Posts Tagged 'Umberto Crenca'

Umberto Crenca “The Art of Community”

Finally we have Umberto Crenca’s inspiring keynote address from MA12. “The Art of Community”

Friday 20th April 2012

(note this video includes a presentation by David Cross. Bert’s talk starts at 13:45 in part 1 of 4)

Umberto Crenca – Photo by Pam Murray

Umberto Crenca is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of AS220, a nonprofit center for the arts in Providence, Rhode Island. AS220 was established in 1985 to provide a local, unjuried, and uncensored home for the arts. The organization maintains three buildings, providing: fifty eight artist live and/or work spaces, four exhibition spaces, a print shop, two darkrooms, a technology lab, a stage, a recording studio, a black box theater, a dance studio, and a popular bar and restaurant. AS220’s permanent establishment in the City’s downtown is widely recognized as one of the first significant steps in the creation of the Providence Arts and Entertainment District.

Umberto Crenca “The Art of Community” – Part 1 of 4 from Museums Aotearoa on Vimeo.

Umberto Crenca “The Art of Community” – Part 2 of 4 from Museums Aotearoa on Vimeo.

Umberto Crenca “The Art of Community” – Part 3 of 4 from Museums Aotearoa on Vimeo.

Umberto Crenca “The Art of Community” – Part 4 of 4 from Museums Aotearoa on Vimeo.


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 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

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 MA 12 – Peter Read

Over the next few days we will be posting some reflections from people about their experiences at MA12, today we have Peter Read from the Otago Settlers Museum.

MA12: Collaboration in Practice

At the end of Day 2 Phillipa asked me what I had enjoyed most about MA12: Collaboration in Practice so far. ‘All of it’, I replied, from my usual perch on top of the fence. 

I was glad to have travelled up to Wellington the day before the conference to catch Jock Phillips setting the scene with some insightful opinion delivered in the inaugural Museums Aotearoa Public Lecture.

The following morning, as the number of delegates assembling in the level 2 foyer at Te Papa grew to critical mass before heading up to Te Marae for a powhiri, the first impression gained was how hot it was. Perhaps it was a combination of all the hot air being expelled by chin-wagging delegates and the balmy Wellington weather. It was a sign of things to come. There would be much more talking and continued good weather (other than a bit of a soaking on the way to the Mayoral reception preceding the awards dinner).

Mayoral reception

From the spirited debate of the Willie Jackson-chaired Taonga to Taonga session to the tales of collaborative projects both inside and outside the museum sector, Day 1 was a consistently stimulating affair that provided much food for thought.

Former CEO of Science North in Sudbury,Ontario,Canada – Jim Marchbank, keynote speaker for Day 2, delivered international flavour and prompted a yearning to hit the road and visit the institution he led for 24 years. Later that day we did hit the road. Unfortunately Canada was out of the question, so I settled for Porirua, where I could take in some institutions closer to home that I had also heard good things about and had long-hankered to see.

Jim Marchbank, Science North

It was true, by the end of Day 2, I had enjoyed it all in equal measure. Then along came Umberto Crenca, keynote speaker for Day 3, with his story of the revitalisation of central Providence into an arts and entertainment district. Bert’s story, ramped up in passionate style, blew us all away. The session on the lessons in collaboration learned from the Christchurch earthquakes was similarly inspiring.

As with all conferences some of the most valuable things afforded by MA12 were the opportunities to catch up with people, take a break from our own institutional timetable, and gain a view of what is going on in the wider museum world. For me MA12 also achieved what it set out to do, providing some valuable examples of, and showing some of the lessons learned from, collaboration in practice.

Peter Read
Otago Settlers Museum

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

News Update 24 Jan 2012

Nga mihi o te Ao Hou!

As we get back to work after the summer break, the weather settles, and we think wistfully of the beach – which was too wet and windy to be attractive when we had the time!  Looking back over January, we were relieved to hear that recently-installed sprinklers prevented a fire at the Kauri Museum from causing serious damage over the summer. You can read about that in the latest Museum News which is rounded up in the members’ area of our website here (you need to be logged in to view).

2012 is shaping up to be an invigorating and inspiring year, with lots to look forward to, as well as some big challenges. Local councils are examining their expenditure and targeting ‘nice-to-have’ budget lines including museums and galleries as they struggle to balance the books for ratepayers. And the budget squeeze is continuing in central government. This means we need to re-energise our advocacy work on a national level to help empower the sector and support the fantastic work done by individual organisations. Museums Aotearoa is about to start two vital pieces of work: the National Visitor Survey coming up next month, and a new more comprehensive Museum Sector Statistics project. This statistics work will gather essential information so we can all back up our advocacy with hard facts, both nationally and locally.

Other immediate priorities for MA are tidying up after 2011 and getting ready for our financial audit and 2012 membership administration. We also have the February 2012 issue of MAQuarterly in preparation – items, notices and advertising are welcome by 8 February.

The MA Board will meet in Wellington on the afternoon of Friday 24 February, and we are also hosting a Disaster Recovery workshop session for senior managers that morning, with presentations from Christchurch museum directors. Separate invitations are being sent about this session and numbers are very limited – if you are keen to come and have not received the notice, please contact us.

