Walker Art Center
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Interactions/Intersections: Cultural Globalism and Educational Practice


into practices. The arts--artistic expression and artistic practice--can help facilitate this process, and museums can offer resources and models to teachers as we integrate these issues into our own practices. This is one goal of Global Positioning: Exploring Contemporary World Art, which the Walker is launching this year.[7] It highlights works by fourteen artists who not only examine changing artistic practices but also, in various ways, connect with global issues. It is designed for students ages twelve to eighteen and their teachers, and can form links among art, world history, cultural studies, geography, music, and other school subjects.

Another issue that we've discussed with the education advisory committee is how nearly all of the school districts in Minnesota, particularly in the metropolitan area, are facing changing demographics in the student body--and the challenges of trying to form communities among such a diverse student population. Students who have come to Minnesota from parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe bring a variety of life experiences to American culture.

SS: A few years ago, the Wilder Research Center issued a report on the challenges that new immigrants face when they come to Minnesota.[8] It focused on the fastest-growing populations, which as I recall are Hispanic, Hmong, Russian, and Somali. How have immigration and changing demographics impacted our community, and how is this reflected in our audiences and the communities with which we work? Susan, do you see a need to work differently, given the changes in the school system--the fact that well over fifty percent of new enrollments are children who have immigrated to this country and there are eighty languages spoken in the public schools? Have you seen any changes in the actual audiences coming to the Walker?

SR: The school groups that come here are a reflection of the communities and of the schools themselves. It's extremely common for us to have groups of students in which not everyone speaks English. We are training Spanish-speaking tour guides, but we don't currently have the resources to address the needs of many other students. Generally, what I observe is that students are helping students. In a group of students there might be one who speaks English better than the rest and that person will translate for the others. Often, unfortunately, they tend to not participate very much.

In terms of the teachers who come here for training and workshops, we do not have very many teachers from immigrant communities. In fact, I doubt that there are many teachers from immigrant communities in the schools at all. When I visited Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, the issue they wanted to address through their arts program was how to blend their community, which consisted of an almost equal distribution of Somali students, African American students, white students, and a growing number of Hispanic students. This school had experienced a lot of racial conflict among those groups. But the teachers at the table were all probably forty years old or older, and all white. It's not that they were insensitive to the issues. They were making sincere attempts to understand the communities with whom they were working.

Later, a teacher planned to bring a group of students who were in an English-language learner program--largely Somali--to the Walker for a tour. When he walked through the galleries prior to the visit, he said, "I have a lot of Islamic girls in my group and they cannot see nudity. It would be culturally very difficult for them to handle that." He was being sensitive to the community and in a way that we hadn't anticipated.

English-language learner teachers, who are a growing population in the cities, are a wonderful audience for us to connect with in the future. Arts education can help these teachers work with their students to communicate better and to understand cultural attitudes better.

SS: You raise an interesting point, about the ways in which art and the creative process can help people better understand some of these complex social issues. Christi, could you talk about the ways in which you've tried to do that with the Teen Art Council?[9]

7 See http://education.walkerart.org/global/.

8 Wilder Research Center, Speaking for Themselves: A Survey of Hispanic, Hmong, Russian, and Somali Immigrants in Minneapolis-Saint Paul (St. Paul: November 2000).