?

Two 6th grade docents from Vartan Gregorian Elementary school at the "Faces of Fox Point" exhibit opening. Photo courtesy of Nara Hernandez

One of my favorite projects that I hope to work on this spring is partnering with local public schools to work with students on long-term projects. In graduate school I worked on a similar project where the principal of the local elementary school wanted to turn the school into a living museum. I love this sentiment. I think it is important that the JMM serve it’s neighbors and what better place to do so then in some of Baltimore’s struggling schools. The Education staff and I already have some great ideas about how to make this project happen and I will make sure to keep you updated on any progress.

Setting up traveling exhibits takes a lot of team work!

Finally, I can’t leave this post without talking about traveling exhibits! This is definitely my most time consuming project these days. It is also the area that I have the biggest learning curve to overcome. What I like about my job as coordinator for the JMM’s traveling exhibits is that it allows me to interact with all of the other staff members outside of the education team. I love my education team dearly, but it’s nice for me to go out of my comfort zone and learn from the curatorial team about the intricacies of handling objects, coordinating travel schedules, and even learning about the mundane (sorry, but it is!) details such as condition reports and insurance.

VOTE! Photo by Will Kirk

There are two traveling exhibitions that I am currently working on. The first is Vote! The Life and Work of Sadie Jacobs Crockin, which is currently traveling all over Maryland. Contact me (rbinning@jewishmuseummd.org) or visit the JMM site to learn more. If you have any ideas about where this exhibit should travel in the Summer and next Fall, please let me know!

Drawing on Tradition. Photo by Will Kirk

The second exhibit that I am in the midst of coordinating is Drawing on Tradition: The Book of Esther, an exhibit composed of original drawings for the Megillat Esther by JT Waldman. This exhibit is fantastical and fun and really timely since Purim is around the corner. Next week the exhibit will be traveling to 6th & I Historic Synagogue in Washington DC. JT Waldman will be speaking about his work there after a Shabbat service and dinner on Friday, March 11. I am especially excited that this exhibit is traveling to 6th & I because I live in DC and I’ve been to 6th & I on multiple occasions. It really is a great place for JT’s work to travel to.

There are many more projects that I’m involved in, but these are the ones most strongly on my mind. How do you think I’m doing? As Community Outreach Coordinator what do you think I should be working on? It is easy to get lost in work when so many great things are taking place, so please help me stay on track with your ideas and suggestions. Thanks in advance for your ideas. I’m looking forward to see what opportunities are waiting for me as I move forward.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

In Each Other’s Shoes: Exhibition Opening

Posted on February 16th, 2011 by

Nearly 400 people visited the JMM yesterday (Sunday, February 13) for a spectacular event, the opening of Loring Cornish: In Each Other’s Shoes. This art exhibit features local artist, Loring Cornish whose impressive large scale mosaics, paintings, and sculptures incorporate found objects, symbols, and words that probe the notion of identity and memory and often refer to major historical events such as the civil rights movement, slavery, and the Holocaust.

Photo by Will Kirk

The audience in attendance at yesterday’s event included a broad cross section of Baltimoreans – black, white, Jewish, Christian, artists, students, young, old, families with young children, first-time visitors to the JMM, and long time members. The diversity of attendees truly reflected the inclusive vision of Loring’s work echoing his expressed desire to use this exhibition as a way to “bridge the differences between people.” A brief program included remarks by JMM president, David Liebman; program director, Ilene Dackman-Alon; MICA professor and curator, Dr. Leslie King-Hammond; curator Karen Falk; and executive director, Avi Decter. Everyone spoke eloquently about the impact and importance of Loring’s work.

The main focus of the opening, was, of course, on the artist himself who even managed to look like one of his artworks, dressed in a jacket with coins adhered to its fabric.

Artist Loring Cornish. Photo by Will Kirk

Loring wowed visitors for hours as he talked inside the gallery and provided impassioned explanations of the works on display and his rationale for creating art that explores the shared (and often painful) history of African-Americans and Jews. He talked about works such as Just Words (one of my own personal favorites). Loring created this piece after a “five minute” welding lesson. The sculpture is an assemblage of welded metal that form letters that make up ten words such as “Jew”, “Negro”, “Hope”, and “Love”.  Part of the joy of viewing Loring’s work is in discovering their many layers. As you look at the same work over time, you notice new symbols, words, and objects. This is especially true of Just Words where new words appear as you circle around the sculpture and study the many different pieces of metal that form letters in different style scripts.

