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How are museums growing institutional resources? How are museums working with their communities? How are museums using their exhibitions and collections in new ways? Explore original articles by MANY staff about NYS museums. 

What's happening at your museum? Submit your museum news and we might feature you in our next This Month in NYS Museums newsletter!

Email meves@nysmuseums.org 

  • March 30, 2022 12:56 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters,

    If I had a personal FAQ sheet, “How many museums are there in New York State?” would be at the top of the list. Believe it or not, it is a hard question to answer. MANY uses 1,400 as an estimate, but I have learned that to be an effective advocate and to counter inaccurate, commonly held beliefs and perceptions, we need to use precise and relevant data about who we are, who we serve, and what funds make our work possible.

    The second FAQ would be, “What is next in MANY’s statewide advocacy agenda?” I am pleased to announce that on March 28th Assembly Member Didi Barrett (District 106 Dutchess/Columbia) introduced Assembly Bill Number A9710, “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State.” The intent of the study is to identify and collect data about all museums in the state including information on size, hours of operation, visitor statistics, funding sources and amounts, and the subjects of the museums' collections. It will provide information and recommendations to the legislature about the adequacy of public and private funding sources.

    The proposed study will inform policymaking and improve public awareness of the museums throughout our State. It will help identify the benefits, shortfalls, and consequences of the different sources of support for museums. The study will recommend systems of support to best ensure equitable distributions of funds regardless of discipline, budget size, or location.

    AM Barrett’s Sponsor Memo recognizes how museums are inextricably linked to New York State’s identity, economy, and history, that too many of us operate hand to mouth, struggle to pay our bills, and wonder each year how we will keep our doors open.

    The memo also recognizes that we need assistance to ensure the protection of our collections and to strengthen our roles as educators and community anchors.  

    Your responses to our State of NYS Museums and COVID-19 impact surveys helped us get attention and support for museum relief funding over the past two years. Now we need you to reach out to your Assembly Members and ask them to sponsor Assembly Bill Number A9710, “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State.” Please let them know how important this new legislation is to the future of New York’s museums and ask them to email Jacob Scofield, jscofield@nyassembly.gov and indicate their preference to sponsor.

    Not sure who represents you? Click here to find your Assembly Member. 

    I know your days are as jam-packed as mine and I extend my thanks in advance for making the time to reach out to your legislative representative and ask for their support of this bill.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    Erika Sanger

  • March 16, 2022 5:28 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Ten Awards of Merit will be presented at the 2022 Annual Conference in Corning, NY

    Troy, NY — The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce the 2022 Awards of Merit recipients. Awards of Merit will be presented as part of the 2022 Annual Conference Envisioning Our Museums for the Seventh Generation at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY on Monday, April 11 at 12 PM.

    Awards of Merit recognize outstanding and innovative programs, staff and volunteers who have enriched New York State museums with new and remarkable projects. This year, the review committee reviewed over 50 nominations and awarded ten recipients in six categories. 

    The Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award recognizes a board member or staff leader that saw their organization through a critical challenge or significant opportunity in a creative, effective manner. This year, Brenda Simmons, Founder and Executive Director of the Southampton African American Museum, recieves this year’s most prestigious award. “Brenda is truly a force of nature who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to inclusion and the African American community on the East End of Long Island,” said Assemblymember Fred W. Thiele. Members of the review committee noted her leadership and tireless work makes her a worthy recipient of the Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award and is an inspiration to the museum field.  

    The Award of Merit for Individual Achievement recognizes devoted staff or volunteers who are instrumental in moving their organizations forward over a sustained period. This year, the Individual Achievement was awarded to Melissa Dunlap for her incredible 30 year career as Curator and Executive Director of the Niagara County Historical Society. Over the course of her 30 year career, Dunlap increased the number of permanent staff, increased the historical society’s operating budget, reorganized the archives, increased school tours, led two major capital campaigns, relocated the historical society–including building a new gallery space and redesigning exhibition spaces. The committee applauded her dedication and leadership that supported and grew the Niagara County Historical Society.

    The Rising Star Award recognizes a museum professional who is under the age of 35 and currently employed at a cultural institution. The Rising Star displays creative thinking and inspired institutional change. This years’ RIsing Star is Mary Tsaltas-Ottomanelli, Special Programs & Engagement Manager at the Fraunces Tavern Museum. Mary’s investigation into visitor interests, her detailed research, and the stories she chooses to tell have pushed the Museum to collectively reexamine how they interpret their collection and to think strategically about the stories the Museum chooses to tell. Her work inspired others to share the lesser-known stories found in the Museum’s collection and she is a champion for diverse narratives.

    The Excellence in Design Award recognizes an exhibition produced by a cultural institution that articulates content through engaging design and creates a satisfying visitor experience. This year, the committee awarded the Museum of Arts and Design’s Story Makers: Burke Prize 2021, an interactive exhibition that highlights 16 finalists and winners of the Museum's Burke Prize, which honors excellence in contemporary craft. The review committee was impressed by the multimedia interactive website and how this reimagines the exhibition experience for a digital audience.

    The Innovation in Collections Access Award recognizes exemplary projects that broaden access, preserve, and catalog museum and heritage organization collections. This year the committee recognizes Digital Carpet Restoration for Historic House Access at Frederic Church’s Olana. This project sought a creative solution to the restoration and preservation of the rugs owned and used by the Church family. Olana staff utilized high-resolution photography and digital printing to produce highly accurate reproductions of historic flooring and carpeting materials printed on a rubber-backed material that provides a protective layer against visitor traffic. The review committee was impressed by the innovative use of technology to offer authentic visitor experiences and promote long-term conservation of collection assets. Olana State Historic Site is one of the first instiutitions in the United States to use this technology alongside Mount Vernon and Geroge Mason’s Gunston Hall. 

    The Engaging Communities Award recognizes organizations that use creative methods to engage its community and build new audiences. Projects can include collections interpretation, exhibitions, lecture series, educational or public programs, focus groups, strategic planning, or other community engagement efforts. This award is given to organizations based on the size operating budget.

    Volunteer- $100,000

    Standing on their Shoulders: 101 Years of Voting and Still Marching for Women’s Rights – Historical Society of Woodstock

    Based on the campaigns of two early US women’s rights workers as documented by their Woodstock-related descendants, this was the final exhibition in the Historical Society’s yearlong women’s rights centennial series “Standing on their Shoulders,” a project made possible by a grant from Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This exhibition included early 20th century photographs and artifacts with interactive videos and music. It highlighted the social justice work of Elisabeth Freeman (1876-1942) and Edna Kearns (1882-1934) whose activism and use of horse-drawn wagons as campaign plaforms inspired generations. 

    $100,000-$500,000

    A Visual Dialogue on Environmental Issues –Long Island Explorium

    Long Island Explorium partnered with Stony Brook University’s Department of Art students to curate a digital art exhibition “A Visual Dialogue on Environmental Issues.” This exhibition focused on the balance of local community needs fueled with artistic insight on environmental justice. It also encouraged innovative multi-disciplinary artistic exploration by individual artists that expressed how the arts and new media can propose solutions to environmental issues and create alternatives that support sustainability and climate justice, fostering cooperation and an exchange of ideas.

    $500,000-$1,000,000

    Jupiter Hammon Project –Preservation Long Island

    The Jupiter Hammon Project is a major, long-term initiative focused on developing a more relevant and equitable interpretation of the life, literature, and world of Jupiter Hammon (1711- ca. 1806) and the other individuals enslaved at Joseph Lloyd Manor, one of Presevation Long Island’s four historic properties. While enslaved at the Manor, Jupiter Hammon wrote powerfully about the social and moral conflicts slavery raised in the newly formed United States, becoming one of our country’s earliest published Black authors. Preservation Long Island hosted three public roundtable discussions over Zoom with nearly 700 total attendees that brought together scholars and professionals to explore the legacy of slavery on Long Island via the life and work of Jupiter Hammon. The public’s response to the scholarly information presented in the roundtables will shape the interpretation of Jupiter Hammon’s story. 

