Every other week since May, we’ve introduced you to a team from this year’s Art21 Educators program: Lynn and Carol, Becca and Eric, Renee and Sara, Ryan and Erin, and Thomas and Domenic. Today, let’s meet our final two educators, Rebecca and Alyssa.
Rebecca Mir and Alyssa Greenberg, hailing from New York and Chicago respectively, first met at the Bard Graduate Center where they were classmates. Each ended up doing post-graduate work as a museum educator in a historic house. Rebecca develops school and community programs at the Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden in Flushing, New York. Alyssa curates exhibitions and leads educational programs at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on Chicago’s West Side. They each hope to integrate contemporary art exhibitions into their programming and, in doing so, provide new ways for visitors to consider historical and contemporary connections.
“This idea actually came from an art teacher at a local public school, PS 22Q, who wanted to have a tour of the house during our For the Birds! exhibition of birdhouses made by a local artist, Carlos Gutierrez-Solana. The birdhouses were fully functional and made with found materials that symbolized different neighborhoods or themes. This made me realize there was great potential for connecting students with contemporary, local artists and artwork, and for helping them make connections between the history of the house, Flushing and New York City, and contemporary art.”
Sharing a similar standpoint, Alyssa invoked the artist Ai Weiwei in her application:
“If artists, as Ai Weiwei points out, ‘should be more aware of the change’ in how contemporary technology has changed the free exchange of information, then educators also need to understand digital and social media practices, and need to shift from an all object-based paradigm in order to better understand and teach about contemporary art.”
While Rebecca focuses on engaging the immigrant population of Queens, Alyssa offers programs for union workers, a group historically tied to Hull-House. She believes this offers an important opportunity to connect with and involve members of the public who do not normally visit the museum. Rebecca says:
“I am especially interested in social practice art that takes the form of museum interventions…With social practice art, visitors co-create the experience of the artwork. For example, Tino Sehgal’s This Progress (2010) could not exist without museum visitors to activate the trained interpreters. The durational, ethereal qualities of contemporary social practice art require new, innovative teaching methodologies beyond the object-based strategies of traditional gallery teaching, and the Art21 Educators community creates the ideal climate for developing these new teaching methodologies.”
Alyssa, who is now pursuing a doctorate in Museum Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, went on the suggest that museum professionals, especially educators, must evolve their practices to meet “these new understandings of artworks” and also the institutions that show them.
In July, all of the Year Five Art21 Educators came to New York City for our annual Summer Institute, kicking off their first year in the program. Congratulations to all! Art21 will continue to share dispatches from participants over the next year.