MA12, 18-20 April 2012: Keynote speakers
The other major project currently occupying our time is MA12. We’re having some issues with technology, and registrations will open as soon as we can get it set up and working. A reminder about our exciting international keynote speakers:

  • Umberto Crenca, founder and artistic director of AS220, a nonprofit centre for the arts in Providence, Rhode Island (see
  • Jim Marchbank, former CEO of Science North, Sudbury, North Ontario, (see

Both visitors will be spending some extra time in New Zealand and we are working on itineraries to get them out and about as much as possible. If you are particularly keen to host or meet with either Jim or Bert, please contact us.

The annual New Zealand Museum Awards Dinner will be held on Thursday 19 April at the City Gallery, with some fine dining and a fantastic local band lined up for entertainment. Applications for the awards close on 1 March, with full details on our Awards web page.

There will be plenty of other social events and opportunities to catch up with colleagues, as well as visits to a range of institutions and organisations in the Wellington region. There are several all day events happening on Tuesday 17 April followed by a public lecture in the evening, Wednesday welcome function and group dinners, Awards and behind the scenes bus and walking tours. Other special group meetings will also be held during the conference. We look forward to catching up with members and colleagues in Wellington in April.

Opportunities – deadlines extended and looming
A reminder about some current opportunities:

  • The Clark Collection / Creative New Zealand Scholarship – application deadline extended, now due 5pm, Monday 30 January
  • Mina McKenzie Scholarship – applications due 5pm, Monday 13 February
  • New Zealand Museum Awards 2012 – applications due 5pm, Thursday 1 March

Further detials about all these are listed below and application information is on our website.

Post-holiday research and reading
We have found some items of interest to distract you from your day-to-day work and hopefully interest and inspire you as part of the wider museum community.

  • Videos of NDF 2011 conference presentations are now online here. They are listed in order of appearance without titles, so you may want to refer to the conference programme on the NDF website
  • The USA’s Wallace Foundation undertakes research into all sorts of aspects of the GLAMS sector. A recently released series of case studies looks at audience development, including how the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum boosted participation by young adults, here
  • Closer to home, Radio NZ’s ‘Summer Nights’ programme made 18 virtual museum visits over December/January, interviewing people from a wide range of museums including Hokonui, Waipu, Lyttelton, Chatham Is, Rotorua, Police, Albertland, Okain’s Bay and Owaka. The podcasts can be heard or downloaded from the Summer Nights summary page, use search word museum.

Directors change direction
You may have heard the news that a number of museum directors around the country are moving on. Kate Vusoniwailala has left Waikato Museum after nearly a decade to return home to the warmer climes of Fiji. Long-serving Director of the City Gallery Wellington, Paula Savage, is moving to Auckland, Te Manawa Director Steven Fox is returning to Canberra, and later in the year Colonel Raymond Seymour will be retiring from the National Army Museum, Waiouru. These are some great roles for the next generation of museum leaders, and we look forward to seeing them take on the challenge.

So get those applications in, gather your information, and make your travel plans – lets make 2012 a great year for all our museums and galleries!

Nga mihi,
Phillipa and Sophie

News & MA12 Update 23 December 2011

This is our final update for the year, hopefully you are all getting into holiday mode now, enjoying a well deserved summer break.

For your summer reading, we have uploaded the latest batch of Museum News here, which covers lots of interesting stories from 5-22 December. Download here.

Just now we are hearing about yet another series of large quakes in Christchurch today. Our thoughts are with our friends and colleagues in Christchurch who have had an incredibly challenging year. We are sincerely hoping that papatuanuku will be calming down over the Christmas break, with aftershocks settling down. Kia kaha.

We have enjoyed working with you all in 2011, it has certainly been a very full year. We are looking forward to coming back in the new year and hopefully seeing many of you at our conference in Wellington, in April. More details below:

MA12, 18-20 April 2012: Save the date!

Registrations for the MA12 Conference will open in January. The conference is titled Collaboration in practice and will be held at Te Papa in Wellington from 18-20 April 2012. A full programme will be provided in January, but in the meantime we are excited to announce our international keynote speakers:

  • Umberto Crenca, founder and artistic director of AS220, a nonprofit centre for the arts in Providence, Rhode Island (see
  • Jim Marchbank, former CEO of Science North, Sudbury, North Ontario, see

The annual New Zealand Museum Awards Dinner will be held on Thursday night at the City Gallery, with some fine dining and a fantastic local band lined up for entertainment.

Further chances to catch up with colleagues will occur over welcome drinks at the Museum of City and Sea. Governors/Directors and Kaitiaki dinners will also be held on Wednesday 18th.

The conference will be preceded by the Museums Aotearoa Inaugural Public Lecture on the evening of Tuesday 17 April in Soundings Theatre, Te Papa.

Other related sector events and group meetings will also be held on Tuesday 17th April, including a Poutama 3 workshop entitled Lighting for the Future run by National Services (see

A limited number of travel and accommodation scholarships (up to $300 per organisation) are available, kindly sponsored by National Services Te Paerangi. We will provide further information about these when registration opens.

A further email will be sent out once registrations open in the New Year. Looking forward to seeing you in Wellington!

On a final note, congratulations to Heather Galbraith and Justin Paton who are to have key roles in developing New Zealand’s presence for the 2013 Venice Biennale. They will join Commissioner Jenny Harper as Deputy Commissioner and Curator respectively. Full details are on the Creative New Zealand website, where you can also find information on funding available and recipients of the latest grants.

Mere Kirihimete!

Phillipa and Sophie

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