    $1,000,000-$5,000,000

    Tomashi Jackson: The Land Claim – Parrish Art Museum

    Tomashi Jackson is a multidisciplinary artist working across painting, textiles, sculpture, and video to place formal and material investigations in dialogue with recent histories of displacement and disenfranchisement of people of color, resulting in formalist compositions of exuberant color, bold geometries, and intricate layerings of material. In 2021, Jackson was invited by the Parrish Art Museum as part of their annual project series for artists to consider the entire Museum as a site for workers that transcend disciplinary boundaries, encouraging new ways to experience art, architecture, landscape, and community. Tomashi Jackson: The Land Claim focused on the historic and contemporary lived experiences of Indigenous, Black, and Latinx families on the East End of Long Island, and how issues of housing, transportation, livelihood, migration, and agriculture link these communities. 

    Over $5,000,000

    GATHER: Conversations led by Black & Indigenous Changemakers – Guild Hall of East Hampton

    Devised specifically for community leaders, services workers, teachers, and developers, GATHER: Conversations led by Black & Indigenous Changemakers platforms the voices and experiences of BIPOC scholars, artists, and leaders, providing both lessons on our past histories and strategies and examples of how to progress forward together. The July 2021 GATHER series was programmed in tandem with the Guild Hall exhibition, “Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks, platforming indigenous experiences, traditions, and histories with our waterways and systems.” The four events were led by Jeremy Dennis, artist and tribal member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Anthony Madonna, Guild Hall’s Patti Kenner Senior Associate for Learning and Public Engagement, and a rotating panel of historians, artists, and/or leaders of the Hamptons, including Roddy Smith, Andrina Wekontash Smith, Tecumseh Ceaser, Chief Harry Wallace, Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, Donnamarie Barnes, and Skip Finley.

     

    The Award Ceremony will take place at 12 PM on Monday, April 11 at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY. Photo opportunities will be available. For further information please contact meves@nysmuseums.org or 518-273-3400.

  • March 07, 2022 5:11 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)


    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce that Executive Director Erika Sanger was awarded an Advocacy Leadership Award from the American Alliance of Museums during Museums Advocacy Day 2022. These awards are presented to advocates who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in their advocacy for the museum field.

    “[Erika’s] tireless work to represent New York museums at all levels of government, cultivating deep and meaningful relationships with legislators, is a true model for the museum field,” said Laura Lott, President & CEO for the American Alliance of Museums. Lott cited Sanger’s years of capitalizing on opportunities to speak up for museums. She is a trusted resource and a highly knowledgeable representative of the New York museum community. Her advocacy work throughout the pandemic helped museums receive $3 billion in federal relief funding over two years that saved jobs, programs, and museums from closure. 

    “Erika Sanger brings a wonderful passion and commitment to leading and representing New York State museums at all levels of government, working tirelessly to cultivate deep and meaningful relationships with legislators. We applaud Erika’s proactive leadership to ensure that New York museums are seen and heard, and in supporting the large and diverse Museums Advocacy Day delegation from New York.”

    “Congratulations to Erika Sanger on her Advocacy Leadership Award! I applaud her tireless work in advocacy of museums in New York and across the country,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “We thank her for her dedication to strengthening and protecting museums which are vital pillars of cultural strength and community.”

    “New York’s museums are world-class cultural institutions, attracting visitors from around the world, providing vital educational programming, and serving as cornerstones of their communities,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “In the face of the many challenges museums have faced throughout the pandemic, Erika Sanger has worked tirelessly to advocate on their behalf. I congratulate her on this well-deserved award and look forward to continuing to work with her, the Museum Association of New York, and the American Alliance of Museums to ensure that our state and nation’s museums have the resources they need to thrive.”

    “I want to offer my congratulations to MANY’s Executive Director Erika Sanger, who has been awarded an Advocacy Leadership Award from the American Alliance of Museums,” said Rep. Antonio Delgado (NY-19). “Erika's tireless advocacy to support the arts and keep museums funded enriches our communities and helps ensure that these museums may be enjoyed by folks for years to come. I look forward to continuing this work alongside Erika and other advocates at MANY and AAM to support our museums and the local arts.”

    “I am honored to be recognized for my advocacy work on behalf of all of our museums. Museums are places where people share cultural experiences that define our communities, our state, and our nation,” said Sanger. “These valuable economic contributors, community anchors, and education partners are struggling to find stability in the wake of the pandemic. The Museum Association of New York is working hard to amplify the contributions they make to our communities and their need for state and federal financial support.” 

    MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger with Congressman Antonio Delgado (NY-19) and Hudson River Maritime Museum Executive Director Lisa Cline at the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street Water/Ways traveling exhibition in 2019

    About Erika Sanger

    Erika Sanger joined the Museum Association of New York in 2016. She is the leading ambassador and advocate for museums and cultural institutions in New York State. Sanger is recognized as an innovative professional who leads projects from vision to funding, from implementation to evaluation, and from community engagement to fiscal accountability. She is a highly effective administrator, an inspiring educator, and an engaging speaker. Her expertise in the interpretation of material culture is complemented by a commitment to build public engagement in the diversity of our shared histories. 

    Sanger gained her extensive experience in museums through positions held at renowned institutions including the International Center of Photography, the Jewish Museum, the New-York Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum, the Albany Institute of History & Art, and the Asheville Art Museum in Asheville, NC. She served as Director of Development at Penland School of Crafts in Western North Carolina, where she participated in the design and implementation of campaigns for capital and endowment funds. Programs produced under her direction have received funding from state and federal agencies, including the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

    Sanger holds a B.F.A. from Clark University, in Worcester, MA, and an M.A. from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.


    About MANY

    The Museum Association of New York helps to shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities. Visit www.nysmuseums.org and follow MANY on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @nysmuseums 

     

    About the American Alliance of Museums

    The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is the only organization representing the entire museum field, from art and history museums to science centers and zoos. Since 1906, AAM has been championing museums through advocacy and providing museum professionals with the resources, knowledge, inspiration, and connections they need to move the field forward. AAM’s Alliance of 35,000 museums and museum professionals seeks to better our communities, and our world, through collaborative human-centered experiences, education, and connection to histories, cultures, the natural world, and one another. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.


  • February 28, 2022 8:20 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt has worked in art education and museums for more than twenty years and more than anything enjoys connecting people with art. He served as the Director of Education at the Wichita Art Museum in Kansas and was the inaugural manager of public programs for the Blanton Museum of Art in Texas when it opened in 2006. He then became the Executive Director of the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana where he oversaw their successful reaccreditation by the American Alliance of Museums, and then the Executive Director of the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas where he led a $5.4M renovation and the celebration of its 50th anniversary. 

    Whisenhunt joined The Rockwell Museum in Corning in January 2017. Since then, he has been diversifying the collection to reflect the museum’s new focus on art about the American experience while working to increase overall attendance to the museum, its programs, and events. He joined the MANY Board in April 2018 and has served as Program Chair and Vice-President. This April, he will become the MANY Board President. He lives in Painted Post, NY with his husband Mitchell Hurricane Smith and their two dogs, Stella Josephine Parker and Nove Delphine Parker. 

    We spoke with him to learn more about when he knew he wanted to work in museums, his career path, and what keeps him motivated.

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt speaks up for NYS museums at the 2020 American Alliance of Museums Advocacy Day with Corning Museum of Glass President and Executive Director Karol Wight in Washington, DC

     

    MANY: What other jobs have you had in the museum field? Can you tell us about your journey to get to your current role?

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt: I began my career in museum education, interpretation, and audience development–with positions as director of education and manager of public programs. There are numerous educators in my family, so I think that’s why it was in many ways a natural fit for me. I do love research, scholarship and writing about art and all the work considered curatorial. But what I’m passionate about, more than all of that, is taking that research, knowledge, and understanding and translating it into a tool empowering people to look more closely, think more deeply, and connect to a work of art. It’s exciting to me and what I truly love about museum work.

