“more a laboratory than a museum” — a postscript

UCR ARTSblock executive director Jonathan Green shared this thought with me when I chatted with him during my final week as an artist in residence at the Culver Center.  We sat in his book-filled office on the top floor of the California Museum of Photography.  This building, he informed me, had also been a store.

I’ve been thinking about this idea ever since.  And about other ideas too.

Everywhere I go now, I see retrofits, spaces turned into other spaces, buildings with histories. In Baltimore a former barn holds, among other things, a giant statue of Divine, the John Waters diva. While I was standing in the entryway of that very different museum, a man addressed me, said he was an artist, and pointed outside to a tree made entirely of mirrors.

Those reflecting shards, ringing in the March wind, reflect me back to this place, in Riverside California.

Perhaps the cultural spaces that work for us now are indeed — less places where we “muse” (although they occasion thought and a certain repose) — but rather spaces of experimentation, trial and error, attempts where failure and success coalesce as necessary parts of a process of understanding, of moving forward, of progressing towards new knowledge.

Such spaces should and do face in two directions: they gather in, and push out.  Can the university — which ARTSblock “represents” and provides the gateway to — push out towards the public, becoming an open laboratory, rather than a privileged repository for learning?

I hope so.

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