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ASU Art Museum Partners With Los Angeles County Museum Of Art To Train And Spark Interest In Arts

ASU Art Museum
Domenico Nicosia/KJZZ
file | staff
Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: A lot of havens of culture are trying to change, both to attract more people of diverse backgrounds and to try to get younger generations to appreciate what's on their stages or behind their doors or hanging on their walls. That's certainly the case when it comes to museums, and as part of the effort to change perceptions and open things up, ASU is partnering with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to teach and train potential curators via master's-level coursework. One of the people who will be key to making the partnership and accompanying program of success is Miki Garcia, director of the ASU Art Museum and she's with me. So Miki, what is the current museum scene missing right now?

MIKI GARCIA: Here's what I think about the museum scene in general at this moment in time, that we have been talking a lot about amongst my colleagues but even as the staff at ASU, and that is that museums are public spaces where we can come together and ask questions about our world. That's what artists do, and that's why we gather them. As museums, we're conduit between publics and audiences and artists, and right now we're living in a world where norms are being questioned, where institutions are being critiqued, and re-thought and revamped, and museums are sort of these platforms or catalysts to think about that. So there's been lots of controversy in museums in terms of representation and diversity, in terms of subject matter they are thinking about and just like the rest of the world is really starting to question all of the things that have been handed down to us, museums are also in that current or in that stream.

GOLDSTEIN: Do you think they've been seen as being too exclusive to this point, whether it was always true or not, whether there was a good faith effort to not have it be that way? Do you think that perception had hurt museums to this point?

GARCIA: Yes, I think that the idea of museums as elitist propositions has been something that has kept people away. But I don't think museums are to blame. Actually, I think that a culture that doesn't support the arts in all levels of our lived experience, whether it's through public school education or support for artists on a national level, I think those are more the reasons why people don't attend museums the way they attend stadiums, for example. So I don't think it's because they've been elitist. I think it's because we don't have a culture that supports it. However, I will say that museums, just like many of our institutions of authority, our governing system, our libraries, our hospitals, our banks, we are starting to question: Are these places of power representing the communities they serve or purport to serve? We know from lots of surveys that museums are failing in that regard, in terms of being representative of the communities they serve, and that's what's missing, I think, is that museums are struggling to have diverse perspectives and voices, not only through the exhibitions on their walls, but through the way they think about hospitality, the way they think about shops or cafes. I mean, are they really mirroring the communities?

GOLDSTEIN: Let's look at what's being called a new innovative program that ASU, Los Angeles County Museum of Art are teaming up. What excites you the most about this partnership?

GARCIA: The idea that the ASU Art Museum and the LACMA Museum of Art and the ASU School of Art are partnering to catalyze young people into the museum, into the world of museums that so badly needs different perspectives, and we're providing opportunities for these fellows to come out of a Masters program with actual, real life experiences that they are being thrust into power, curatorial power, museum director, that kind of power and really changing the landscape. The other thing that I would say is exciting is that this is a program that is thought of in phases. So the ability to scale this, the ability for lots of people to work through museums and get an online master's through ASU around the globe could be a really interesting and groundbreaking way to get lots of diverse perspectives into the museum.

GOLDSTEIN: At its best, what do you think the most positive result of this kind of partnership could be, and could it even launch other sort of similar partnerships?

GARCIA: Let me just be a little bit more explicit about the last statement that I made. So it's a small cohort that will be taking online master's courses in art history while respectively working in museums. So when they graduate, they will be really positioned and really ready to enter top-tier positions and that is going to change the way museums do business. The pie in the sky is I know that there are countries all around the world, Guatemala, Dubai, you know, places in Senegal and Russia, who, in their communities, don't have access to art history programs or Masters in art history. So the idea that they might take courses in art history and get a Masters from ASU while working in their respective museum has the power to really change the nature of how museums are serving their communities and to really be relevant cultural spaces for communities all over the world. I know that sounds very big, but it's certainly part of the plan.

GOLDSTEIN: Miki Garcia is director of the ASU Art Museum. Miki, good to talk with you. Thank you.

GARCIA: Thanks so much. It's been a pleasure.

Steve Goldstein was a host at KJZZ from 1997 to 2022.