    I worked in museum education for about ten years, but then became more interested in the inner workings of museums and cultural organizations –how things came together in the bigger picture. So, I began my career as a museum director at the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is a small museum with an amazing collection of American art. From there I went to the Museum of the Southwest, which is a multidisciplinary museum in West Texas including an art museum housed in an historic home, a children’s museum, a planetarium, a science center, and a public sculpture collection.

    One of the reasons I went to the Museum of the Southwest was because I enjoy the interplay of the disciplines and I love mixing things up. It makes things more interesting for our audiences because it shows there are innumerable ways to approach a museum experience and connect through different modes of understanding. We did a big renovation of the art museum when I was there. It was three different buildings– one of them an historic mansion –so spaces from three eras cobbled together in this weird way. We were able to rethink and refresh the spaces, bring unity and cohesion, and create a more contemporary experience for our visitors.

    From there I went to The Rockwell Museum. I looked at the job when it was first posted, and I wasn’t sure if it was for me.  After talking to the recruiter and learning a lot more about The Rockwell’s history and mission, it felt like the perfect fit. Education, community engagement, and collaboration have been at the core of The Rockwell’s work for decades. At the other organizations that I’ve worked, it was necessary to spend a lot of time convincing the leadership and some of the people I worked with that those values were going to help us connect with our audience and propel the organizations forward. Those organizations embraced those ideas, understood and believed them, and eventually benefited from that shift. But it took a lot of convincing. There are so many expectations around what “blockbuster” exhibitions can do for an organization, but that’s not the whole picture–that’s not always what really helps people create a deeper connection with an institution. Looking at The Rockwell, I knew I wasn’t going to have to advocate for that sort of shift–it was already here. I wasn’t going to have to convince anyone how important education was because they all believed it and we could just keep building on that great work to expand how we serve our communities in the Chemung Valley and the people who visit Corning from all over the world.


    Brian Lee Whisenhunt in the gallery at Alfred Ceramic Art Museum at Alfred University with Wayne Higby, Director of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum examining “Temple’s Gate Pass” by Wayne Higby.

     

    What other experiences in your career have you found most helpful for your role now?

    I can think of three experiences from before I started working in museums. At one point, I was teaching art appreciation at two high schools. That work was fundamental to my understanding of how to talk to people about art in a different way. Prior to that, I’d been in an academic setting. I’d been in a department of art historians and artists who all wanted to talk about museum experiences and art history in a scholarly way. When I went into the high school to teach teenagers, they were really interested in what we were looking at, but I had to use a different lens than what I’d done before. It was formative for me and my perspective on how to connect people with art in the museum experience and what inspired them.

    Also, my time at the Getty Leadership Institute (GLI), now the Museum Leadership Institute (MLI), was incredibly important to me and I was part of the cohort in 2014 when they rebooted the program. I’m a collaborative leader and bring a non-hierarchical approach to working with other people and that is not always reflected in the educational materials around leadership style. I felt unsure about my mode of leadership because it did not feel affirmed–which has, of course, changed in the past few years. So, I went to MLI with a question of “am I following the right path and am I going the right way in how I’m thinking about myself as a leader? Is this a way that I can be successful and true to my own personal values?” The program affirmed that because it teaches to look at your strengths as a leader and how to play to and build on those strengths. It helped me see the path I was on more clearly and that my approach to leadership was going to be a strong, authentic way for me to be a museum director.

    Lastly, the thing that’s been so important to me for many years is serving on the boards of other nonprofits, museums and membership organizations. In addition to MANY, I’ve served on the board of the Mountain-Plains Museums Association, an HIV/AIDS service organization and am on the Museum Advisory Council of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. And I’ve also served on various committees for other associations throughout the years. It's important for me because I believe it is essential for us to give back to our field in whatever way we can, but it also helped me understand working with my own board in a more holistic way. Having the experiences of being on other boards helped me think about the people who were serving on my own museum board differently.

     

    Can you tell us a little more about your experience with the Getty Leadership–now Museum Leadership–Institute?

    It’s a competitive application process and the reboot in 2014 really expanded the program to an international cohort. I had colleagues from around the world–China, Europe, South America, Mexico, Canada. It was really an amazing group of people. The experience and connections to those people are essential to me– we were and still are incredibly close. Even seven years later, during the pandemic, we were gathering virtually trying to support one another and assist some who were going through transitions in their careers. We gathered as a group to listen, console and offer direction. One of the best things for me is to connect people in our field to support one another and the work that is happening.

     

    What is one of your biggest motivations to do what you do? What do you get excited about in your role as the Executive Director of The Rockwell?

    I think my motivation starts with the visitor experience and the primary goals of a museum educator. Even though I now serve as the Executive Director, I still see my work through the lens of museum education and visitor engagement. I want to inspire people when they come into the museum. I want them to think about their own lives. I want to give them a way to consider the lives of the people around them through the lens of the work in the collection. Building that engagement with our audiences is what will strengthen our organizations because it allows people to see the museum experience as essential to their lives and not just something that they do on holiday. 

    A visit to a museum can both fortify a person’s understanding of themselves and allow them to consider the world around them in a more meaningful way. I think there’s been a real shift in the last few years in how the museum experience is perceived. At The Rockwell, it’s how we further ideas around engagement, and how we promote a better understanding of ourselves and the people around us, particularly as it relates to the American experience. With much of the rhetoric we have in our country right now, there is this idea there is one way or two ways to be an American and that’s so untrue. There are as many ways as there are people to be American and we all bring our own experiences, backgrounds, heritage, and complicated histories to what it means to be American. What we’re trying to do at The Rockwell is to generate more empathy and understanding towards one another and an appreciation for the fact that we are a multiplicity, not a monolith.

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt leads a tour at The Rockwell Museum for the MANY Board in September 2020.

     

    What are some of your goals?

    2026 is a very important year for The Rockwell Museum because it’s our 50th anniversary. We are working on celebrating five decades of service. The Museum was a bicentennial gift to the community and we’re trying to position ourselves for the next fifty years of service as well as celebrate all that we’ve accomplished.

    At the same time, we will also be going through the American Alliance of Museums’ reaccreditation process. Accreditation is about the organization’s internal work, but also how the museum serves the community. The process looks at our finances, our collections care, our policies, and other things like that, while the celebration of our 50th anniversary will be very public and outward. Both are significant milestones!

     

    Would your 18-year-old self imagine that you would be where you are today?

    I did know that I wanted to work at a museum. I was trying to figure out what I needed to do and what education I needed to pursue. When I was seventeen, I went to the University of Oklahoma for a college tour and as part of that experience, I went to the campus museum connected to the art school and art history program. I met with the curator of education and talked about her work and the museum and what I needed to pursue to follow that path. It was at seventeen and even before, that I was thinking about a museum career. The person I spoke with was Susan Baley who is now the Executive Director of the Grinnell College Museum of Art–we’ve known each other since I was seventeen and she’s been a longtime mentor to me as well as a dear friend.

     

    Can you tell us about where you grew up? What was it like growing up there?

    I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma which is a large, beautiful city that most people have probably never had occasion to visit. However, with the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre in 2021, more people became familiar with the community and that horrible history. The racist past of the city wasn’t something I was taught much about as a young person, so I also received a lot of reeducation last year about my hometown and the horrors of white supremacy that were enacted in that time. I also came to understand how those events formed the basis of and continued to impact the community where I grew up. Oklahoma is also home to one of the largest numbers of Native American Tribes or Nations who were forced to relocate there and then subsequently had the lands they were give taken away or diminished. As a result of these terrible histories, the state, and Tulsa in particular, had incredible wealth that allowed it to establish numerous cultural organizations in the early 20th century. In Tulsa alone, there is an opera, a ballet company, a philharmonic and two major museums, the Gilcrease Museum of Art and the Philbrook Museum of Art. Museum origin stories are important and of interest to me. But it’s essential we look at not just the communities or people who established them, but also the cultural context, exclusion and oppression that might also have made them possible.  

