Our Emergent Museum Craft

Musea is a member of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the premier association dedicated to excellence within the American Museum Industry so that we can, to the best of our ability as a small developing Museum, follow best practices within the Museum Industry.

For several years now, there has been a movement within the industry for all Museums to begin viewing themselves not just as archival spaces but as Civic Organizations active in supporting the communities they belong to. Earlier in the month, the AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums released its annual forecasting report with this year’s title: Museums as Community Infrastructure, by virtue of their contributions to the five pillars of community strength and resilience. We thought it would be interesting to include a summary of the report here to help connect the dots of why we do what we do.

We’ve included the report’s shortened recommendations based on the five pillars of a community’s strengths and resilience (1-Education for our children, 2-Livable communities for our elders, 3-Mental health, 4-Emergency response in the face of disasters, and 5-A human-centered culture of sustainability) and the ways in which our Museum staff and co-curator team are trying to work in each of these pillars.

First, before delving into the specific pillars, the report starts out by emphasizing that there has been a history of many museums playing a positive role in their local communities in small non-traditional ways, such as raising and distributing food, creating housing for artists without housing, self-care and wellness programs, art therapy for many different populations, and even acting as polling and voting centers. However, these efforts have often gone unnoticed by larger audiences due to the lack of the majority of museums not tracking their progress and recording their metrics, so there is an emphasis on encouraging this within the industry now. To this end, Musea and the co-curator team have been in the initial stages of developing a research project that can help to demonstrate the efficacy of the Intentional Creativity approach for its practitioners.

There is also a big push to raise awareness among the government sector that Museums are not just something “nice” to have around but “essential contributors to their constituent’s health, education, and safety.” This has resulted in ensuring that museums have been “included in pandemic relief funding, such as the $1.2 billion for museums in Shuttered Venue Operators Grant funds and more than $1 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Below we will share the five pillars of community strength and resilience from the AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums report “Museums as Community Infrastructure”, and the ways MUSEA Intentional Creativity Museum is meaningfully working to honor and exceed the mandates in each pillar.

Areas of Recommendation for Childhood Education:
1) Investing in the capacity to work with schools and teachers, 2) developing resources that will identify how Museum assets can be integrated into a school curriculum, 3) building “permanent learning labs” that serve diverse learners, 4) developing of a growing number of “museum schools” for children.

Rosamaria Polidura is an Intentional Creativity Guild member and Museum Co-curator who is focusing her work on the area of childhood education and Intentional Creativity. She has a Ph.D in psychology and has returned to graduate school to pursue a degree in Education. She will be presenting an article about her research in this area in 2023. The co-curator team is also in the process of exploring the idea of developing “Create Together Days,” where children, teens, and parents around the world can work on the same Intentional Creativity project at the same time.

Our Intentional Creativity Practitioners (graduates of the PRISMA training) are also developing and using cutting edge curriculum to work with children in many therapeutic settings with the medium of Intentional Creativity practices and processes. Some of them work in schools with school-age children. Intentional Creativity approaches are also being used with diverse learners as creative, intuitive, and free-flowing Intentional Creativity processes are often quite accessible for them.

Areas of Recommendations for Addressing Livable Communities for our Elders:
1) Finding creative solutions for accessibility issues, including physical, social, cultural, and economic barriers, 2) providing age-equitable opportunities for employment and volunteering, 3) assessing how older adults are represented in Museum content from exhibits to marketing materials, and 4) program design that fosters intergenerational content.

Our MUSEA collective is intergenerational and espouses teachings that place specific onus and value on honoring elders, bridging gaps between younger and older generations through the practice of Intentional Creativity. Our co-curator team consists of a group of intergenerational women, with our youngest member in her twenties as well as several retirees. We also provide the title of ‘elder’ to some of the leaders in our membership community, as a way to honor the experience, prowess, impact and wisdom of these women. There is an ethos of respect for the elders within our MUSEA collective that often elicits a sense of deeper meaning and personal value for elder-women when they join our community.

Along with that, we have plans in motion around increasing our accessibility, intergenerational exhibits, and mentorship programming which are currently in development, all of which are inspired by and in alignment with the work of MUSEA’s art matriarchs who were elder women that provided us with the root teachings of Intentional Creativity.

In terms of our museum programming and exhibit, we have featured elder women artists in many of our exhibits since opening in 2020 – Hats in the Pandemic featuring Liz Daniels from Norway, Fierce, Fabulous and Feminine, featuring Phyllis Anne Taylor from Florida, and Into the Future, featuring Master Painter and Intentional Creativity Art Martriarch, Sue Hoya Sellars. Being able to honor, center, and spotlight the work of elder artists is a true joy, as we recognize that many artists come into their stride after retirement, and not before!

Areas of Recommendation for Mental Health:
1) Get familiar with research on how arts engagement can foster mental health, 2) collaborations with mental health providers for input on Museum Programming, 3) understanding staff about the signs of trauma and how the world of Art History has been historically traumatizing for many marginalized groups through racism, exclusion, appropriation, and theft 4) the development of efforts toward institutional healing.

