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Engagment > Elitism

May 18, 2011

The more engaged you become with a field of study, the more frustrating it becomes. That’s a sign you’re doing something right … right? This is how I’ve felt for the better part of my college career towards art history and museum studies. As fascinating as these subjects are, there is so much elitism and stubbornness over traditional ways of thinking and doing that often stifles innovation and ignores what could potentially have a great impact on society at large.

And then you begin to find people to look up to.

Nina Simon’s most recent blog post “Why is ‘World Class’ so Classist?” resonated with me. Her comment on the recent discussion of the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City reflects my frustration with the art critic world and the reason why I was drawn to museum studies in the first place.

The Soumaya Museum is privately owned by Carlos Slim and holds an extensive European and Mexican art collection also from his private collection. Simon commented on a NPR story of the museum, which critiqued the museum for its more common and less expensive or rare objects that is popular only among “ordinary Mexicans.”

These critics are promoting a hierarchy of “Art” (with a capital A) that was the foundation of Western museums and the art historical canon for too many years. This narrow-minded perspective only fuels the museum world’s ignorance towards the public audience, and enhances the industry’s elitist stigma. As Simon asked (rhetorically), why is it bad to open a free museum that allows the general public to engage with arts they might otherwise never have seen? Who decides what objects are “worthy” of study, and which should be reserved for private collections?

This post reminded me of a learning moment I experienced on the #UOregonNYC trip. The advertising industry has recognized the growing power of the consumer, and is desperately trying to adapt and transition towards a more participatory environment. This is one example of how the advertising and museum fields are moving in a similar direction with the goal of consumer/visitor engagement and openness. One point that came up at an agency visit was that trust and loyalty are earned. Consumers are now inherently participatory and demand ways to connect with information, technology, and entertainment. Through engagement, you earn the right to communicate with the consumer (or engage with the museum goer).

The elitist structure of the museum experience is dead. Some, like the critics of the Soumaya Museum, may still cling to traditional hierarchies, but they will soon be outdated and cast aside. Fine/folk art boxes are dull and irrelevant. Visitors can chose what messages and experiences suit them, regardless of so-called status.

Here and gone: #UOregonNYC

May 16, 2011

Home from the #UOregonNYC trip. What a week. Each day was so full of activity, energy, and inspiration it seems like we were gone for months. But at the same time, I can hardly believe we’re already back. Now I’m in the midst of catching up on schoolwork, real work, and smoothing out my last 2.5 weeks of college (what?). But before I get too caught up in spring’s madness, I needed a brief moment reflection of this experience. If my brain and schedule allow for it, I will be delving deeper into these takeaways for the next several weeks and months.

You are as bad as you’ll ever be. Words of wisdom from @Faris. We all strive to be the best, but it’s gradual and comes with work, big chances, and a lot of reflection. You’re never at your peak, so keep climbing.

Be honest with yourself. It’s necessary to learn how you think and operate before anyone else. Find your own way of breaking down a problem. We’re all creative, find and proudly identify with which creative box or channel best fits (but don’t be afraid to break out of it sometimes). Don’t feel pressured into fitting someone else’s title.

Trust and loyalty are earned. We’re at a point in communication where consumers/users (of any product/service/industry) have the advantage. Through engagement, you earn the right to communicate with the consumer. They are now inherently participatory — give them something to connect with.

Everything is more complicated than it looks. On the first day of NYC @creativeweek, I attended a talk on brewing coffee. Wow. I consider myself a proper pacific-northwest coffee snob, but even I was taken aback by the incredible process picking, selecting, soaking, drying and grinding coffee beans can be. Really makes you think. Coffee might be a silly example, but it makes me wonder what else I’ve been overlooking and taking for granted. Pay more attention to the details around you and think how much time and energy someone had to devote to make it happen. Everyone is passionate about something. And that is incredible.

Even the best and brightest fall short. Ad campaigns fail. People don’t research exactly how to get an iPad app accepted before it is produced. Mega corporations (ahem Facebook) alienate audiences because they try to sound more “genius” and less collaborative. But you know what? We learn and move on.

Collaboration opens doors. This is the main message that resonated with me from our visit to Mother. Think about what fresh eyes and voices can give to an idea, a project, an organization, or a vision. We all rely on each other, so let’s foster relationships everywhere we go.

Put your money where your heart lies. Don’t just say things. Dig deep, find what you really want and crave, and then go for it.

What an incredible experience. I feel so fortunate to belong to a school and a program that offers students this level of insight and opportunity. Major thanks to Deb Morrison for leading us all.

What will you regret in 5 years ?

May 10, 2011

Today a few from our #UOregonNYC group were able to meet with Bruce Nelson from Omnicom, a holding company overseeing BBDO Worldwide, TBWA worldwide, Goodby … just to name a few. Wow, what an incredible way to start the week.

Bruce has truly climbed the ladder of the advertising agency. Copy writing, strategy, creative direction, and now one of seven running a mega holding company.

Our group was overwhelmed by Bruce’s time with us. His insight was really inspiring for those of us who are unsure of our placement in the ad agency, or whether or not we even want to be a part of the industry. Some takeaways:

Find your own way of breaking down the problem
Everyone needs to develop and own his/her own process. How do work? What suits you? Most importantly – within which creative box are you creative? No matter where we apply our skills, we’ll be pushing our minds creatively — but what is the execution?

Strategy is a bet
What are you going to put your stakes on? Are your instincts universal, or do you have a narrow focus?

