Activist Art Museums

Words and music were my tools for connecting to the larger world and making meaning of my life. Music was a huge part of my political awakening. Books gave me the words to name experiences and deepen my understandings.

In the last year or so, I’ve visited art museums in Seattle, Dallas, Portland, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. I’ve been able to see the special exhibits of the works of Yves Saint Laurent, Auguste RodinAndy WarholRobert Mapplethorpe and Sandow Birk. However, it wasn’t until I revisited the Minneapolis Institute of Art during a recent trip home to Minnesota, that I experienced an art museum as a place for activism. The MIA made intentional connections between the art, artists, and politics. While, art is frequently recognized for controversy and commentary on life and politics. The MIA made a larger connection to the current social-political climate–namely racism, anti-immigration, xenophobia –and art. They have this amazing exhibit Resistance, Protest, Resilience that highlights acts  of resistance throughout the last 100 years. They don’t allow viewers to believe that the current social-political climate is something new or attached only to the Trump Administration. This is a powerful counter-narrative.  The MIA doesn’t stop with this one exhibit. They host a series titled, “Current Conversations,” that connects current events to museum collections. While I was there in February they focused on immigration, so throughout the museum there were informational sheets connecting immigration and art. It was amazing to experience art in such a politicized way. It profoundly changed my connection and thinking around visual art. It helped me to see art museums as places for activism in ways I previously only held for music and books.

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