When it comes to mental health, our Museum is on the cutting edge! The core of our work through the museum, the Intentional Creativity Guild that are ambassadors and consultants of the Intentional Creativity Foundation, as well as our members is the individual and collective practice of Intentional Creativity, of which the very premise is accessing healing and transformation through creative self-expression, and improving the wellness (mental health included and perhaps most significant!) of anyone who engages in this way of working with art. For this reason, mental health challenges in our community are destigmatized through the regular circle gatherings (engagement!) in which personal wellness check ins are encouraged, sharing about human struggle is welcome, and trauma-informed community care is practiced when any one member is experiencing personal challenges. This supports the amplification of mental wellness greatly in our community. Then, as we practice Intentional Creativity individually and in group settings, this is a form of creative self care and implementation of healing ‘tools’ that work to stabilize and bolster mental wellness.

This is also true of our entire working group and Cocurators Team, who practice open sharing, mental health and wellness ‘check ins’ and ensure care, support, and encouragement are available to each member. In addition, many of our working group members are trauma-informed practitioners, teachers, coaches, psychologists, and support workers who have training in emotional first aid, awareness of mental health challenges and implications, and tools for supporting themselves and others in good mental health practices.

In the area of anti-racism and the historical impacts of museums on marginalized people, our museum has hosted two exhibits that were created, curated, and developed by our Sacred ECHOES of the Well Women of Color Circle. These include Carnaval of Spirit Love and ECHOES of Poe-Artry Exhibits. Both of these exhibits featured the voices and stories of women of color with a focus on shifting the dominant narrative around whose art and stories have been part of the traditional art ‘canon’, shining a bright spotlight on the powerful cultural art and creative spirit of Black, Indigenous Women of Color and Culture, through both traditional lineage and personal art expressions that center the ‘standpoint’ and powerful creativity of these incredible women. We will also be hosting the ECHOES Summit in March of 2023 that will feature 12 teachings from 12 different women of color who will express how they use Intentional Creativity to reach the depths of their being – their Well – to cultivate culture, heritage, and connection with Self and their Ancestors. This will be an exercise in consciousness and the choice to live a sovereign existence, guided by their own way of living in a world that attempts to force upon them a foreign way of being. This summit will include emergent topics related to justice, equity, art and healing in collaboration with the Intentional Creativity Foundation and Museum.

Areas of Recommendation for Emergency response in the face of disasters:
1)Identify existing assessments of local climate risk, or if there are none, advocate for their development, 2) Create risk management and disaster response relationships before the next disaster strikes and maintain them between crises, 3) Incorporate design elements into renovations or master planning that help the museum’s property buffer the community against risks such as flood, heat, and fire., 4) Include community needs in disaster planning and emergency response plans, 5) Create policies and procedures for deploying staff as needed (at the level of community, city, or state) as part of larger relief and response efforts.

MUSEA’s physical Museum is located in Sonoma, California, which is an area where fires have plagued for the past several years and, as such, is very familiar with having to respond to natural disasters. Co-founders Shiloh Sophia and Jonathan McCloud, are in the process of developing networking connections with other businesses around the Community of Sonoma with a long-term desire to provide support to the community when possible if the need arises. When evacuations occurred in previous years, Shiloh Sophia and Jonathan opened MUSEA Center’s doors to community members in need of safe places to shelter. The space continues to be updated and improved to include more security, safety, stable infrastructure, and has great water access. MUSEA also has a 10-bed dorm that it plans to open to the public and local community if and when disasters occurs.

MUSEA’s global collective of artists are also networking through regular circle gathering and art experiences, and as a result, many of our members have begun to form regional connections that are ‘localizing’ our community, and ensuring that on-the-ground supportive relationships are forming. This in turn has potential for increasing each member’s local network of support in the case of natural disasters, food shortages, or economic challenges. This has already been demonstrated over the past few years during the pandemic and natural disasters, in which many community members stepped up to support one another.

Areas of recommendation for the Human Centered Culture of Sustainability:
This part of the report is extensive and covers issues related to permanent collections, labor force, tourism for museums that are large tourist attractions, the need for systems-level changes, the need for increased intercultural competence, and more.

One way in which Musea is working toward competency within this area is through Art Activism. Earlier this year, the Museum hosted our first exhibit in partnership with Tree Sisters, where much of the proceeds were donated to the reforestation efforts supported by this extraordinary non-profit organization, and plans for continued art activism programming are in the works.

Musea Museum has evolved from a long matriarchal art lineage that has cared deeply about serving its communities throughout the span of three generations and hopes to continue this legacy of service as part of long-term planning for the future.

As a MUSEA Member or Museum guest, your continuous engagement, encouragement, enthusiasm and – most importantly – participation means you are co-creating with us an emergent Intentional Creativity Culture that centers love, self-expression, community care, ecological repair, circle way, compassion, and appreciation for each being’s unique thread in our earthly and cosmic tapestry. In this way, we together have co-created a Museum that is both built through the strength of our existing community infrastructure, and in turn, becomes a steadfast and reliable source of community infrastructure for those within and without. We are incredibly proud of this model, and excited to see that it is in alignment with emergent museum craft and best practice within the museum industry.

We were ahead of the ‘bell curve’ because we are indeed ‘made of’ and responding to the voices, stories, needs, and desires of our community.

To read more about the 5 pillars of Museum as Community Infrastructure you can find the full report on the AAM website here: www.aam-us.org

Author: Jessica Richmond
Co-author and Editor: Amber Gould
Supported by the co-curator team