Museums as Citizens was devoted to museums’ and cultural institutions’ complex and sometimes contested role as catalysts for innovation and progress. Such innovation is multifaceted. Where do museums fit in as cultural and economic engines at the local and global scale? We know that museums and other cultural institutions attract and generate constructive ideas—ideas that often bubble up from reality either through the work of artists or through issues germane to and experienced by wider audiences; or ideas that are distilled via the instigation of curators, directors, and educators. Some institutions have a history of critical engagement and support for social and political progress; the ideas they help form percolate and benefit the world at large. Others find motivation in the urgency of issues related to environmental responsibility, privacy, parity, and justice, among others.
Watch the videos from the salon and explore some of these questions: In which areas of the world is the museum a benevolent institution? Benign citizen? Parasitical, money-guzzling entity to be tolerated? Unknown alien and unwelcome foreign body? Can museums ignite a productive dynamic in economy, science, and technology? How can museums foster highly attuned future-thinking initiatives? Through laboratory-like departments, R&D, satellites, or other models? What technologies or processes could help cultural institutions address the most urgent contemporary issues, from concept to action?
Tom Finkelpearl agreed to participate off the record, so we are not sharing his presentation and the Q&A session.
The salon took place on February 24th, 2014.
Tom Finkelpearl is Cultural Affairs Commissioner of New York, a position he has held since spring 2014. Prior to his appointment, Tom was the President and Executive Director of the Queens Museum for 14 years, and the Deputy Director of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center during its merger with The Museum of Modern Art. Most recently, he authored What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation.
David van der Leer is Executive Director at Van Alen Institute, a New York–based independent nonprofit that researches and shapes discussions about how design influences the public realm. Previously an associate curator of architecture and urban studies at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, he was the co-curator of the mobile BMW Guggenheim Lab. In 2012, David co-curated the American Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale.
Holly Block is Executive Director of The Bronx Museum of Modern Art. Co-commissioner of the American Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. Previously, Holly was the art director of Art in General, a nonprofit organization, founded in 1981, that is famed for assisting artists early in their careers with the production and presentation of new work.
Anne Pasternak is President and artistic director of Creative Time, the New York City arts organization that creates unconventional opportunities for artists to activate and engage urban spaces. Under Anne’s leadership, Creative Time has produced such renowned projects as Tribute in Light, the twin beacons of light that illuminated the former World Trade Center site six months after 9/11; and Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, a restaging of Samuel Beckett’s play in the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans.