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Webinar: Curating Social Justice: Three Case Studies
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Professional Development Webinar series presented to current members of AAMC.

When: Tuesday, January 19
4:00-5:30pm ET
Where: At your computer

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Curating Social Justice: Three Case Studies 
Tuesday, January 19, 2016, 4:00-5:30pm ET

After you register (above) please follow link to complete your registration on GoToWebinar. You must complete the second step of registration to receive information about attending the webinar.


This webinar presents three case studies which demonstrate the ways in which social justice issues are inspiring new forms of curatorial practice. With the intense focus over the past year on social justice--advocacy for equal rights and opportunity--there is increasing scrutiny on how U. S. cultural institutions are addressing (or not) recent events and more chronic issues. From #Blacklivesmatter to marriage equality, from immigration to education: how can curatorial practice productively navigate potential political flashpoints, avoid superficial gestures, and inspire deeper understanding? How might presentations of "timeless" art effectively address diverse communities' more immediate concerns simmering just below the surface? Could institutions become more proactive instead of reactive? Specifically: Rather than turning inward, can external community partnerships be a productive curatorial resource? 

While social justice issues cross many demographics and contexts, this webinar focuses in on three case studies that address urban race and class disparities through initiatives that are at once innovative and relevant. Panelists are invited to discuss how their shared programs developed, not through proposals *for*, but through ongoing dialogue and collaborations *with* the communities that form their audiences. The moderated discussion will focus on: the participatory installation "reForm" by Temple Contemporary in collaboration with the Fairhill Elementary School community in Philadelphia; the shared exhibition program by Art+Practice with the Hammer Museum and RightWay Foundation in Leimert Park, Los Angeles; and the dialogues and acquisitions at the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, around the 14-venue exhibition "Hands Up, Don't Shoot: Artists Respond."

The aim is to show how partnering with community audiences becomes a form of primary research that can generate new forms of curatorial practice. Thoughtfully curated art and dialogue does open doors to social justice. Museum and arts professionals can effect change, not alone, but through strategic collaborations that balance community need with artistic insight.

Moderators (listed alphabetically):

Dejáy B. Duckett, Associate Director & Associate Curator, Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania
Jen Mergel, Robert L. Beal, Enid L. Beal and Bruce A. Beal Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Panelists (listed alphabetically): 
Melanie A. Adams, Managing Director for Community Education and Events, Missouri History Museum
Robert Blackson, Director, Temple Contemporary, Temple University
Jamillah James, Assistant Curator, Hammer Museum

Moderator & Panelist Biographies (listed alphabetically):

Melanie A. Adams, Managing Director for Community Education and Events, Missouri History Museum

Melanie Adams is the Managing Director for Community Education and Events for the Missouri History Museum. Her professional career includes working in student affairs at the University of California-Berkeley, California State University-Northridge, and Washington University. After leaving higher education she served as executive director of Teach For America-St. Louis, and as a consultant for the St. Louis Symphony and the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation.

Adams participates in a variety of community organizations. She is a graduate of the Women in Leadership Program of CORO and the Leadership St. Louis program of FOCUS St. Louis. She is also a former president of Metropolis St. Louis and has served on the Americorps St. Louis board, the Focus St. Louis board, and the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation. She currently serves on the Special Administrative Board of the St. Louis Public Schools.

Adams is serving her second year as the president of the Association of Midwest Museums. She has done presentations at AAM, AASLH, IMLS, and AMM.

Adams earned a bachelor's degree in English/African American studies from the University of Virginia and a Master of Education degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration from the University of Vermont. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Robert Blackson, Director, Temple Contemporary, Temple University
Rob Blackson has been the director of  Temple Contemporary at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art since 2011. In 2012, Blackson became an Andy Warhol Curatorial Fellow. Previously serving as curator of public programs at Nottingham Contemporary, the UK’s newest public contemporary art center, Blackson worked with numerous universities, artists, and writers to develop an eclectic and discursive program of lectures, screenings, performances, and live events. He also served as curator of BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, Newcastle/Gateshead, UK, and the University of Sunderland’s Reg Vardy Gallery. Blackson has contributed to a variety of catalogs and publications, including Art Journal, Cabinet, and Labyrinth, and he has lectured internationally on issues related to contemporary art practice. Most recently, Blackson was a principal organizer/curator of the public project, Funeral for a Home (2014), and reFORM (2015).  

