As we embark upon the blank canvas of 2016, over the past several months I’ve been giving great thought as to how CAAM’s future might be re-imagined, and how our work in the here-and-now will influence it. I believe that CAAM’s future is inextricably tied to a variety of resources – some tangible, some intangible.
One of our greatest resources is the group of talented young people who have served our museum with a passionate commitment to our mission, and who are being prepared to forge successful careers in this profession. As you have probably heard and read, minority leadership within art institutions in Los Angeles make up less than four percent, and to address this issue, a task force is being formed. As we see it, our young people are tomorrow’s arts leaders, and CAAM is an incubator where they can glean practical experience which will hopefully launch their future careers in the museum profession.
At CAAM, we acknowledge the value our young people bring to this institution. Over the past summer, we hosted two gifted young women (Allison Yang and Olivia Love) who served as our 2015 Getty Multi-Cultural Interns last summer. They worked in our Research Library and Education Department. As a result of their experiences at CAAM both plan to embark upon careers in the museum profession upon finishing their studies. LaTeesha Pinkney is a talented student who lived in the foster system. LaTeesha spent eight weeks at CAAM learning the intricacies of educational program development. Here’s why such experiences are so enriching to young people like LaTeesha: “I interned at CAAM before starting my last year of studies at Cal State LA. I gained valuable skills and experience, and in the process learned more about myself and my history as an African American. I also felt a sense of community while interning at CAAM, and am looking forward to new internship opportunities.”
Looking forward to the future, our energies have been focused on building mutually-beneficial relationships, developing cross-collaborations with other like-minded cultural heritage organizations, and exploring how we might leverage these now and in the future. I’ve also been doing some critical-thinking on how we can continue to build on the successes of the recent past. As these ideas coalesce, I’ll be certain to share them with you.
We have initiated discussions with the Smithsonian Institution (SI) in Washington, DC to become one of its affiliates. The goal is to expand our ability to collaborate with scholars and universities, hone our skill sets, and further enhance our ability to produce exhibitions and programs that support our core mission. We are most grateful to Sony Pictures Entertainment who has agreed to sponsor this endeavor.
We have also joined forces with USC’s Annenberg School of Communications, and have enlisted a savvy group of graduate marketing students who are in the process of developing a comprehensive marketing plan which takes into account the needs of our audience, the knowledge-base of our staff, and how we can create an enriched museum experience for our diverse community members.
In November, Eso-Won Books hosted a book discussion with MacArthur “Genius” and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates which was attended by more than 600 visitors. Coates shared his journey as a writer and his thoughts on what it means to be Black (male or female) in the 21st century. I’d like to thank James Fugate, co-founder of Eso-Won Books, for asking CAAM to participate. Hopefully it will be the first of many joint projects with James and Eso-Won. Thanks also to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who provided us with extra seating for the evening.
CAAM is fully committed to serving the widest possible audience. With this in mind, we invite you to view this wonderful institution as a place where you, our community members, can learn, explore, create, and grow. We invite you to share with us your ideas for CAAM’s future, and how we can better serve the community-at-large. So please, think about CAAM as your community “think-tank” and then drop us a line via our Facebook account which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/CAAMinLA. Your voice and your ideas are cordially welcomed.
My best wishes to you and yours as we enter into 2016.
George O. Davis, Executive Director
California African American Museum