December 2019 TBR

Event to attend:

I have been wanting to see the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Alexandria tomorrow, but I’ve been sick the last couple of days, so I’m not sure I’ll make it.

Articles to Read:

Unpaid Internships Are Unfair To Poorer People & They Should Be Stopped

Sticks and Stones: bullying in museums

Don’t call it the Freer/Sackler. Call it the National Museum of Asian Art

Doing Museum Work: Your Thoughts

The surprising truth about chronic illness and the future of work

How Museum Stores Support Their Institutions and the Public

Games of the Decade: The world would be better if we all played Pokémon Go

How You Act Makes Workplace Equity Happen

These Roadside Markers Have a Futuristic Climate Twist

New Monument in the Vatican Encourages Compassion for Refugees

Why art and music matter in the fight for social justice

Belonging: Co-creating welcoming and equitable museums

The 10 most misleading American historical sites

When Museum Neighbors Include Neighbors without Homes

Museums and Historic Homes Grapple With Difficult Pasts

Plantations Only Now Begin to Exit Role as Museums of Whitewashed Nonsense

Don’t despair if your teen wants to major in history instead of science

Teachers’ implicit bias against black students starts in preschool, study finds

National Gallery debuts mental health awareness audio tour

A Grave Climate Warning, Buried on Black Friday

Workers say Museum of Science demoted them for not upselling visitors

Museum Offers Visitors Chance to Sleep in an Edward Hopper Painting

New App Takes Smithsonian Visitors Beyond Visuals

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November 2019 TBR

Place to Visit:

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in DC. I have walked past it but have not stopped to spend time exploring.

Articles to Read:

Scientists Around the World Declare ‘Climate Emergency’

Italian council is flooded immediately after rejecting measures on climate change

7 major Venice tourist sites damaged by historic flooding

Hear Ye! The Freedom Trail’s Tour Guides Have Had Enough

Marciano Art Foundation Lays Off Employees Trying to Unionize

Museum Workers Stand Up to Owners After Being Laid Off

Murals as Voice: Who We Are, Painted on the Walls

Where Women See Bias, Men See a ‘Pipeline Problem’

North Dakota brewery is putting shelter dogs on its beer cans

The fight to stop Nestlé from taking America’s water to sell in plastic bottles

New Donor Ethics Rules: Why Policies and Procedures Alone Can’t Protect Us

Microsoft Japan Says 4-Day Workweek Boosted Workers’ Productivity By 40%

Celebrations and tears from traditional owners as Uluru climb ban begins

The Far Right Is Taking On Cultural Institutions

Why Libraries Have a Public Spirit That Most Museums Lack

The post office just released a new set of stamps to honor military dogs

Border wall poses new problems for the endangered Mexican Gray Wolf

Pizza Hut’s ‘Little Free Libraries’ Look Exactly Like Mini Pizza Huts

Is there a culture of exclusion in museums?

12 Native American Authors to Read During Native American Heritage Month

Fredericksburg to move slave auction block to museum

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October 2019 TBR

The month is almost over, and there are plenty of articles I’ve bookmarked to read later, some of them about a holiday that happened earlier this month (and the growing movement to transform it into a more enlightened holiday). 

Place to visit:

Women: A Century of Change exhibit at the National Geographic Museum (which I will be visiting in November!).

Articles to Read:

Meet the Money Behind The Climate Denial Movement

Man Knits Sweaters Of Places, Then Visits Those Places Wearing Sweater

Scientists endorse mass civil disobedience to force climate action

The Poetess Who Went Toe to Toe With Christopher Columbus

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Rethinking How We Celebrate American History

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Combating the Erasure of Native People

Heritage healing: why historic houses improve wellbeing

First Ever Clouded Leopard Cubs Debut at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

The silenced: meet the climate whistleblowers muzzled by Trump

In the Room Where It (sorta) Happened: ICOM’s Museum Definition

The Newseum, journalism’s monument to itself, to shut down at end of year

Study Says Art Makes You Mentally Healthier, Even If You’re Not Good At It

‘Museums are dangerous places’ – challenging history

With Expansion, Peabody Essex Explores Complicated History Of Museums

The Museum of Sex: What’s it like to be a for-profit museum?

Park Service Says Archaeological Sites Are Imperiled by Border Wall

Culture teaching at risk as jobs row hits British Library

Science and disability Q&A: Part 1

Louvre to Train Refugees as Museum Tour Guides

A Toxic Work Culture Is Forcing High-Performing People to Quit

Trump’s Border Wall Could Decimate These Rare Species

Let’s Face It! Museums Need Antiracist Policies

Childhood As ‘Resume Building’: Why Play Needs A Comeback

The Art Handler Who Fell Down an Elevator Shaft

In Japan People Are Transforming Trucks Into Tiny Enchanting Gardens

No, Confederate monuments don’t preserve history. They manipulate it

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September TBR

Happy Labor Day! Included in this month’s TBR list are a couple of articles related to fair pay and workplace safety in the world of museum labor.