    Both Gilcrease and Philbrook were a part of my early museum experiences. My parents worked in education and so they valued my interest in the arts. They took me to museums so that I had opportunities that were reflective of my interests. Gilcrease is interesting because it’s a collection that is American and predominantly Western. In the 1970s they regularly held a family program called “Rendezvous” with an outdoors component where you could fire a musket on the museum property. True story! My dad would take me and my brother because I think it captured both of our interests—my brother got to fire guns and I got to explore the galleries and art. And when traveled, we would go to museums and exhibitions. Often it was ‘divide and conquer’ with me and my brother –my mom would take me to museums and my dad would take my brothers to do something else. So, it was very much part of how I grew up.

    The defining museum experience for me was when I was about twelve years old and the Armand Hammer Collection was touring the country. It was a major exhibition. It’s a collection that has Leonardo and Rembrandt –a true, classic blockbuster exhibition! There was a connection to Tulsa through the family, so the Philbrook Museum of Art was one of the venues for this exhibition. This was major and I don’t think that this happens the same way anymore but there were people standing in lines all over the country to see this exhibition. Philbrook was doing a lot of programs around this exhibition and because my father was an administrator for the schools, he was invited to an evening opening reception and took me rather than my mom. It was an eye-opening experience because I had been to museums and museum programs and art camps, stuff like that, but I’d never been to an opening. I’d never been to an exhibition program like that, and I thought “wow people work here? It’s not just the art on the walls!” but there seemed to be all these things happening that I didn’t know about.

    That’s when I first had the idea that this was what I wanted to do, work in a museum and be a part of that experience. It felt special. We had an amazing evening looking at this collection and it’s a clear memory for me. These museum experiences that I had as a kid are still a touchstone for me and they’re still a reason for why I do what I do.

     

    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    My favorite days are the ones where I can be in the galleries with other people. Whether that’s with one other person on a tour, a docent training or a program. That to me is the absolute best experience and workday. During the pandemic when everything became virtual and I didn’t get to have that experience, it was truly challenging. Doing virtual programs was great and I had a lot of fun with it, and still am, but when we got back to the museums and back into the galleries with people talking about art, it was such an amazing moment. My heart was overwhelmed. And I just love talking to anyone about art in the galleries–it doesn’t matter if you know anything about art for me to enjoy looking at a painting with you. It’s almost better when you don’t! Recently, I was working on preparation for a program and was looking at a work of art that was part of the research that I was doing and Sherry Kirk, who’s the museum’s executive liaison and finance manager, made the mistake of walking by and I called her over to talk to me about this print. I honestly needed other eyes on it and to understand what others think about it and how I should approach my presentation. To me, that’s the point of appreciating the different perspectives that we all have. Someone else and what they think about a concept or how they see a work of art through the lens of their experience, or their education, or their life, can help me understand it in a way that I never would from just reading about it or looking on my own. It’s definitely the best workday for me when I can talk to other people in the gallery about works of art and what interests them.


    MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger with Brian Lee Whisenhunt at the Museum of Art and Design’s Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann exhibition in 2019.

     

    Earlier, you briefly mentioned Susan Baley and identified her as one of your mentors. Can you tell us more about how she influenced you and is there any advice that she gave you that you’ve held onto?

    She was, and is, a great museum educator and a great example of what I could do in that role and the impact that I could have. She’s a very thoughtful person and a great leader; she influenced me just through her example. Also by just encouraging me to do things like present at a conference and be part of an organizational board. She served on the Mountain-Plains Museums Association board and encouraged me to be on the education committee and eventually take over the role of scholarship chair from her. Her service to the field is one of the things that inspired me to also give back to my professional community in that same way.

    I have another friend Stephanie Jung who is a now drawing professor but was working in museums at the start of my career. The advice that she gave me and that I’ve shared with many other people was “when you see a good idea, steal with both hands.” Whenever you see something inspiring to you, take in all of it that you can and internalize it and make it something that works for your perspective and for your organization. I never want to steal something in a literal way, but I do want to steal the inspiration, the impact, and the idea and I think that’s something that we don't always do. As a field, there’s often a lot of repetition or replication of programming but the truly successful iterations take an idea and dig into it, considering how it will influence and impact your own work and the visitors to your organization.

    We think about mentors and people who have influenced us and its often people who are older than we are, who preceded us in our careers and that’s the case with Stephanie and with Susan. But I’ve also been thinking about the people that I’ve worked with that have been part of my team, especially early in my career and how their careers and the work they’ve gone on to do has really influenced me. I take a lot of inspiration from everyone that I work with regardless of where they are in their careers. I’m so proud to see the people that I’ve had the opportunity to be on a team with go on and do amazing things, like Amanda Thomas Blake who is Director of Education and Library Services at The Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, TX and Emily Lew Fry, who is the Director of Interpretation at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

     

    For fun, you have an entire museum/collection to yourself. What do you do? 

    If I’m somehow able to sneak into The Met, the first thing I’m going to do is call all my friends because I wouldn’t want it all to myself! Yes, there’s this enticing idea of having a space all to yourself, but again, the most exciting thing for me is looking at, experiencing, and talking about art with other people. So, if I was by myself the first thing I would do would be text everybody I know to drop everything and meet me at the side door. I’m also a wanderer. I usually have a two-fold mission when I visit museums. There are things that I want to see, but at the same time I enjoy serendipity and appreciate chance. Especially if you’re at someplace like The Met because you never know what experience you’re going to get or what you’re going to notice that you hadn’t before or see what’s changed. I really love meandering and finding things that are interesting, investigating them with people that I’m with, and learning what they think about them, or why they appreciate them, or why they don’t, or what’s challenging about it, or what’s easy about it, or what’s familiar or strange. That’s always my approach and that would definitely be my approach. I would also probably get them to help me move some things around because I like mixing things up.

  • February 28, 2022 8:18 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In December 2021, The Ralph C. Wilson Foundation established an endowment and committed $100 million to transform the financial strength and long-term viability of Western New York’s art and culture community. The Foundation will contribute nearly $60 million over the next ten years through a new endowment at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. This investment will create a permanent operational funding stream for 13 of the region’s largest arts and culture institutions and will provide an annual grant opportunity for additional arts and culture organizations across Western New York.

    Key Goals 

    “This investment was out of the Foundation’s Economic Development focus area,” said Jim Boyle, Vice President of Programs and Communications at the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation Jr. Foundation. “Our intention with making this substantial investment is two-fold. In the short-term, we knew many of these institutions were facing urgent needs related to the economic impact of the pandemic, so there was a desire to get funds out immediately while the endowment is being built on a parallel path. Overall, the Foundation’s goal with this initiative is to help transform the strength and long-term viability of the region’s arts & culture sector as regional economic drivers, in addition to supporting inclusion and access strategies to better serve all communities.”

    To ensure that the program has an immediate impact, the Foundation plans on providing an additional $33.75 million in grants beginning in 2022 and continuing over the next nine years while the endowment is growing $3.7 million in annual funding will be dispersed and utilized in three areas:

    1. $500,000 will be available each year for primarily small to mid-size arts and culture institutions across the nine counties of Western New York. Organizations will apply through their regional community foundation. “We recognize that arts & culture institutions of all sizes play a tremendous role in shaping the unique identity and fabric of communities,” said Boyle. “This sector’s contributions to Western New York’s quality of life and economy through job creation, local spending, consumer purchases, tax revenue, and tourism are significant, in addition to attracting and retaining talent.”

    2. $3 million will be allocated to provide operational support for 13 arts and cultural institutions located throughout Buffalo and Western New York identified as economic drivers in their communities to assist with sustainability and inclusion efforts. These institutions are the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, Buffalo History Museum, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Buffalo Zoo, Burchfield Penney Art Center, Explore & More: he Ralph C. Wilson, Jr, Children’s Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor and anchor institutions, National Comedy Center, Shea’s Performing Art Center, and The Strong National Museum of Play. 

