The last couple weeks have been a blur of airports, buses, trains, subways, museums, conferences, and workshops. These aren’t necessarily the venues that come to mind when you think museum educator; however, my recent activities have been anything but typical.
Back in January I responded to a call for proposals for UNESCO’s 2nd World Conference on Arts Education with a one-page abstract. To my delight (and surprise) my abstract was accepted for a full paper (10 pages!), which translated into an opportunity of a lifetime. I was invited to present my paper, “Art Museum-Based Creative Engagement Programs for Low-Vision and Blind Audiences in a Rural Setting,” in Seoul, South Korea.
I pounded the pavement (really more like ‘got on the horn’!) looking for support. The Wisconsin Art Education Association identified this outreach as an advocacy opportunity, and I received hospitality support from the Korean Government.
The conference itself was empowering and invigorating; me – a museum educator from Wausau, Wisconsin – presenting alongside practitioners from Brazil, Malaysia, Cook Islands, and Niger. Not in my wildest museum-related dreams (it’s true, I have them!) could I have imagined this for myself.
Returning to Wausau was short lived; a week later, fellow educator Jayna Hintz and I embarked on a road trip. We stopped in Racine and Milwaukee, visiting their respective art museums, museum educators, and education programming spaces.
On Friday, June 11, we joined a cohort of Midwest museum educators and representatives from the field of creative aging and Alzheimer’s to present a workshop at The Art Institute of Chicago, sponsored by the Association of Midwest Museums (AMM) and the Education Committee for the American Association of Museums (EdCom) with generous support from the Helen Bader Foundation, Milwaukee.
Over 40 museum folks gathered to hear about the possibilities for museum-based programming for individuals with memory loss and their caregivers. With presentations by Lynda Markut, Alzheimer’s Association; Anne Bastings, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center on Age & Community; Laurel Humble, Museum of Modern Art, New York City; and museum educators from the SPARK Alliance, participants left with the “SPARK!” to start programs at their institutions in response to community needs.
On the Metra ride back to our rental car parked in Kenosha, Jayna and I rehashed trip highlights. The brightest by far was being notified of a Helen Bader Foundation continuation grant to embed SPARK! within the Woodson Art Museum’s signature education programming. How awesome is that?!