As the founding director of Temple Contemporary, Blackson has initiated a programming model that is led by a 35 member advisory council comprised of North Philadelphia high school students, civic and cultural leaders across Philadelphia, as well as Temple University students.  Together this council raises questions of local relevance and international significance that guide Temple Contemporary’s programming. 


Dejáy B. Duckett, Associate Director & Associate Curator, Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania
Dejáy B. Duckett joined Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania as the Gallery Coordinator in 2001, and was promoted to Associate Director & Associate Curator in 2009.  She has curated ARG exhibitions including, Henrique Oliveira: Adenocalcinoma Poliresidual (2014); In Material: Lucy Arai, Sonya Clark, Mi-Kyoung Lee, and Cynthia Schira (2012); Jacob Lawrence and the Urban Experience (2010), and Darkwater: A Recital in Four Dominions, Terry Adkins after W.E.B Du Bois (2002). Prior to the Arthur Ross Gallery, she was the Gallery Associate at Nexus Contemporary Art Center (now Atlanta Contemporary Art Center), where she co-curated the 1995 Atlanta Biennial.  From 1996-98 she was Associate Curator for the City of Atlanta’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs, City Gallery East.  After returning to Philadelphia in 1999, Duckett curated Women on the Verge at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. She has worked on independent projects and written and edited many Gallery publications and brochures. Duckett earned her B.A. in 1994 in Art History from Spelman College, and an M.A. in Museum Studies from Seton Hall University in 2001, where her research focused on the changing role of the culturally specific museum in the 21st Century.


Jamillah James, Assistant Curator, Hammer Museum
Jamillah James is assistant curator at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. She recently organized two exhibitions with painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Hammer Projects: Njideka Akunyili Crosby at the Hammer Museum and The Beautyful Ones at Art + Practice, Los Angeles. With Hammer senior curator Anne Ellegood, she co-organized the museum’s presentation of Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989 (curated by The Studio Museum in Harlem) and assisted Hammer chief curator Connie Butler on the exhibition and publication Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth. James also organizes exhibitions and programs on behalf of the Hammer at Art + Practice; among them: Charles Gaines: Librettos: Manuel de Falla/Stokely Carmichael (co-organized with Anne Ellegood), Selections from the Brockman Gallery Archives, Two Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu, and John Outterbridge: Rag Man (with Anne Ellegood). She is currently working on a group exhibition, A Shape that Stands Up, opening at Art + Practice  in March 2016, which will include Robert Colescott, Caroll Dunham, Amy Sillman, and Jamian Juliano-Villani, among others. Previously, she held curatorial positions at The Studio Museum in Harlem; the Queens Museum, New York; and the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; and she independently organized exhibitions, performances, and screenings in Chicago, Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia. Her writing has been featured in publications by the Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND), the Hammer Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and in the International Review of African American Art, among others. She has been a visiting lecturer and critic at numerous art schools and other institutions throughout the country, and taught seminars on curatorial practice and contemporary art at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and the Rhode Island School of Design.

Jen Mergel, Robert L. Beal, Enid L. Beal and Bruce A. Beal Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Since appointed Senior Curator in 2010, Jen Mergel organized her team to present the inaugural installations and ongoing programming of the MFA’s Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. To that end, she pursues cultural partnerships locally, nationally, and internationally. Key exhibitions include: Felix Gonzalez-Torres (2011-2015), the 20th-anniversary loan presentation of all of the artist's beaded curtains; Permission to be Global/Prácticas Globales (2013-14 with tour), the MFA’s first exhibition of contemporary art from Latin America; the survey Shinique Smith: BRIGHT MATTER (2014-15) including a 70-foot mural in downtown Boston; and Lee Mingwei: Sonic Blossom (2015), the first ongoing interactive performance art exhibition in the Museum’s history. Forthcoming will be solo exhibitions with Chilean painter Daniela Rivera (2017) and Japanese Pop master Tadanori Yokoo (2018). Previously at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, Mergel was curator of numerous exhibitions including the survey Tara Donovan and Acting Out: Social Experiments in Video. Mergel graduated summa cum laude in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University, received her M.A. from Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies in Art and Contemporary Culture, and has taught at Harvard and Boston University. She has been invited to review art in Colombia, France, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, and Taiwan, and is a proud native of Boston.

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