    3. $250,000 in funding to the community foundations that supports permanent capacity to manage and operate the funding and community engagement work required, as well as support ways that the sector can improve upon inclusion and access for individual organizations of all scopes and sizes. 

    “The Foundation’s trustees wanted to make a bold statement with this significant and meaningful investment that builds upon and complements the substantial and long term investment that many local and national funders, individual donors, and critical public funding streams have made in these treasured entities, which have helped them become the regional economic drivers they are today,” said Boyle.

    Identifying Institutions for Funding

    The Foundation selected the 13 institutions in Western New York to receive annual endowment funding through an internal process that was data-informed. “There is an incredible amount of beloved and celebrated arts and cultural institutions across the nine counties of the Foundation’s geographic focus in Western New York,” said Boyle. “However, with the Foundation’s desire to make an impact in the region and within the organizations identified for funding, we had to narrow the selection to a handful of institutions that contribute substantial economic impact within the region, with many driving significant tourism, in addition to local visitation and some that carry local and national prominence with cultural-specific missions,” Boyle said that the Foundation had to make a cut at some point but that the Foundation knew that small and midsize cultural organizations also contribute significantly to the regions’ economy. 

    Impactful Museum Support

    Buffalo Museum of Science will receive $200,000 annually from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation

    “As we prepare to embark on a new multi-year strategic plan, this incredibly generous source of funding will serve as a catalyst for jump-starting a number of ambitious objectives,” said Marisa Wigglesworth, President and CEO of the Buffalo Science Museum and Tifft Nature Preserve. “It will better position us to develop and strengthen community connections through which we can deliver informal STEM education and provide science content that is relevant, meaningful, and accessible to new and continuing audiences.” The Buffalo Museum of Science, which will receive $200,000 annually, previously received support from the Foundation through their STEM 2035 Initiative which invests in advancing STEM education opportunities in Western New York. The funding helped re-launch the Museum’s Teen STEM Initiative, an out-of-school time program that provides teens from backgrounds under-represented in STEM careers with STEM-leaning and job-readiness skills. The Museum also received support from The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to complete a feasibility study to build a fully accessible trail at Tifft Nature Preserve.

    The Buffalo History Museum will receive $150,000 annually from the Foundation through this new funding stream. “The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation recognizes the vital role of endowments and through this program addresses two of the largest challenges faced by culturals, especially in this pandemic-aware climate,” said Melissa Brown, Executive Director of the Buffalo History Museum. In 2017, the Foundation provided $600,000 to the Museum’s Restore, Reactivate, Reconnect capital campaign that helped fund rehabilitation of the second floor West Gallery of the Museum, home of the exhibit “Icons: The Makers and Moments of Buffalo Sports.”

    Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House will receive $100,000 annually. “The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s support of multiple institutions of all sizes through their Art Initiative is a unique partnership that will sustain our cultural community in perpetuity,” said Mary Roberts, Executive Director of the Martin House. “It is a testament to the value of the arts. These are local institutions who are relevant and respond to the needs of the community. We are grateful for their support and endorsement of our work.”

    These annual funds are unrestricted and can be designated for general operating needs. “For some, this might mean strengthening cash reserves for emergencies, completing much-needed facility repairs, or hiring key staff,” said Boyle. “These funds are not intended for programmatic expenses.” The Foundation hopes that this process will result in shared agreements across the institutions regarding these operational metrics. “These operational metrics often don’t get the attention they deserve in terms of keeping these entities healthy and helping them to reach their potential to serve their communities and patrons.”

    “This wonderful opportunity will lead to long-term financial stabilization, sustainability, and viability–for us, this truly is a gamechanger,” said Terry Alford, Executive Director of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission. The Michigan Street African American Corridor was established in 2007 through NYS legislation that created a historic preservation area on Buffalo’s east side. Cultural anchors include the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Nash House, the Colored Musicians Club and Museum, and the WUFO Radio Black Radio History Collective. “Our inclusion serves as a meaningful and significant recognition of the important role the African American Heritage Corridor plays in creating a thriving cultural center on the east side of Buffalo. We are grateful to the Wilson Foundation for establishing an endowment that will create a permanent path forward for our Commission to work together with the anchor institutions to honor and preserve this historic district’s legacy for many generations to come.”

    Supporting Capital Projects

    Architectural rendering of the new 30,000 square foot addition to the 1905 building on the main Albright-Knox Campus. Photo courtesy Albright-Knox Art Gallery

    The Foundation is also awarding two $5 million capital grants to support the expansion of the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. 

    The $5 million grant to The Strong will support its $60 million “Powered by Play” capital campaign.

    “The Strong is deeply grateful to have been chosen by The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation as one of 13 recipients in New York to receive annual support and to also be recognized for the museum’s international reputation and strength as an economic driver through a capital grant to directly support the museum’s transformative expansion project, including a new 90,000-square-foot museum wing,” said Steve Dubnik, President and CEO of The Strong. “In addition to helping fund the significant costs of operating the museum, The Foundation’s annual support will help ensure The Strong’s long-term viability and resilience in the face of future potential large-scale challenges and global uncertainties.” 

    The Albright-Knox will use the $5 million to support its construction of an “Indoor Town Square” which will become a year-round destination that will be free and open to the public. 

    “In December, the Wilson Foundation announced that it was awarding the Buffalo AKG Art Museum a $5 million capital campaign gift as well as $500,000 of annual operating support in perpetuity,” said Jillian Jones, Director of Advancement at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (formerly, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery). “As we prepare for the opening of the Buffalo AKG in Spring 2023, the Wilson Foundation has brought us $5 million closer to reaching our capital campaign goal for the construction project. At the same time, they have ensured that the museum will have the funds necessary to operate our expanded and revitalized campus. For years, the Wilson Foundation and its leadership have realized the vision of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. in Western New York by supporting arts and cultural organizations. Their unprecedented support is a testament to their belief in the power of institutions like the Buffalo AKG to contribute to economic, social, and cultural life across the region.”

    Long-term 

    “It’s our hope that the funding we are providing to these 13 organizations in Western New York will be transformative, but we know that more is needed to support them and there are hundreds more that have similar needs,” said Boyle. “It’s our hope that other funders will join us in this approach with a focus on operational support and the use of endowment as a tool and trust these institutions will be good stewards of their assets.”


    Learn more about the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation: https://www.ralphcwilsonjrfoundation.org/


  • February 24, 2022 11:34 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Members, Supporters, Friends, and Advocates,

    On Wednesday, February 16th, I had the honor of testifying at the New York State Legislature’s 2022 Joint Budget Hearing on Economic Development. I have testified at hearings called by the Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts, and Sports Development, but this was my first time at an Economic Development Hearing. Although I only had three minutes to speak, with my comments, those of others giving testimony, and the questions asked of us, I am certain the word “museum” has never been said more frequently at a New York State Economic Development hearing.

    We asked to speak out in that forum because even though most museums operate as nonprofits, they generate significant tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments. Every direct job at a museum supports an additional job in the economy. The most recent data available shows that museums have a financial impact on New York’s economy of $5.37 billion dollars and that more people visited an art museum, science center, historic house or site, zoo, or aquarium in 2018 than attended a professional sporting event.

    My testimony included that New York’s museums reported losing half of their visitor attendance and 63% of K-12 school group visits in the past two years. At the end of 2021, museums had reduced open hours by a third and their staff by 12%.

    New York’s museums are in desperate need of support to allow them to recover and reclaim their roles as economic drivers, community anchors, and tourist destinations.

    MANY is advocating for funding for our state’s museums that can be distributed equitably regardless of discipline, budget size, or location. We are speaking out for changes to our funding systems to actively incorporate the work and voices of BIPOC and historically marginalized communities.

