With the news of 2016 presidential candidates’ stances on minority immigrants, and with recent conversations about the #OscarsSoWhite Academy Awards controversy, the introduction of two new immersive workshops in Race: Are We So Different? could not be timelier.
As a new intern in the marketing department (and as someone with a strong interest in museums that push boundaries and are committed to raising awareness on tough subjects), I took the opportunity to sit down with Jason Porter, Director of Education and Public Engagement, to talk about the launch of these new workshops.
“There is no better moment than now to engage in conversations about race, equity, and inclusion,” he said. “These Race workshops are unique for our museum in that they are a formal conversation, which is the first of its kind that we’ve tried with visiting groups. We are approaching all of our new programs from the perspective of inquiry — engaging students and adults by asking questions, providing opportunities for discussion, and fostering as much curiosity about our collection and our spaces as we can.”
One of the workshops is for 6th–12th grade school groups and the other is for college, adult, nonprofit, and corporate groups. Both include a gallery tour experience and a dialogue facilitated by a trained educator.
“These programs are, in a larger sense, an effort to raise the level of civil discourse about a topic that seems contentious and fraught,” Porter said. “We’re getting people together in a safe environment, with a trained educator, and asking them to speak and listen from the heart about their experiences, which I believe is a first step to ending stereotyping, discrimination, and oppression.”
Porter also highlights how the education department wants to give visitors tools, like the concrete scientific data that is part of the exhibit’s content, to engage in their own conversations about race during their visit and after they leave the Museum.
The goal of these workshops, however, is not necessarily to change people’s behavior.
“It’s unlikely that a person’s behavior around race and ethnicity will change after a 90-minute museum visit,” Porter said. “We are more interested in raising awareness, and talking about the power and potential that learning about race in the museum can have in our classrooms, communities, and organizations. In this way, these programs attempt to spur people on to become active change-makers out in the world. Our goal is to inspire the change that they can make with their experience at the museum.”
I wish to be an active change-maker myself in both my personal and professional lives, which is why I jumped at the chance to learn more about these new workshops. As a volunteer intern, I could not be happier to learn in a museum that offers workshops like these that not only raise awareness about race, but also give the opportunity for visitors to leave the Museum with the confidence that they can–and should–talk about race.
—Ashley Moy, Marketing Volunteer Intern
Ashley is a San Diego native who recently graduated from the University of Southern California. She has a strong background in contemporary art and a passion for museums. With experience engaging visitors through public tours and programs during her senior year at USC, Ashley is now currently learning how to reach audiences through various marketing platforms.