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

ON MARCH 15, 2002, Sarah Schultz, Kiyoko Motoyama Sims, Susan Rotilie, Christi Atkinson, and Meredith Walters of the Walker Art Center's education and community programs department engaged in a conversation about their participation in the museum's global initiative, the impact the project had on their work in museum education, and the most salient issues facing institutions striving to understand the needs of their audiences in an increasingly global and interconnected world. Below is an edited version of that conversation.[1]

Sarah Schultz: The primary drive behind the Walker's global initiative was to enhance the ability of curatorial staff to create international programming. The advisory committee was created to generate a better understanding of curatorial criteria and artistic traditions beyond a Eurocentric construct. Of course, as the Walker increasingly presents work created from multiple cultural practices and histories, work that may not be easily understood by our audiences using familiar aesthetic criteria, new challenges and opportunities arise for presentation, contextualization, and learning. For two years, we have participated intensively in the advisory committee meetings. What aspects of the discussion have been particularly meaningful to each of you?

Susan Rotilie: I was impressed with a project Vasif Kortun described called Oda Projesi in Istanbul. It is an artists' collaborative operating out of an apartment in Gültepe where artists, non-artists, and people from the neighborhood participate in the art-making process. That area of Istanbul is constantly changing as first-generation immigrants settle there, and many of the projects use the city and city life as points of departure. The idea is that producing art produces possibilities--that everyone is an artist, for example. The Oda Projesi organizers see the whole project as a "social sculpture" that emerges as a collaborative process and shared experience.

Meredith Walters: Paulo Herkenhoff gave useful examples of ways he worked with the favelas around São Paulo during the Bienal. While many artists worked there, he and the education staff worked directly with teachers in the favelas, giving them materials such as teaching guides about the show. Their goals were to help facilitate discussions around the work and to start conversations around issues of racism and classism, which are felt as keenly in Brazil as they are in the States. Not only did this strategy function as a personal invitation to the kids, many of whom had never been in a museum before, but it also gave them tools for discussing the works. Although it's great to be invited into the museum, visitors don't have true access unless they have tools to look at the art on its own terms. Of course, the kids would have had valuable opinions anyway, but this way they were partners in a discussion.

Kiyoko Motoyama Sims: Vishakha Desai addressed the idea of different cultural perceptions in her presentation

1 Sarah Schultz is director of education and community programs; Kiyoko Motoyama Sims is associate director in charge of community programs; Susan Rotilie is associate director in charge of schools, tours, and family programs; Christi Atkinson is assistant director in charge of teen programs; Meredith Walters is assistant director in charge of public programs.