    We have asked for funding to:

    • respond to the ways in which the pandemic forced changes in museum operations;
    • restore our staff and services;
    • build our capacity to serve our communities;
    • invest in digital technologies; and
    • secure historic properties for future generations.

    We know that New York’s museums need consistent, long-term financial support to achieve economic stability so that when the next flood, fire, or pandemic hits, our museums are not at risk of shutting their doors permanently.

    In my testimony, I extended thanks to Governor Hochul for including $40 million in rescue/recovery funds for the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in her 2022-23 budget and asked the legislature to include this critical funding and more in the final budget.

    I thanked NYSCA for their $6.6 million in 220 grants to museums made to date for 2022, and for our new partnership program for Capacity Building Grants. I also stressed that significantly more of the state’s relief funding needs to be allocated to such a vital part of our economy.

    MANY’s staff and board of directors will need your help in the coming weeks to speak out for museum funding. Half of the museums that responded to our March 2021 survey said that they have advocacy built into their annual work plan or strategic plans. Almost seventy percent said they conducted advocacy work in 2020 and 2021 by reaching out to local, state, and federal elected representatives for pandemic relief.

    On Monday February 28th and Tuesday, March 1st we will be participating in the American Alliance of Museums’ “Museums Advocacy Day” along with 56 representatives from New York’s museums. I will be writing again soon to ask you to help us elevate museums to a high priority for state funding in the Legislature’s proposed budget for 2023. I know I can count on you to join together in support of our museum community.


    With thanks,

    Erika Sanger, Executive Director

  • January 26, 2022 11:31 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dr. Georgette Grier-Key is the inaugural Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Eastville Community Historical Society. Under her leadership at Eastville, membership increased by 30%, funding increased by 52%, and the organization created a strategic plan.  Additionally she is the President of the Long Island Historical Societies, serves on the board of the Preservation League of NYS and the NAACP Brookhaven Town Branch and is an adjunct assistant professor at CUNY Medgar Evers College and director of the Long Island History Institute at SUNY Nassau Community College. 

    Grier-Key received her Bachelor of Arts from State University of New York at Old Westbury in Visual Arts with a concentration in Electronic Media, her Masters of Arts from Adelphi University in 2004 in Education with a concentration in Art Education, and her Doctorate of Education in 2012 from the Dowling College.

    She has served on the Museum Association of New York’s board of directors since 2017 and will begin her tenure as Vice President in April 2022. We spoke to Dr. Grier-Key to learn about her role in arts and cultural organizations on Long Island’s East End.


    How did you end up as the Executive Director and Chief Curator at Eastville?

    I’m the first Executive Director for Eastville. Before I got involved, the organization was 100% volunteer. We’re still a heavily volunteer organization. I joined the organization in 2009 at the suggestion of my Godmother who at the time had a house in Azurest and was a member of Eastville Community Historical Society and a volunteer. 

    What other jobs did you have before you arrived at Eastville?

    In 2011, I started at the Huntington Arts Council as the Grants for the Arts Outreach Coordinator where I worked to increase minority participation in grant applications. I also served as a panel review for the JP Morgan Chase Grant Program in 2013 and for the Long Island Decentralization Grant Program from 2011 to 2012. At the same time, I was an administrative Assistant and Volunteer for the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton. I’ve also worked for Guild Hall in East Hampton, and was an art instructor at the Children’s Museum of the East End. 

    All of these places are located on Long Island’s East End so the East End has been a part of my life for a long time. 

    Can you tell us more about your background?

    When I was going to school, art wasn’t encouraged. But art was always in my life and a lot of people in my family are artists including Lionel Hampton who was an American Jazz artist. My family came to Harlem through the Great Migration. My grandfather was an Underbishiop for one of the major of the Black churches and had 145 churches under his jurisdiction from Bridgehampton to Brooklyn and that's what brought us to the East End. 

    My family wanted us to focus on professional careers. But I decided that I was able to incorporate art into whatever degree that I was doing even in my Masters Degree where I was studying education, but I was concentrating on art education. 

    When I started working at the Huntington Arts Council, we were working on a program with the NAACP and the Children’s Museum of the East End to create a program to help immigrant mothers integrate into the school district by trying to help them feel comfortable by using the museum as a resource. Almost all of my work has been working with museums. 

    When I met with the board at Eastville and learned more about the Executive Director position, I got excited it allowed me to incorporate both art and history. I thought that this was a great opportunity. Throughout my time at Eastville, I understood more and more the significance of what this place was and how to deal with it. It just was in the cards for me so to speak. 

    What are some of your main motivations to do what you do? What gets you excited in the work that you do?

    That’s the thing with Eastville, it’s been a regional group and most of the work that I do is tied to them. 

    Right, because you are also a founding member and lead organizer of the Pyrrhus Concer Action Committee in addition to your work on the Preservation League of NYS. 

    Yes, with the Pyrrhus Concer house, Eastville served as a regional organization. We tell the story of the Black Whalers because this was the whaling port for our area–Sag Harbor - where the first customs house was located. Pyrrhus Concer was a Black Whaler and he also had family in the area. 

    When it came time to advocate for his property, the Eastville Community Historical Society was there. Preservation is in our mission. It’s in our articles of incorporation and it’s in our charter. It’s preservation for these buildings and preservation for these BIPOC stories. Along with art and everything else. It’s something that the founder of this organization did from the start. I really commend my institution. They were ahead of their time especially when you think that while the institution is forty years old, the community started in the 1830s and because of the Eastville community, SANS [Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest, and Ninevah Beach Subdivisions Historic District] community started to develop in the 1940s. Eastville has been able to survive through the creativity of the people who were there and the arts that surround them. I’m talking about artists that defied all odds from performing arts to visual arts. I work to protect and preserve what was a haven for 19th century African American and Native American artists like Olivia Ward Bush Banks–a poet and journalist of African and Montauk descent, Amaza Lee Meredith– who laid the blueprint for Azurest, Daisy Tapley– a classical singer, and Nathan Cuffee–a Native American author who co-wrote Lord of the Soil. Part of my job is to highlight their art but also protect it and teach it. How do we fit their stories into the story of the East End and how do we continue to add to that story thinking of artists like Standford Biggers and Colson Whitehead is our challenge. 

    Where did your passion for preservation start?

    I think it naturally happened alongside everything else that I was doing. There’s such a void on Long Island because we are so spread apart. I think that’s part of why I would always seek out other people’s advice and help. It’s one of the reasons why I got involved with MANY and the Preservation League of NYS. There’s a need for this knowledge about the importance of preservation. An example is the cemetery that Eastville owns, the St. David AME Zion Church cemetery [an adjacent century-old cemetery to the St. David AME Zion Church in which African and Native Americans of the earlier St. David's Church membership are buried, many of whom were Sag Harbor Whalers]. We needed a survey of the cemetery and it led us to a grant and further understanding of this historic district and the preservation of it. And of course, preserving the Pyrrhus Concer house which has been an eight year struggle. 

    Eastville has always served as a regional organization and organizations in the East End count on Eastville for help. That’s why preservation has been important to us, to preserve the built environment.

    Do you have a favorite day on the job? Or a favorite moment?

    During the first event we were having in the first summer of the pandemic I got a call from one of our regular donors affiliated with  a prominent African American business. She called to let me know that she was still going to support our organization at her regular level. That really made my day because everybody was going through this time where we didn’t know what to expect or how to deal with things. There were so many things that were way more important going on in the world, but she remembered us. It showed me the love and support for community and for Eastville. That moment stood still for me and it stands out as one of the best days on the job. 

    This is my job but I feel like I’m charged with a greater call to continue the mission of this organization because it’s important to the community and it’s important to me. 

    What is your superpower?

    I’m a hands-on type of director and we’ve grown in many ways. When I first came to Eastville we didn’t have a digital imprint and we didn’t have a website. My progression as a director really follows my career in that everything I learn, I incorporate. It’s one of the things when I meet other small organizations especially in my capacity as the President of the Long Island Historical Societies. I let them know that it’s okay to be small and you can still learn how you do it. I love to pass that advice on to other organizations that are trying to survive in this new digital age. These are the organizations that I try to help by sharing resources that will help them grow. I’m a connector and I raise people up. 

