Countdown: Go Girls! at the Museum, a model for community/youth engagement

What do you picture when I say the word “museum?”  When you type “museum” into Google Images, this is what you see:

Museums Google Search

Yikes!  Cold, hard pillars with lots of steps.  Clearly, our collective public perception of museums isn’t all that fun.  I certainly wouldn’t want to have summer camp in these places.  Would you?

However, there is a movement going on throughout the country, led by a whole lot of very smart and very innovative people.  This movement wants us to picture something like THIS when we hear the word “museum.”

This is a pic from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and number 7 in our Countdown of 8 Coolest things about Go Girls! Camp.  The museum’s leader, Nina Simon, is one of the very smart and very innovative people I am talking about.  In addition to running the MAH, Nina’s work is focused on helping other museums re-define themselves – transforming from cold, quiet buildings where audiences simply look at art created by people they will never meet to warm, vibrant, social environments where audiences are encouraged to interact with the art, artists, ideas, each other, and even make art themselves. Her book, The Participatory Museum is sweeping the museum field and making museum leaders from all over stand up, take notice, and ask, how they can more effectively “reconnect with the public and demonstrate their value and relevance in contemporary life?”

This is a pic from the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco and number 6 in our Countdown.  Talk about participatory!  The CCM is more than just a fun place to take the kids on a Saturday afternoon.  Their mission is “to nurture the 3C’s of 21st-century skills – Creativity, Collaboration and Communication – in all youth and families.”  They go on…”We believe that the ability to think critically, collaborate broadly, communicate effectively and generate and prototype multiple solutions, is the core of a 21st-century education.”  CCM, like MAH, values the creativity of its audiences…kids!  And, with partnerships with some of the most innovative SF and Silicon Valley-based companies around, they are certainly the place where kids can go to learn the skills they need to make real and much-needed change in the world.

Can you see why we are so excited to be hosting sessions of Go Girls! Camp at these 2 museums?!?  The programming that we will be able to do at these museums is so exciting to me personally, I can hardly stand it.  As a teaching artist who will be working at these locations, I have been and continue to geek out over the types of projects we will be able to do and how we will incorporate our explorations into our final plays.  I am inspired by the movement to make our cultural institutions more accessible and relevant to the broader community.  I believe that participatory programming in museums can have a huge impact on our girls.  All of our children, in fact.  Museums can give girls:

  1. Access to beautiful physical spaces – Museums care about aesthetics in ways that other arts/community organizations don’t always have the capacity.  We can’t underestimate this.  We tend to thrive in beautiful spaces.  We feel more valuable.  We feel more inspired to create and connect.
  2. Access to more space in general – I understand that not all museums are as big as the ones above.  However, so many programs for youth put kids in tight spaces, not enough room to collaborate and make stuff.  Museums, even smaller ones like the MAH, have a variety of spaces which make programmatic flexibility more possible.
  3. Access to teaching artists/mentors from a variety of disciplines – Because of museums’ spaces and reputation, they attract prolific and accomplished artists and teaching artists worldwide from all of the art forms.  Our girls need to meet and study with these artists.  They need to see as many examples as possible of adult women (and men) who are breaking the mold and seeing the world in different ways.
  4. Access to big ideas – Museums are in the business of curating exhibits that allow audiences to interact with history, science, stories, and ideas in ways that you just can’t do in a book.  Museums can make learning physical and interactive which is how kids learn best anyway
  5. Access to public exposure – Through high-quality arts programming, girls will be involved in safe spaces that allow them to get to know each other and themselves through the creative process.  Having these programs take place in a museum takes this process one step further.  It gives them a well-known and well-respected venue to showcase their work to their friends, family and the broader public.  When this happens, they receive the message that their creations are important.

Enhancing our mission to ignite a compassion revolution by putting girls center stage, our Go Girls! will spend their days in physical environments that scream out to them, “Make something!  Tell us what you think!  Your stories and ideas are valuable!  You are change we wish to see in the world!” Here are 2 projects that I plan to lead Go Girls! in this summer that I am particularly jazzed about:

  • Define what it really means to Be a Girl through photographic self-portraits: In connection with the MAH’s Photo ID exhibit and our Look at Me theme, Go Girls! will explore the differences between how the media portrays girls and how girls actually want to portray themselves.
  • Create short action films with Girls as the stars of the adventure: In connection to our Onceuponatime & Ever After Theme, Go Girls! get to embark on their heroine’s journey using a variety of artistic media.  Since the CCM has a green screen, we can play around with video and there will will be no limits to where we can travel on our adventures.

There are just 6 weeks until Go Girls! Camp 2013 starts.  Countdown is a series of posts highlighting the 8 coolest parts of Go Girls! Camp.  Number 8 was our Teen Staff.  Stay Tuned for next week when we highlight Number 5…Kidpower!  You can register for Go Girls! Camp by visiting