What Can We Learn From the DreamSpace Project?

Added to Medium, August 24, 2017

I was reading the Alliance Labs blog posts when I came across one that I found not only interesting but also relevant for museum professionals and other readers alike. It is an example of a blog post that provides information about how to have a better understanding of race and racism. American Alliance of Museum’s Ford W. Bell Fellow in P-12 Education and Museums Sage Morgan-Hubbard has transcribed an interview she had with Alyssa Machida, an Interpretive Specialist at the Detroit Institute of Arts, about the workbook, The DreamSpace Project in the Alliance Labs blog post “Building the Dreamspace in Museum Education”.

What is a Dreamspace? A Dreamspace is a place in the museum where museum educators are able to learn how to provide a safe space for discussion about race and racism.

We need to take the time to acknowledge what is going on in our nation and look deep down into ourselves and in our communities. The Dreamspace project is one of the ways we can do so in the museum field.

According to the blog post on incluseum website called “The Dreamspace Project: A workbook and toolkit for critical praxis in the American art museum Part I”, there is a growing need for tools and resources to guide museum educators in developing more nuanced understandings of race and racism throughout their institutions; in order to do so, Alyssa Machida researched concepts from critical pedagogy, critical race theory, and ethnic studies to integrate with museum education pedagogy.

Machida, as of last year, was working on the Dreamspace workbook which translates theoretical concepts into practical language and frameworks adaptable for art museum professionals with key vocabulary, diagrams and graphic organizers, ideas for building tours, and questions for critical reflection.

The purpose of this workbook is to take educators through a significant amount of content for the purpose of raising critical consciousness. Educators, especially in this day and age, engage us in wide-reaching social forces and dynamics beyond our peripheral vision, and as a result teach us how to become better human beings in the process.

Machida also discussed in the blog post “The Dreamspace Project: A workbook and toolkit for critical praxis in the American art museum Part 2” contextualizing, deconstruction, and decolonization. She explained that in the chapter of the Dreamspace workbook “Contextualizing: Mapping and Navigating Terrains” it introduces the practice of developing critical self-awareness, building knowledge of the many ecologies we inhabit, and expanding understandings of our roles and responsibilities. There are also key points that museums have to keep in mind when establishing critical self-awareness and openness to being challenged within ourselves to see individuals as agents of change.

The key points in mindfulness to keep in mind provide a framework for openness. In the blog post, she stated the first key point is everyone is complicit with racism; in other words, it is everyone’s responsibility to be attuned and counteract deeply ingrained behaviors and biases which will take time. The second key point is don’t let emotion get in the way of critically and consciousness; while learning about racism and systems of oppression is an emotional and painful, it is important to not let emotions take control since we are learning something that is changing our perspectives, and make sure we breathe, stay calm, and keep going. Then the third key point is to bring it up; these conversations are difficult to bring up to colleagues and supervisors but if you have trust and respect speak up since it is an opportunity for learning, teaching, and growth. The fourth key point is listen with your skin; in other words, when the subject of racism is brought up, be ready to put all biases and assumptions aside as well as listen for understanding. In addition, it is important to be open to being challenged and look for multiple ways to be supportive.

Machida’s work has gained a lot of attention in the past few days especially after what had happened in Charlottesville this month. These blog posts about her work were included as resources to look over while reading the Alliance Labs piece by Sage Morgan-Hubbard.

In the interview, Morgan-Hubbard used some of the questions in the Dreamspace toolkit. Some of the questions include: What was one of your first experiences with a museum? What does education mean to you? What is your personal learning style? Do you teach in a way that leans towards your personal learning style? and How do you see your role in society, or in your community?

By learning about Machida’s background in museum education and her work on the Dreamspace project, I am able to think about my own background and know that there are many museum educators that can identify with her answers.

When we understand more about individuals of all backgrounds within our own communities we would be able to provide a safe space for both museum professionals and visitors.

Here are the links to the blogs I referred to:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/building-dreamspace-in-museum-education/
https://incluseum.com/2016/08/11/a-workbook-and-toolkit-for-critical-praxis-in-the-american-art-museum/
https://incluseum.com/2016/10/13/the-dreamspace-project-a-workbook-and-toolkit-for-critical-praxis-in-the-american-art-museum-part-2/
Have you read the Dreamspace workbook? What do you think of the Dreamspace workbook and toolkit?

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