    Do you have any key mentors or someone who has deeply influenced you?

    For the qualities of leadership that would be my maternal grandfather, Rev. Dodenhuff Green [1915-2014, who founded Christ Temple Church of God in Christ Church in Uniondale], my father –George W. Grier, and Bishop Frank Otha White who has gone on. I have heavy influence from them but then as far as the historical society, the founding historian Kathy Tucker. She was a heavy influence to me as well as someone who I trained under and learned most about the organization and about the area. 

    Would your 18 year old self imagine that you would be where you are today? What would you say to yourself?

    Absolutely not. I thought I would be dancing around the world. But I would just say enjoy it because it goes fast. 


    Learn more about Eastville Community Historical Society:

    https://www.eastvillehistorical.org/ 


    Learn more about Long Island Historical Societies: https://lihsocieties.org/
  • January 25, 2022 5:25 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    MANY members on our 60th birthday, 1/25/22


    Dear Colleagues, Friends, and Members,

    This winter the Hudson River has frozen over so hard that Ice Yachts are sailing across and down the River. It is a tradition that dates back to the nineteenth century. On January 25, we marked sixty years of the Museum Association of New York serving our state. I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about our traditions.

    I was going to write this letter about our past and recount all we have accomplished for our museum community. But news of the pandemic this morning reminded me that we can not repeat the past, we can only move forward differently.

    MANY’s past is documented on paper stored in cardboard boxes stacked in our Troy office. It is also in the collective memories of three generations of museum professionals who have gathered and learned together under the MANY banner.

    The ways we gather and learn together will continue to change in 2022. We are pleased to announce that the free, virtual series “Museums Support Democracy” produced in partnership with Museum Hue will begin on Friday, February 25. These programs will explore Museums and Civil Rights, Protest Through Visual and Performance Art, Environmental Justice, Healing Historical Legacies, Ethical Collections, Expanding Interpretive Lenses, and Citizenship. Each topic will be presented and discussed by museum professionals from a broad range of locations and disciplines featuring the work of culturally responsive museums.

    I hope you can join us virtually on Friday, April 1 at noon for our annual business meeting, welcome the members of our board of directors class of 2022-2025, and thank those stepping down who have so generously served the field. Registration for these programs will open soon!

    Registration for the 2022 annual conference in Corning, NY will open on February 7th. Attendance will be limited so we can maintain the highest levels of safety protocols. Special events will be organized in small group gatherings. I look forward to seeing all who can join us in person in Corning.

    The Google pins that cover the state on our member map bring me joyful reminders of travels across the state and visits to museums. In most cases, I can put a face and an image with each pin. On these cold winter days, the wind off the frozen Hudson brings warm memories of all of you. I send sincerest wishes for everyone’s health and safety as we strive to find meaningful ways to keep our community connected.

     

    With thanks and hope in my heart,

     



  • January 25, 2022 3:57 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In November 2021, The Wild Center sent a ten-person delegation to Scotland to attend COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties. The Museum was one of only two museums in the world to participate as observers in the Blue Zone–the area of COP where the international climate change negotiations take place and only accredited individuals and organizations are permitted within the Blue Zone. Youth climate leaders and delegates participated in the Conference of Youth (COY) – the largest youth conference related to UN climate processes. 


    The Wild Center COP26 Press Conference

    What is COP26?

    COP26 stands for the Conference of the Parties. Each year, 197 countries come together to agree on a path for climate action. The 26th gathering was held in Glasgow, Scotland from November 1st to the 12th, 2021. 

    During COP26, countries reviewed the progress made since the signing of the 2015 Paris Agreement and worked on developing a concrete plan to meet the targets outlined in that agreement. 


    Observer Status

    “Any organization can apply to attend a UN COP event, the process is quite involved and takes close to two years from start to finish, requiring multiple steps and approval process,” said Jen Kretser, Director of Climate Initiatives at The Wild Center. There are three categories of participants at UN meetings – representatives of countries known as Parties, press and media, and Observers. “The Wild Center has official NGO Observer status and we’ve had that status since the late 2000’s,” said Kretser. “Our first UN event was COP21 in Paris in 2015 and we also were a witness to the historic signing of the Paris Climate Treaty at the UN in New York city in 2016. It was an extraordinary honor to be one of two museums in the world that attended and represented the cultural sector.” This accreditation status allowed Youth Climate Program delegates inside access to panels and discussions closed to the public. 

    The Wild Center also presented with two other cultural organizations, the Science Center of Minnesota and the Phipps Conservancy in partnership with America is All In at the US Climate Action Center in a session titled Culture Over Carbon: The US Cultural Sector Advancing Climate Action. “As trusted members of communities, museums are in a unique position to serve as catalysts for addressing issues of critical importance to society–whether it’s hunger, poverty, gender equity or climate action,” said Kretser. 


    The Wild Center’s Delegation

    The Wild Center delegation included six college students and recent graduates who presented in multiple events throughout the conference and posted regular updates of their observations online. Youth delegates included Andrew Fagerheim from Columbia University; Gina Fiorile, Coordinator, Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network at the University of Colorado-Boulder; Elise Pierson from St. Lawrence University; Silas Swanson from Columbia University, Witter Swanson Sustainable Energy Advantage, Boston, MA; and Emma Venarde from Brown University. The Wild Center also sent three members of its leadership team; Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees Karen Thomas, Director of Climate Initiatives Jen Kretser, and Executive Director Stephanie Radcliffe. 

    “Youth voices need to be part of the discussion on climate change action because you are going to be needed for leading climate change action,” said Radliffe. “Our Youth Climate Program has already empowered thousands of students around the world to be forces for change in their communities. Participating in COP26 is an incredible opportunity for our delegates not just to be heard, but to gain critical understanding into the way power works–and how they use it.”


    Inside the Blue Zone at COP29. Left to right are Andrew Fagerheim and Silas Swanson from Columbia University and Jen Kretser, Director of Climate Initiatives at The Wild Center.

    The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program (YCP) is a global initiative that works to convene, inspire, and network young people through youth climate summits, empowering them to lead and act on climate change solutions in their schools and communities. At the center of the program is a two-day retreat, the annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit that brings together over 200 high school and college students to learn about climate change. 

    “The Wild Center has long believed in the power of youth voice to galvanize climate action,” said Kretser. Since the first Adirondack Youth Climate Summit in 2009, The Wild Center has worked to grow the network of Youth Climate Summits around the world as well as to support student-led climate action projects, and elevate youth voices for climate action. Using The Wild Center’s Adirondack Youth Climate Summit as a model, students as far away as Sri Lanka have implemented solutions in their own schools and communities. So far, almost 100 Youth Climate Summits have been held in seven countries.“The current generation of youth will be the most impacted by the effects of climate change throughout their lifetimes,” said Kretser. “[they] are the last generation with the change to lessen the impact. In climate negotiations and discussions at all scales, youth input is critical to ensure that climate targets, goals, and plans will result in a liveable future for younger generations.”

     

    Centered –Gina Fiorile, Program and Communication Coordinator for the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) leads a youth panel discussion.


    Takeaways and Next Steps for The Wild Center

    Among some of the key takeaways for The Wild Center Delegation was that local action matters a great deal. “While actions at an international and/or national scale can feel far away and overwhelming, actions at the community, regional, and state scale are manageable and achievable,” said Ketser. “The Wild Center recognizes that in order for our world to thrive, climate change must be addressed robustly across all sectors of society.”

    Partnerships and collaborations are essential to our ability to reach a just and equitable transformation to a low-carbon society. “We met so many incredible people from around the world, all doing amazing work on climate change,” said Ketser. “It was inspiring to meet a team from Bangladesh who are working on building floating schools, hospitals, and even gardens to adapt to rising sea levels. Or a youth activist from Rwanda who is planting 10,000 food-producing trees across her country to help reforest and feed her people. Or an organization in Chicago that is connecting youth around the world on climate and water issues.”

