Posts Tagged 'Gap Filler'

Reflections on MA 12 – Ashley Mackenzie-White

Today we have an account by Ashley Mackenzie-White who left the conference full of questions.

MA12: Collaboration in Practice, 18-20 April 2012

 ‘They don’t realise they are experiencing art, but they have a feeling’ – Umberto Crenca 

It is a week since I walked out of Te Papa, acutely aware that the buzz of the MA12 conference would wear off and that soon I would find myself unable to turn to someone who just gets it. As it was said at the end of the 3 day conference; there will always be more questions than answers.  For me, these questions include:

Why didn’t I know about the amazing work of Te Kura before now and how are we, the museum sector going to help?

Why don’t we have our own version of AS220 in Aotearoa?

Why didn’t Pou Temara speak to the entire audience?

Why, in a museum filled with post it notes, was there no place to comment on what we loved, liked or disliked about MA12?

Why at a conference made up of discussions about tikanga Maori, taonga Maori, and more centrally collaboration, was there no discussion about the recently cancelled work by the Mexican artist, Teresa Margolles? Isn’t this decision relevant to all people who work in our sector as it raises questions about consultation and collaboration, censorship and cultural sensitivities, tikanga and korero?

In the three days at MA12, I heard about the exciting projects happening in the Far North.  I learnt that as beneficial as licensing trusts may be, it is the people that always come first, and that we should never take them or the time we have with them for granted. I heard many times how we should feel the fear and just do it. I heard that cooperation is about meaningful involvement, that museums are places of social commentary and that sometimes people have to put their ideals aside to enable a better community. I got excited about boosted.org.nz as well as equal pay. On Day Two, I was pleased to learn thanks to Jim Marchbank – former CEO of Science North, Sudbury, North Ontario – that there are commercial companies that want a long lasting experience that ‘emotional response’ rather than to slap us with their brand.  I was shown, thanks to the amazing people of Canterbury, the transformative power of art, the power of the human spirit, and the importance of our cultural & heritage institutions in the face of disaster.  

For those at the conference, or around Aotearoa, who were privileged to hear and meet Umberto Crenca from AS220, Providence, Rhode Island, you will have experienced that same awe, inspiration, faith and perhaps frustration that I felt during and after his keynote address on the closing day of the conference. These same emotions came to the fore when Coralie Winn from Christchurch showed us the stunning work of the Gap Filer community where all things from fridges full of books, to sculpture,  fill the spaces where buildings once stood.

Museums, galleries, archives, libraries, public spaces and government departments all have the ability to change people and their communities.  Museums, galleries, archives, libraries, public spaces and government departments survive by virtue of the values and passion that fulfil us. This was seen in the conference bags, made from exhibition advertising and lovingly reconstructed by the team at Mana Recovery. These bags are a physical manifestation of what the conference taught me; that it is the people that paint the pipes in copper colour then sprinkle them with dust that will save us from the ‘cuts’.

To the casual observer, the conference went extremely smoothly and our national museum was a gracious host. Phillipa and Sophie and their team have again pulled off a tour de force on their limited budget and tight resources, so hats off to them for a highly successful and engaging MA12.

Ashley Mackenzie-White
Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Advertisements

Reflections on MA12 – Casimar Larkin

Today’s account of the conference is by Casimar Larkin from Parliamentary Service, where current work includes the displays and collections within the parliamentary precincts and keeping these relevant in our changing times.

Passion, collaboration and community

The MA12 Conference was the second of Museum Aotearoa’s conferences I’ve attended.  Again, I found the opportunity provided for networking was invaluable.  Of the three days of this conference, it was the third that I found the most thought-provoking.  Umberto Crenca was an inspired choice to start the final day, imbuing enthusiasm and passion into all he spoke about.  His dedication to improving communities through access to art for all was an ethos that spoke to me and I agree with.  I felt this philosophy was echoed with his statement that art is not a mirror to the world, but a hammer to shape it.

‘Art is not a mirror to the world but a hammer to shape it.’ – Umberto Crenca

The panel discussion following this, being comprised of the ‘Art Crowd’, really articulated the theme of the conference with their diverse examples of collaborations.  These ranged from the expected, other galleries and museums, to the unexpected, a licensing trust made up of rugby playing men who now feel a sense of ownership towards an art gallery.  It emphasised to me that to really succeed in collaboration, it is important to not just look at the obvious choices, but to reach out across the community.