"Just Words" Photo by Harriet Lynne

Loring talks about "The First of Life." Photo by Will Kirk.

The Museum buzzed as visitors shared their admiration for Loring and his artwork. Overheard again and again were comments such as “amazing”, “wow!”, “I can’t wait to attend his next open house”, and “I need to bring my husband/wife/friend/child to see this exhibit!”

In the lobby. Photo by Will Kirk

Loring Cornish: In Each Other’s Shoes will be on display at the JMM through July 17, 2011. For more information or to schedule a visit, please contact the Museum at (410) 732-6400 x229 / info@jewishmuseummd.org.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Highlights from Docent Training

Posted on February 14th, 2011 by

By Robyn Hughes, MA

Yesterday I attended docent training for the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Spring exhibition titled Loring Cornish: In Each Other’s Shoes. This exhibition explores the shared experiences of African Americans and American Jews which include: violent persecution, discrimination, poverty, transcendence, hope and prosperity through the prism of the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The creator of the exhibition, Loring Cornish, is a Visionary Artist who utilizes found objects as the medium for his three dimensional vividly colored mosaics. Mr. Cornish explained to us at the docent training session that he felt deeply inspired to create an exhibition that has a social action theme.

A piece in the JMM lobby

As I entered the exhibition, I felt as though I was embarking upon a journey back in time to the Civil Rights era southern United States. The large brilliantly colored pieces of art which filled the gallery were replete with Civil Rights era iconography, which included images of a large gold painted peace symbol and Civil Rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy. The first piece that I viewed was titled Target Shalom (peace), which featured the aforementioned Civil Rights leaders with drops of blood on one side of the piece and a large gold colored peace symbol on the other side. I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of the black colored background with the contrast of the bright gold colored peace symbol. This juxtaposition of light and dark colors is a recurrent theme throughout the exhibition. This use of color opposition reminded me of the contrast between the feelings of fear and despair, and the feelings of idealism and hope, which were all recurrent themes that existed as a constituent part of the collective consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement.

Encountering “March on Washington:

The second piece that I viewed was titled March on Washington. This piece was filled on one side by square shaped white colored glass pieces which were joined together to create the soles of human feet, which were set against a black background. The instant that I saw this piece, it evoked images in my mind of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

Docents diligently take notes

The third piece that I encountered was titled Montgomery Bus Boycott. This piece was composed of pieces from a variety of brand name tennis shoes such as Nike and Reebok. The pieces of white and camel colored shoes together formed the words Montgomery Bus Boycott. As I gazed at this piece, I reflected upon the juxtapositions of the lack of civil liberties and of the poverty that many African Americans and American Jews faced in the past in contrast with the civil liberties and the economic prosperity that many from both communities enjoy today, due in large part to the Civil Rights Movement.

Engaging with the art

The fourth piece that I explored, titled Souls Awaiting Justice, was for me the most powerful piece in the exhibition. The front side of the piece was covered in brightly colored glass stones, which Mr. Cornish explained symbolized the hope, the prosperity and the achievement of African Americans and Jews; while the opposite side of the piece featured leather, which was meticulously sculpted into a representation of dead bodies. The base which was created by Rashaud Williams in collaboration with Mr. Cornish featured a six candle menorah meant to represent the six million Jews who were murdered in the Shoah (Holocaust) and chains which symbolized the enslavement of African Americans. I was moved by the sense of hope that was offered by the one side of the piece and I felt a deep sense of loss when I viewed the opposite side of the piece. I imagined both the graphic sight and smell of dead charred human flesh that is found in mass graves.

“Souls Awaiting Justice”

My journey through this powerful and evocative exhibition culminated with the vividly colored piece titled Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going. This piece dramatically depicted the transformative sojourn of the African American and the American Jewish communities and the optimism that such a sojourn engenders. This one of a kind exhibition has made the Civil Rights Movement, which was created and experienced by African Americans and American Jews real for me in a personal way that can not be replicated by a two dimensional documentary, lecture or history text book.

*photographs by Jennifer Vess

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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