Tasked with facilitating inclusive and responsive gallery dialogue, art museum educators are engaged in front line work that can shape visitors’ experience of art museums as positive or oppressive learning sites. The sheer number of visitors reached through guided visits reflects the potential impact of this service, and points to the urgency of ensuring that educators’ skills and knowledge reflect critical pedagogies that support social justice. Add to this revolving temporary exhibitions and previously ignored readings of longstanding permanent collections, professional and volunteer educators alike play a dual role of adult learner and educator. Simply put, art museum educators are always learning. But what forms does this learning take, and how does it support wider efforts to democratize museums? This paper contributes to a relatively small but growing pool of recent studies on the training and learning of volunteer and professional art museum educators, drawing on doctoral research comprising one-on-one interviews and group discussions. These ongoing conversations seek to better understand art museum educators’ work-related learning — informal or peer learning, training, reflective practice, etc. — that supports their efforts to engage in critical gallery dialogue. The presenter will share findings that offer key points of departure for the creation of tools and spaces that address issues of discomfort, uncertainty, reluctancy, reflexivity, equity, and positionality — issues that are multilayered and deserving of both personal and institutional attention. Potential areas for discussion include educators’ relationships to curatorial authority, institutional change, visitor experience, and each other.
Politics of Art, Art Museums, Critical Pedagogy, Adult Learning
Emily Keenlyside is a mid-career art museum educator and doctoral student in Concordia University’s Department of Art Education. With a focus on cultural politics, the contested spaces of art museums, and art museum educators as adult learners, her PhD research lies at the intersection of critical pedagogy and work-related learning. Through Concordia Continuing Education, Emily trains guides at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where for a decade she worked as an educator. Previously, she co-coordinated Education at DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art. Emily has presented her practice-based research internationally, and her publications include Studies in Art Education, Museologies, Canadian Review of Art Education, and an upcoming special issue of Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education.