(This is an excerpt of a longer article in the Spring 2019 edition of The Affiliate newsletter)
In October 2018, a group of 10 Affiliate colleagues from around the country convened in Washington, D.C., for a two-week, transformative experience at the Smithsonian. They were selected to participate in the Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program (VPP), a unique professional development opportunity for mid-level museum staff at Affiliate organizations. With generous support from The Getty Foundation, the cohort focused on a single topic — using digital technologies to broaden access to art collections — and added a leadership and personal development component to the curriculum.
Participants were selected from Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Alabama); Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, California); Museum of Latin American Art (Long Beach, California); Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco, California); Peoria Riverfront Museum (Peoria, Illinois); Schingoethe Center of Aurora University (Romeoville, Illinois); Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, Michigan); American Jazz Museum (Kansas City, Missouri); The Rockwell Museum (Corning, New York); and Springfield Museum of Art (Springfeld, Ohio).
They represented various departments within their organizations and agreed that discussions about workplace challenges made a significant impact on them, especially since it’s often not the thrust of academic degrees. “The leadership piece was so important — how to build allies, how to communicate, managing change, even being a good follower,” mused Charles Woods, educator at Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. “My biggest takeaway was understanding that you can lead from wherever you are.”
Each participant came to the VPP with a specific organizational objective. Aspirations were high for all participants, but the program taught the cohort how to take achievable action steps and think about iterating over time. “When I came, I had no idea what to expect,” said Erin Shapiro, curator at the Springfield Museum of Art. “But now, I think we have a high chance of success for our project. I don’t say that lightly. Everybody here recognizes that this will be beneficial. I feel fortunate to have participated. The Smithsonian Affiliations team did a fantastic job. It’s an important program.”
With the support of The Getty Foundation, Smithsonian Affiliations will host a second cohort in 2019. We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate and welcome the 2019 class from the following Affiliate organizations:
Jewel Clark, Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona)
Susan Bolaños, Museum of Latin American Art (Long Beach, California)
Melanie Tran, California State Railroad Museum (Sacramento, California)
Melissa de Bie, History Colorado (Denver, Colorado)
Tasha Caswell, Connecticut Historical Society (Hartford, Connecticut)
Teresa Stenstrup, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Elizabeth Barrett Sullivan, Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, Michigan)
Kendra Newhall, Montana Historical Society (Helena, Montana)
Nicole Markham, International Tennis Hall of Fame (Newport, Rhode Island)
Katie Staib, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (Spokane, Washington)
Congratulations! We’re excited to meet them all and can’t wait for the collaboration to begin!