I applied for the opportunity to be the 2014 inaugural Diversity and Inclusion intern for the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, primarily to gain a holistic understanding and experience of art administration by actively participating in all aspects of the museum’s operations. I also sought to learn various strategies museum professionals adopt to help connect the arts with a wider public. These are skills and strategies I intend to utilize when setting up an organization to help promote art education and creative thinking in my country, Ghana.
One of the strongholds of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is its constant search for ways to engage minorities in several educational programs. As an artist interested in the universality of visual communication and multicultural dialogue, I was particularly drawn to Kemper Art Museum’s robust outreach programs, which includes the Kemper Art Reaches Everyone (KARE) program. As an active participant in the KARE Program, I worked directly with adults who had early to moderate Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. We collectively discussed the aesthetics and historical relevance of artworks displayed in the museum. I also enjoyed the physical components of the program, which include body exercises, listening to music, feeling textures in relation to artworks, and creating art projects such as photomontages.
The Diversity and Inclusion internship has increased my interest in art administration, as it offered me a first hand experience in the museum profession, and on factors to consider when setting up an art institution. I was exposed to all aspects of Kemper Art Museum, which included exhibition management, collection management, curatorial research, museum marketing, security and behind-the-scenes operations such as storage, packing, and handling of artworks. Although my vision goes beyond pursuing a particular career in the museum field, the skills and professionalism I gained during my time at Kemper Art Museum will contribute to actualizing my goals for Ghana.
Growing up in Ghana, I witnessed how communities utilize art to establish a shared sense of cultural heritage and national identity. However, when it comes to education, art loses its legitimacy as an intellectual discipline. Art education is seen as a waste of financial investment, and inferior to other academic fields such as science, technology, business and law. This disregard for art education has negatively affected various aspects of the Ghanaian economy, most significantly in areas of tourism, infrastructure and commerce. Although I was a victim of discrimination associated with pursuing an art education in Ghana, I had a mother who unlike many Ghanaian parents was supportive of my decision to study Visual Art. For me, visual communication creates a leveling platform that connects people from diverse backgrounds. I was inspired to pursue art because of its synergetic relationship with culture and community development, as well as its potential to allow for global communication, cross-cultural dialogue, self and collective expression. I have a socio-political conscience that governs my art practice; I make art that addresses the human condition and complexities associated with globalization, as well as identity formation and deformation.
I plan to return to Ghana after completing my Masters of Fine Arts in Visual Art at Washington University in St. Louis, to impact art education there. My goal is to establish an organization that enables Ghanaians, especially the youth, to understand the intrinsic power that lies in art education. The idea is to engage the Ghanaian community in various educational programs to help them understand that art is not limited to making beautiful artifacts; it involves creative thinking, which provides an important dimension to solving problems. I believe my experiences at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, and my education at Washington University will help me to address and alleviate the permeating negative notions associated with pursuing an art education in Ghana. My aim is to contribute to building a Ghanaian community that values creativity, where individuals can pursue the art field without fear of criticism, but instead receive an assurance of support from their families and Ghanaian society.
By Yvonne Osei (Tuesday, September 16, 2014)