Place to visit:

National Museum of African American History and Culture. I have been wanting to visit since it opened, but have been waiting for the crowds to be less overwhelming, for entry to be easier to obtain, and for a full day’s block of time to spend at the museum. And yes, I certainly expect to see difficult history addressed in the exhibits.

Articles to read:

Trump Reportedly Didn’t Want to See Anything “Difficult” in Visit to African American History Museum

Mural On Milwaukee Bus Depicting ICE Raid Draws Criticism

Hospital Art Helps People Heal, but the Artworks Need Care Too

Science Museum workers are striking for fair pay

No, Confederate monuments don’t preserve history. They manipulate it

Atlanta’s High Museum Has Launched a ‘Dating App’ to Match Visitors With the Perfect Artwork

Michigan’s Statewide Effort to Atone for the Sins of Its Historic Markers

The Museum Wall That Broke the Art Handler’s Back

Ryan White state historical marker unveiled

Wildlife bridges over highways make animals and people safer

The Illustrator behind Madeline, the Timeless Children’s Character

Maryland museum considers removing Confederate flag from logo | WTOP

In Flint, Schools Overwhelmed by Special Ed. Needs in Aftermath of Lead Crisis

Can Museums Reduce Their Use of Single-Use Plastic?

Opportunities for Museums to Lead for the Future of Learning

Patrons Wore Blackface and Colonial-Era Costumes to Party at AfricaMuseum

Native American history in Washington — it’s more than just a museum

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August TBR

I’m going to be on a hiatus for about six months or so, as I really just need to focus on my job and my health right now. So instead of posting my thoughts on museums visited or books and articles read, I will occasionally post a list of places I want to visit and items to read later. (If you have any recommendations, leave a comment!)

Number one upcoming place to visit:

National Book Festival on Saturday, August 31, 2019 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center!

Articles to read, podcasts to hear, etc.:

Museopunks Episode 37: Experience doesn’t pay the rent

The New Museum’s Bathroom Nominated as “America’s Best Restroom”

How Protecting Civil War Battlefields Helps Protect Drinking Water

What we can learn from Pop-Up Museums? Best practice and ideas from Instagram friendly experiences

Building an Equitable Future: Museums and Reparations

As Trump administration moves to ‘improve’ citizenship test, Philly’s American Revolution museum steps up to help migrants succeed

Why bad ideas lead to good ideas: using “reverse thinking” in a design sprint at the National Gallery of Art

Inside Hushed Museum Hallways, a Rumble Over Pay Grows Louder

WAGE Just Released a Calculator That Tells Artists If They’re Getting Paid Fairly for Their Work

Atlanta to add context about the South’s racist history to monuments

Trump Eliminates Plastic Water Bottle Ban in National Parks, Removes White House Bikeshare Station

9 Museums Around the World That Every Cat Lover Should Visit

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Recent Reflections and Reads: Self-Taught Art

On a whim in June, I decided I wanted to make art. It was literally an urge out of nowhere. One moment I had no thoughts whatsoever about wanting to paint or collage, and the next minute, I was very much wanting to paint and collage. I bought some supplies, and painting has been like an obsession or an addiction ever since.

This is not to say that I have any idea what I am doing. Recently, when the same cashier at Michaels rang up yet another round of canvas, he told me that he was still working on the same one oil painting. Meanwhile, there I was rushing through my small canvases.

As a viewer, I have always been drawn to art that gets categorized as folk, self-taught, outsider, visionary. But when it comes to my own creations, I am not so much self-taught as not-taught-at-all (beyond the art classes that were part of my elementary and middle school curriculum, which happened a long time ago).

Like the makeshift spread of acrylic-splattered newspapers on my floor, my position as a not-taught-at-all does not always sit comfortably with me. I can’t help but wonder if there is a connection between my painting without expertise and the broader cloud of anti-expertise that plagues our society. Why does anyone need to actually learn or study anything, if my alternative facts are as good as your facts? If there’s no need, for example, to pay attention to the work and warnings of climate scientists?painting

At the very least, when it comes to producing creative work, don’t you have to know the rules before you can break them?

I know two things: one, that there are endless upon endless techniques that I know I don’t know how to achieve (or, I try them, and then quickly learn that I don’t know how to carry them out). Two, that in the month and a half of putting paint on canvas, I have made a few things that I genuinely like.

Whether I will take a formal class in the near future remains to be seen. Just buying supplies alone is turning out to be enough of a financial investment at the moment. In the meantime, I can go online to read up on techniques, and to contemplate ideas like those in the following articles:

  1. 10 things about being an artist that art teachers don’t tell you by Emily Browne, from the Guardian in 2013. Advice for people who are studying to be artists, mostly regarding the realities of the job market and challenges of making a living from creative work.
  2. And somewhat on the flip side, another 2013 article, this one posted by Ellen Bard on her blog: 9 Things I Learned in Art Class. Bard takes the techniques and advice she learned in her beginner art class, like starting with soft strokes and then going stronger, and applies it to life beyond the sketchpad. [The link was working a day ago, but as I’m finalizing the post on July 31, 2019, it’s giving me an error message.]
  3. What It Means To Be A ‘Self-Taught Genius’ In Art – This 2015 article in the Huffington Post by Priscilla Frank discusses a traveling exhibit composed of works from the American Folk Art Museum, but also delves into the concepts underpinning the compilation of art in the show. And these underpinnings may in fact be difficult to pin down, but curator Shirley Reece-Hughes of the Amon Carter Museum noted a commonality in folk art: “The continuous thread would be the impulse to create….And the impulse to create in a manner that’s unfettered by conventions, whether it’s academic training or the traditional guidelines of art making.”
  4. The Rise of Self-Taught Artists by Sarah Boxer, published in The Atlantic in 2013, argues that outsider art had become “in.” Boxer also grapples with terms and definitions, and writes, “outsider does have a nice little paradox embedded in it: for an artist to be considered an outsider, he or she must first be brought inside the professional art world by an insider.”
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Zero-Tolerance in Twelve Objects, Part 2: The Slaughter of the Innocents

On June 15, 2018, Twitter user Brandon Horan tweeted, “When you see innocent kids being put in tents sleeping on floor after getting ripped from their parents and your response is ‘Did they come here legally?’, then we don’t have a difference in political opinion. We have a difference in morality.”

Let’s unpack this a little bit. Policies and conditions at the border were put into place by officials who were elected by electoral college, and by officials who were appointed by other officials. Since the events have been happening in the political realm, does it follow that disagreements on the subject are merely political disagreements?

I have sometimes observed an interesting phenomenon in which thoughtful, intelligent people are adept at critiquing social structures from a variety of angles and ethical questions – as long as such societies are long ago, far away, or found in a fictional dystopia. Not only do people consider the official laws and systems themselves, but also the role of everyday people in allowing, resisting, building, and navigating such systems. People are capable of identifying differing levels of power and autonomy in “other” civilizations, and recognizing that every choice occurs in a web of interconnected individuals and institutions. In other words, people are capable of seeing the doings of other political systems as both political and moral.

Yet when presented with a situation in their own society like the zero-tolerance policy that has been unraveling at the U.S.-Mexico border for more than a year, some people’s analysis starts – and stops – with “Did they come here legally?”

For anyone with access to the Internet and a good public library, there is no shortage of information out there about the choice-that-is-no-choice faced by asylum seekers who “choose” to enter a country that has greater prospects of safety. In her poem “Home“, Warsan Shire writes, “no one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark”. The circumstances that have been reported widely in the news (and in many other lines in “Home”) are more literal, and all the more harrowing in their realism, than the shark mouth metaphor.

For just a few examples:

PBS correspondent Amna Nawaz alluded to the poem “Home” in an interview last year on the situation at the border, and elaborated, “When your home holds for you what seems to be certain death, and the only option you have is then facing uncertainty and potentially crossing into a foreign land to see what happens, for the possibility of saving your life or your family’s life, people we have talked to say, that’s not really a choice at all.”

In the small, enchanting Tuscan hilltop town of Colle di Val d’Elsa, the Museo San Pietro’s collection includes The Slaughter of the Innocents, a painting by Giovan Battista Paggi (1554-1627). This painting depicts a horrific scene: grown men wielding swords, babies lying in blood and being thrown from a window. The particularity of swords may seem quaint or unfamiliar to modern viewers. The theme of brutality should not.

The parallels between the Holy Family fleeing Herod’s massacre and the plight of today’s refugees trying to escape unspeakable circumstances have been observed again and again and again. There are those who refute the comparison, pointing out differences in the details, but under the layers of similarity and distinction is an unavoidable truth: as long as there is violence, there will be people trying to escape violence.

And in this world, at this time in history, as Valeria Luiselli writes, “It is not even the American Dream that they pursue, but rather the more modest aspiration to wake up from the nightmare into which they were born.”

The Slaughter of the Innocents by Giovan Battista Paggi at the Museo San Pietro in Colle di Val d'Elsa, Italy

The Slaughter of the Innocents by Giovan Battista Paggi at the Museo San Pietro in Colle di Val d’Elsa, Italy

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