MA12 audience

However, it was the final panel of speakers from Christchurch who were the most inspirational.  Their devotion to their institutions, as well as to their city, was stirring.  I admire their resolve to ensure that everyone outside of Canterbury has opportunities to learn from their misfortunes to improve and be better prepared in the event of disasters.  The best example of making the best of a bad situation shone through for me in the creativity of Coralie Winn and her work with Gap Filler.  Her work taking art and culture to the community to fill up the desolate spaces left by demolished buildings is amazing.  As is her hope that this creativity and imagination will become a way of life and carry through the rebuilding of Christchurch and beyond.

Casimar Larkin
Parliamentary Service

Reflections on MA12 – Andrea Hemmins

Over the next few days we will be posting some reflections from people about their experiences at MA12, starting today with Andrea Hemmins from The Kauri Museum.

Collaboration For Success while Maintaining Integrity

The Museums Aotearoa 2012 conference theme of collaboration was very timely and encouraging. With challenging times for Museums and Galleries now and ahead, keynote speakers were positive, realistic and some truly inspiring. The sharing and exchange of ideas and experiences was enhanced by being in Wellington, and at Te Papa, the heart of New Zealand’s culture and heritage. There was a mutual awareness of the current financial challenges and how adaptions can be made to overcome pressures facing most GLAM sector institutions.

The view from Te Papa

This was highlighted and reinforced by the Stick it to the Man campaign. A bold and honest move by Te Papa to urge the public to have their say about Te Papa today and Te Papa tomorrow. A simple but very effective campaign where a life-sized cut out of Director Michael Houlihan invites visitors to stick a ‘post it’ with their opinion on various walls throughout the galleries. The day before the conference a few ‘post its’ graced the walls, by Friday layers of colourful opinions and ideas sprung fourth and became part of the Te Papa experience. A clever method of empowering New Zealanders with a voice about their/our Te Papa; and most importantly creating a feeling of coming together for the greater good. Also an example of how the visitor can participate as collaborator. This all done at a time when media announcements were being made about budget cuts and limitations.

The reality is, no matter what industry you’re in, today there are now limitations we may not have experienced yesterday. Knowing that we’re in it together and can find ways to utilise each others resources and skills is a useful way to uphold staff morale, visitor experience and overall understanding. Being creative about overcoming restrictions and celebrating team achievement empowers everyone to a higher level.

Speaking of teamwork and celebration, Jock Philips kicked off the conference with an overview of his travels during the New Zealand Festival and Rugby World Cup to discover What is Real NZ? He frequented a multitude of small and large museums and outdoor celebrations from Invercargill to Auckland, drawing up a variety of conclusions in a blog along the way. He commented that the most successful places provided an ‘urgent relevance to the world around’ and that successful celebrations were where communities centred the activity, naturally bringing people together in a hive of activity and enthusiasm; whereas towns that sent visitors in different directions to the outskirts tended to dilute the atmosphere.

Jim Marchbank, previous CEO of Science North in Ontario Canada, provided very good practical advice for museums and galleries seeking collaboration with outside commercial and non-commercial partners. He spoke of collaboration for survival, and the need to remain true to mission statements and brand identities while fulfilling the mutual benefits for all parties involved. ‘Use your strengths and pursue win-win’ he stated. Though he was also quick to point out the importance of flexibility within your own organisation to cater to the requirements of an external party so as not to halt progress. He raised how expectations on both sides of a collaboration should be made clear in the beginning and that major decisions be shared so empowerment is equal and encouraged. A sense of pride on both sides is an indicator of success.

Umberto Crenca’s presentation was truly charismatic and inspirational. His presentation The Art of Community, about the complete turnaround of the city centre of Providence, Rhode Island, through the use of art, foresight, and pure determination, gave us all a reminder of why we love what we do. Whether museum, library or gallery based, GLAM professionals generally have a heightened social conscience, his work setting up the AS220 organisation to revive the city centre and install a sense of place through community participation for social improvement was commendable. This was recognized by the resulting applause. Each of us facing challenges of our own could relate to his vigor and drive to strive on for social awareness, education and facilitating overall greater good for communities.  

Umberto Crenca

The final segment was dedicated to Christchurch, with the museums and art galleries discussing how they came through the earthquakes, and how their futures look. A discussion involving emergency policies and procedures was very informative. On the panel, Coralie Winns Gap Filler project aiming to raise the morale of Christchurch residents through community projects in empty spaces around the city was greatly inspiring.

In summary, the conference relayed the importance of new and long term close working relationships for mutual gain; togetherness; and the power that can be harnessed by individuals and communities while upholding original long term personal and/or institutional goals. In the words of Victoria University student Shannon Wellington, in reference to collaboration ‘risk anything except your institutional integrity’ and put eloquently by celebrated maori language educator Mereana Selby, ‘behave in a mana enhancing way’.

Andrea Hemmins
The Kauri Museum


Museums Aotearoa Tweets

Join Museums Aotearoa

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: