I’ve been hoping to attend the Allied Media Conference for years, but this summer was finally the time I got to do so! I went to the conference, which takes place annually in Detroit, from June 15-18th. On their website, AMC writes that their aim is to bring “together a diverse community of people using media to incite change.” This brief, open-ended definition allows for the room needed to encapsulate all that AMC has to offer. The arts, media, technology, librarianship, and archives are just a few of the areas that are explored through a lens of social justice work, in the more than 300 hands-on workshops and programs available to attendees. I’ve been particularly interested in attending because of a Radical Archives, Libraries, and Museum programming track that has been occurring for the few past years. I was able to meet and learn from a lot of different professionals in the world of librarianship and museums.
I want to write about one of the workshops I attended, a two part series that took place at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It was titled, “The Dreamscape Project: Anti-Racist Pedagogy for Museum Education.” While the creators of the project worked specifically in museum education, I feel that the resources shared easily transfer to the work of art librarians and critical pedagogy. I received permission from the facilitators, Amireh Rezaei-Kamalabad and Alyssa Machida to share the materials they gave us. Also, the first part of the Dreamscape workbook can be read online!
Once we were all at the DIA, Alyssa and Amireh gave us some background and context to The Dreamscape Project. After going through the handout they gave us, everyone went off into the museum to perform two separate exercises. For the first exercise, I partnered with someone who worked at The National Museum of Mexican Art. We discussed issues of “voice” in the museum in the context of our experience as we walked and talked throughout the galleries.
The second exercise had us picking a work of art and designing a lesson plan/activity around it for an educational setting. Below are some of the prompts we were asked to think about when creating our mock activity.
After wandering around for a bit, I chose a painting entitled The Merrymakers, created by Carolus-Duran in 1870. I imagined myself assisting undergrad students with some of their initial research papers. My goal was to get students to think more critically about the work in terms of gender, class, and race by visually analyzing the subject matter and to also think about what was not presented in the painting. I asked my imaginary students to create a brief narrative to the painting. Some of the questions I thought about asking, though it is not an exhaustive list, were: Who are these individuals? What do they do/what are their lives like? Are there any visual markers that indicate their class? If so, how? What was the intended audience of this painting? Think about these questions in terms of gender, class, and race. Who is and is not represented here. Try to think about these issues in historical context, too.
I’m not exactly sure if this would be a successful activity for art history students, but I did really appreciate taking the time to pick apart a painting more critically than I ever normally do. I think as a viewer in a museum, I have tended to take the things I see very much at face value or within whatever context I may have tucked away in my brain from my former days studying art history. This was one of my favorite sessions I attended at AMC because we got actively involved with the work in the museum. I highly suggested anyone attending the conference if it interests them. AMC challenged and humbled me in the best possible way and I keep thinking about it since I left. I can’t wait to attend again!