    The Wild Center plans to continue to build its global network of summits through its free online planning toolkit and monthly network calls to support summits. As part of the Youth Climate Program, The Wild Center will host a Climate Change Education Institute for Educators and a Youth Climate Leadership Retreat in the Adirondacks in partnership with the Finger Lakes Institute and funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Environmental Literacy grants program. 

    “It is our mission to offer the public scientifically based examples and stories of how communities can work together to find solutions here in the Adirondacks and beyond through our Youth Climate Program and our new Climate Solutions exhibition and experience opening in the summer of 2022.”

    The ClimateSolutions exhibition and experience was awarded $249,549 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2019 and is set to open in July 2022. “It’s a museum-wide initiative comprising a new long-term exhibition, with enhancements to exhibitions found throughout The Wild Center,” said Kretser. The core of the Solutions exhibition is a 3,000 square foot space featuring large-scale imagery, video, interactive activities, and first-person accounts from leaders in climate solutions as well as those most impacted by climate change, including youth and indigenous communities. Solutions also includes a hands-on experimental studio and education programs for K-12 students and general audiences. “Climate Solutions will focus on the people and innovations working to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change in the northeast and around the globe,” said Kretser. 

    “We want to use our presence at COP26 to drive a greater awareness of the power of our Youth Climate Summit model,” said Ratcliffe. “But we also want to use our participation to highlight to all our visitors that they can take action also. This work needs to be done on multiple levels. We’re all responsible for doing what we can.”


    Learn more about The Wild Center’s participation in COP26: https://www.wildcenter.org/our-work/cop26/
  • January 25, 2022 3:55 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In September 2021, the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (CMOST) and the Children’s Museum at Saratoga (CMAS) signed a management agreement. They will reopen in June of 2022 at a new shared location at the Lincoln Bathhouse in Saratoga Spa State Park. This new space will create a regional children’s museum with CMAS managing all aspects of operations, programming, and administration and CMOST expanding their programming. This relocation will feature a larger space with new exhibitions, interactives, classroom space and access to the natural resources and amenities of the State Park. 

    CMAS Executive Director Sarah Smith and CMAS Board President David Martin speak at the groundbreaking. Photo courtesy of Melissa Schuman, MediaNews Group.

    Strength in Partnership

    CMOST and CMAS have a long history of collaboration and partnership. Current CMAS Executive Director Sarah Smith previously served as the CMOST Executive Director. Smith left CMOST in November 2019 to join the staff at CMAS and immediately began working with CMOST to share resources, including sharing staff.  “By that December we actually contracted to share the development officer between both museums with a 50/50 split,” said Smith. “Those sorts of resource sharing began at that point and it was similar to what happened previously. My predecessor had been the director of education at CMOST and then she wrecked at CMAS and I followed that same trajectory.” Sharing staff helped both museums continue programs while providing salary and benefit support. 

    When the pandemic forced both museums to close their doors to the public, potential merger discussions accelerated. Smith cited the importance of fulfilling the missions of both organizations and that was reaching the children. “We saw that our friends were in trouble and we [CMAS] went ahead and served those people that were traditionally served by CMOST.” CMAS raised money from companies including Regeneron and Capcom to create 6,000 hands-on science-based learning kits and distributed them to Boys and Girls Club of Troy. “The kits were delivered to public housing, along with food provided by the Boys and Girls Club,” said Smith. The kits were also distributed throughout the Capital Region YMCA. “We continued to send out materials and information and provided our online resources and we reached close to 200,000 people that first year through online programming. We just felt very strongly that by serving the public that was traditionally served by both museums without financial gain, fulfilling the mission was critical and that really laid the groundwork for this merger.” CMAS and CMOST saw a partnership agreement as an opportunity to expand programming to reach most students and families as a regional organization. CMAS plans on utilizing CMOST programs to create hybrid and virtual versions to expand their reach throughout and beyond the Capital Region. 

    CMAS and CMOST announced their formal management agreement in September with the intent to merge in the future. CMOST, which closed its location in the early days of the pandemic in North Greenbush, will not reopen to the public. Both museums will initially continue to operate under their own brand identities as they work toward a combined entity, joint programming, and a new shared location at the Lincoln Bathhouse in Saratoga Spa State Park. 

    Reimaging a Space for the Future

    Second-floor rendering at the Lincoln Bathhouse

    Built in the 1920s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lincoln Bathhouse is located in Saratoga Spa State Park. The State Park is the home to arts and cultural organizations including the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, and the National Museum of Dance. CMAS signed a lease with NYS parks in April 2021 and hired Bonacio Construction, Peter Hyde Design, M. Catton & Co., Envision Design, and Empire Exhibits and Design for the renovation and redevelopment.

    The museum space will be 16,000 square feet (double the size of the old CMAS location on Caroline Street). “This building deserves to be a children’s museum. It’s such a beautiful building and we like that it was a healthcare facility,” said Smith. “Even before COVID times, cleanliness was a big concern for children’s museums, and this space has materials that are easy to clean.” The building also has a 4,000 square foot interior courtyard that Smith is excited to incorporate into the exhibition spaces. “We knew we needed more space and we knew how imperative it was to have access to the natural world. This [interior courtyard] was a huge selling point for us.” Exhibitions will be inside and out and will occupy two floors of the bathhouse. 

    Both museums plan on designing spaces that have an emphasis on universal access, building on their existing goals of hands-on learning. Large scale building sets from CMOST and other CMOST exhibitions will be incorporated into the exhibition including the imagination blue box and rigamajig skyline toolbox. Many exhibitions will be updated in order to meet accessibility requirements to make them more inclusive as well as create an exhibition floor with sightlines from one end to the other. 

    Most of the exhibitions will be housed on the second floor, accessible by elevator, with a target age range of zero to 12. The museum will use labels and icons for children in pre-literacy stages. The science gallery that will be located in the middle of the exhibition floor is intended for all age ranges and encourages families to learn together. Programs will target older children. 

    Rending of the fire station interactive exhibition.

    “We will also be able to tell the story of the building itself and the park,” said Smith. “I think it’s important that New York State bought this land to preserve its natural resources. It’s super early environmentalism which ties into the environmental science we teach.” Design plans include tracing some of the mechanicals on the ceiling of the second floor. “We want to articulate the engineering systems so when we’re talking about taking kids and teaching them a little bit about architecture we can also talk about the bigger picture using this building,” said Smith. “I think we call it preschool to trade…giving kids other paths that are more hands-on and really engaged in building trades like plumbing and carpentry. It’ll be creating maker space-type activities.” 

    Funding

    Renovations to the Lincoln Bathhouse began in November.  The entire project is expected to cost $3.5 million. Empire State Development awarded the project $600,000 and over $2.3 million was raised from a combination of corporate and individual sponsors. 

    CMAS is also selling its building at 69 Caroline Street and will use those funds towards renovations. The building and its adjacent parking lot are listed at $2.25 million. Smith said that in its fundraising efforts, the museum plans on setting aside funds to help create an endowment that will grow over time. “It’s something that we haven’t had and it’s important to have protected funds to help our financial future. We’re planning for the future, so we have a little bit of money from our incredibly generous corporate sponsors and generous private foundations. We’re still not done with fundraising.” 

    Future Impact

    The museum expects to serve close to 100,000 people a year and will offer outreach education programs in school districts in 11 counties across the Capital Region and beyond. “This operating agreement and potential merger between these two organizations has really enhanced our reach,” said Smith. “The financial acumen and business practices of CMAS with the programming success and outreach at CMOST just shows it’s just such a great idea to leverage the strength of both organizations. This affiliation will capitalize on the strength of each organization while making us more financially stable.” 


    Learn more: https://cmssny.org/about-us/#lincolnbathsproject


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