In Museum Metamorphosis, over forty cultural innovators and changemakers in contemporary art share strategies for building sociocultural relevancy and responsiveness in museums. Representing diverse perspectives from across the entire arts and culture ecosystem, the book offers tools to reshape museums into collaborative platforms for collective impact and social change.
Part One features seven roundtables in which practitioners discuss best practices for dismantling barriers to entry and building reciprocal, sustained engagement with diverse constituencies. Part Two documents four case studies in structured collaboration, prompting museums to invest in both hyperlocal relationships and cross-sector partnerships. And Part Three features four interviews with thought leaders who discuss how to shift equity from a measure of compliance to a vital daily practice of organizational accountability and sustainability.
Compiled during a moment of heightened social action, cultural transformation, and institutional critique, Museum Metamorphosis considers and responds to the following prompts: how will museums learn to embrace real-time change and adapt to meet the evolving needs of a rapidly shifting sociopolitical landscape? How can this metamorphosis open new pathways for engagement and encourage museums to meet more audiences where they are? And, how might reconstituting the essential DNA of the museum recalibrate the power dynamics between communities and institutions, producing a sustainable model for engaged cultural citizenship?
In addressing these questions, Museum Metamorphosis looks to innovation transpiring beyond the museum echo chamber and lays bare both the opportunities and challenges of adopting new ways of working. It dares readers to identify their respective position within the social change ecosystem, and empowers them with tools to reorient their work towards cultural equity and social justice.
nico wheadon is an independent art advisor, curator, educator and writer, and is founder and principal of bldg fund, LLC. She is an adjunct professor at Brown University and Hartford Art School, and serves on the board of governors at the National Academy of Design. nico recently served as executive director of NXTHVN (2019-2020); director of public programs and community engagement at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2014-2019); and curatorial director of Rush Arts Gallery (2007-2010). She holds an MA in creative & cultural entrepreneurship from Goldsmiths, University of London (2011), and a BA in Art-Semiotics from Brown University (2006).
Introduction | A Crisis of Relevance
Part I | Dialogues on Decentralization
Roundtable with Jordan Casteel, Shaun Leonardo, Miguel Luciano & Lina Puerta
Roundtable with Deborah Burke, Mario Gooden & Maitland Jones
Roundtable with Eric Guy Booker, Maren Hassinger, Kendal Henry & Diya Vij
Roundtable with Jamaica Gilmer, Kemi Ilesanmi & Shani Peters
Roundtable with Chayanne Marcano, David Rue & Lauren Argentina Zelaya
Roundtable with Ryan N. Dennis, Vashti DuBois, Lauren Kelley & Jasmine Wahi
Roundtable with Shawnda Chapman, Ruby Lerner & Melissa Cowley Wolf
Part II | Case Studies in Cultural Citizenship
Case Study with Elia Alba, Tina M. Campt, Connie H. Choi, Leslie Hewitt & Shanta Lawson
Case Studywith Jordan Casteel, Connie H. Choi, Dr. Dawn Brooks DeCosta, Shanta Lawson & Kyle Williams
Case Study by Nisa Mackie, Alexandra Nicome & Victoria Sung
Case Study by Juliana Rowen Barton, Michelle Millar Fisher, Zoë Greggs, Gabriella Nelson & Amber Winick
Part III | Perspectives on Praxis
Interview with Nicole Ivy
Interview with Ariana A. Curtis, PhD
Interview with DéLana R.A. Dameron
Interview with Sandra Jackson-Dumont
Conclusion | Cultivating Change
About the Author
Written with intimacy and care, Museum Metamorphosis asks us to thoroughly consider all the aspects of change needed for museums to truly thrive. wheadon is a much-needed voice in efforts to reconstitute the museum for the future.”
As we move towards 2050 America, where people of color are the emerging majority, it’s the responsibility of the cultural institutions that hold our collective narratives to be authentically aligned with where this country is headed. wheadon invites us to reimagine the purpose of our art temples as by us and for us, bringing down the historical cultural hierarchies that still govern them.
Museum Metamorphosis should be required reading for anyone interested in transforming institutions of all types, to make them more just, more equitable, and above all, more effective. wheadon and her interlocutors—some of the most vital thinkers, makers, and doers in the art world—offer up not a series of solutions, but a series of provocations, examples, and observations about how the museum can shed its role as cultural gatekeeper and become instead a nexus for creativity and cultural citizenship. It’s a beautiful vision of what could be, and a challenge to all of us, no matter our place in the art world, to make it happen.
Museum Metamorphosis inspires us to work towards transforming museums into institutions that offer rich, inclusive and affirming experiences for the communities they serve.
Museum Metamorphosis provides us with insight, tools and strategies to gather ourselves for the 21st century transformations ahead.