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Handling Controversy Seminar Register NOW

Monday, February 8, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Judith Pineiro
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Handling Controversy: Challenges of Difficult Subject Matter and the Use of Social Media in Relation to These Challenges

A seminar for curators organized by the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), AAMC Foundation, and the Arts Advocacy Program at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC).

March 7, 2016
Welcome Breakfast: 9:30am- 10am -- Program: 10am – 4:45pm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
AAMC members: priority registration until February 26,
Non-AAMC members: registration after February 26, based on availability

This one-day seminar will address the challenges of exhibiting sensitive subject matter and handling potential controversy, as well as the specific considerations that the use and impact of social media present for curators. Combining presentations by colleagues with experience handling these issues, internally and externally, this closed-door seminar aims to offer curators strategic tools with which to safeguard their curatorial vision and negotiate effectively with diverse stakeholders.

Controversies over art exhibitions and cultural programming dealing with race, sexuality, geopolitical conflicts, ethnicity or religion are complicated by exacerbated sensitivities over social inequities and relatively new and growing player: social media. The instantaneous wide reach of social media quickly breaks disciplinary and social boundaries making them porous. As a result, a debate that may have been previously confined to people familiar with the visual arts can easily spread beyond it and involve special interest activist groups and other unexpected participants. How can you control interpretation in a world where de-contextualized components of a show can quickly circulate to fuel activist agendas? How can you succeed in keeping the programming going? How do you encourage real debate about sensitive issues? Should institutions respond to social media criticism and where and how can institutions find the support to do so effectively?

schedule may change, listed in order of appearance
as of February 25, 2016


Carrie Rebora Barratt, Deputy Director for Collections and Administration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 
Judith Pineiro, Executive Director, AAMC & AAMC Foundation
Svetlana MintchevaDirector of Programs, National Coalition Against Censorship 

Addressing Curatorial Perspective & Curatorial Practice with difficult subject matter 

Maxwell K. (Mike) Hearn, Douglas Dillon Chairman of the Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will discuss the exhibition CHINA: Through the Looking Glass, held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2015). How are a Western art museums’ presentations of Chinese Art understood by Chinese audiences? Are our displays seen as enlightening or as evidence of imperialist booty? Are curatorial interpretations seen as creative innovations or provocative misunderstandings?

Jasmine Hagans, Curator of Lectures, Courses and Concerts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will present an overview of the events around "Kimono Wednesdays” last summer: the protest by Decolonize Our Museums, counter-protests, and the internal and external dialogue. She will discuss the planning for the public dialogue "Kimono Wednesdays: A Conversation” on February 7, 2016, as well as how these conversations are continuing.

Grace Stewart, Collections and Exhibitions Manager, Metal Museum, will discuss her experience curating the exhibition A Kind of Confession (2015) at the Metal Museum, the first to exclusively feature black artists. The exhibition celebrated eleven black artists and metalsmiths from across the country whose work deals with issues of personal, racial and cultural identities. The exhibition faced challenges during the planning process and after it opened to the public. Grace will discuss her strategies for navigating these challenges when faced by small museums, framing the exhibition as catalyst for long term change.

Kimberli Gant, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow for the Arts of Global Africa, Newark Museum will be discussing internal institutional debates about the opening of Wondrous Worlds: Art & Islam through Time & Place, in the weeks after the Paris bombing. Though the exhibition had been in the works for over 3 years prior, the timing caused some concern among staff and docents.

Social Media in the Museum Context: Challenges & Opportunities

Taylor Newby, Senior Social Media Manager, The Metropolitan Museum of Art(@TaylorCNewby) will kead a discussion about Social Media Strategy at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kim Drew, ‎Associate Online Community Producer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art(@MuseumMammy) will discuss Social Media and Museums with Taylor Newby and Robin Cembalest.

Robin Cembalest, arts editor and independent social media consultant (@RCembalest) will discuss one of the newer challenges faced by art-museum curators and offer social media strategies for when controversy hits in "Retreat or Retweet? Handling critics on Twitter."

Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (@Sree) and Kim Drew will lead a workshop on Social Media 101: Workshop on Personal and Professional Use.


The seminar is open to current AAMC members only until 12pm ET, February 26, after which we will accept applications from non-members as well. Space is limited to 30 participants, only and registration is on a first response basis.  Registration is only accepted with a fully completed form and payment of fee in full.


Registration fee
$50 before February 26
$75 for registrations received after February 26 (only through AAMC offices)
Fee includes program, breakfast and lunch

Registration form
Please complete the registration form in full and submit payment to attend.  Kindly note, non-AAMC members will need to contact AAMC offices to receive the registration material, submitting a statement of interest in doing so. 

Case study
After registration, we will ask you to consider submitting a case study proposal or come prepared with an example of a conflict or controversy you are interested in discussing.

Contact AAMC:


The program is organized and presented by the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), AAMC Foundation, and the Arts Advocacy Program at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). We are grateful to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for their support of our joint program.The information presented here is subject to change without notice. The organizers assume no responsibility for any errors that may appear here, and in no event shall the organizers be liable for incidental or consequential damages arising from use of this document or other program-related material. This document and parts thereof must not be reproduced or copied without the organizers providing written permission, and contents thereof must not be imparted to a third party nor be used for any unauthorized purpose.



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