Someone has to decide what matters
I’m fascinated by the concept of message control. Think of how few people control the content in your life. What you buy. What you know about history. What you know about the present. Someone has to curate the message.

Huge thanks to Bruce at Omnicom … his words will be with me for a long time.

The Feel of Fall

October 4, 2010

The beginning of fall term is always a mixture of bittersweet emotions. It’s tough to say goodbye to a student’s summer schedule, beautiful weather and long-time friends who continue on (or start new) journeys away from home.

But, it’s also a time of excitement. The change in weather is like a sudden charge of energy, and the mass of returning and new students reminds me of how much I miss the buzz of campus life during the summer months.

This year also brings a lot of changes. I’m spreading myself (hopefully not too thin) across several projects and positions that I’m really excited about.

I’m also graduating in June. Now that’s a major question mark. School has been the norm for many years now. It is what’s expected. It is what I’m good at. It’s what I’m used to. Come the end of spring, I have to learn to adjust to a whole new life style.

… For a bit at least. Until I sort out my goals and go running back to grad school.

So for now I’m learning as much as I can, immersing myself in whatever I like, and soaking up the last year as an undergraduate.

For some reflection, here are some things I learned or decided over the summer:
Think of goals as aspirations rather than expectations to live up to.
It’s difficult to explain a word’s emotion to someone from a non-English background.
I’m going to Central America next year.
I really, really love academia.
I’m really, really fortunate to have such wonderful people in my life.
I’m definitely not normal. But I suppose that’s okay.
Best friends are “bests” for a reason.
Biking long distance is really fun.
Sometimes there is nothing better than Netflix instant watch, a bed and a dog.

Managing the unmanageable: fostering an online community

May 31, 2010

I’ve been doing research lately on online communities for a project I’m involved in. The project (in a current state of un-linkable transition) is essentially to become a resource for building connections within a community.

Thus, we’ve decided that we need an online portion to gather our users together and let them really participate and take advantage of what the project has to offer.

On my quest, I’ve uncovered some great articles other community managers have contributed. Here are the top three I’ve found so far.

Community Spark: Okay, this is actually a whole website dedicated to building online communities. How cool is that? It’s full of articles to pick and chose with great tips. My favorite so far is a kind of fill-in-the-blank Q&A that you should be able to answer before starting your project. How is your community unique? What subjects raise the most interest from your community? Can you sum up its purpose in a sentence? I will definitely be using this sheet as my team develops our presence.

Building and Online Community: Matt Houghey gives an overview for people who are thinking about starting an online community. It’s a kind of heads up of what to expect in the managerial role.

6 Truths: Mack Collier’s article is either a wake-up call to those with an online community, or a good guide for those who are starting one to keep in mind.

Generational Gap: Learning to learn from those around you

May 30, 2010

Each generation is defined with a stereotype given by the generation ahead. Generation Y, also known as the “Millennials,” is often thought to be generally lazy, self-absorbed and entitled. As many of us are approaching the awkward age between college freedom and career-oriented “adulthood,” we have to learn how to overcome this stigma and become accepted by those ahead of us. It’s a right of passage that every generation must go through; it’s a passing of the torch from the old to the new leaders. Before we can change the world, we have to prove that

In a recent blog post, Lauren Fernandez gave some tips to how up-and-coming professionals can tackle the negative stereotypes and highlight the more positive sides. She believes that age doesn’t have to be an indicator of what you can achieve. This is something I’ve always been a believer in. As mushy as it sounds, you really can accomplish anything if you have the drive. By sticking to your values, generational perspective, and consistently doing good work, your age and its associations will soon be a nonissue.

Fernandez makes one particular point that really speaks to me. Use the Internet as your classroom. Coursework cannot and will never be able to teach you everything you need in the job market. Period. Academia moves slowly and can’t always keep up with a subject, such as communications, that is moving so rapidly. It’s obvious to me as a classmate, and I assume employers in any industry, what students take it upon themselves to learn about the world, their industry and their interests on their own time.

So, as Fernandez suggests, take advantage of the many, many learning opportunities around you. Communicate with people online that you may never meet in person. Utilize social media for your own benefit. Put yourself out there not just as a promotional tool, but in a position to gain information and experience from those around you.

So I went to New York …

May 25, 2010

As I mentioned in a couple different posts, I went to New York City in mid May. I would also like to go back now, but that’s a different story.

Every day was pretty jammed with activities, learning experiences and exploration. The last day of our whirlwind trip was up for grabs … so naturally we jammed it with as many activities as possible. I had a few museums I needed to go to before the trip was up, and took advantage of the day. The plan was set: Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Here’s tidbit to you all: This is an exhausting plan. It’s incredible, fascinating, wonderful and exciting. But absolutely overwhelming. If I had more time, I would have loved to stretch these visits out longer.

Another note: These trips don’t have to break the bank. We were fortunate to learn from a cab driver the night before that the Met and History museums are tax-funded and the admission price is actually suggested. Score. If you’ve got the money, please spend it. These places take a lot to run. But if you’re a broke student like me, take advantage of this amazing opportunity and just leave what you can.

So … here are some my highlights from the museums. They are very biased to my interests. To see somebody else’s pictures of this trip, check out Isaac Viel’s Flickr album.

American Museum of Natural History: Overall this place is incredible. Seeing the Dinosaur exhibit was a dream come true! I’ve always been a big dino nerd. However, there were quite a few exhibits were sadly neglected. For so many people on staff, I was surprised to see a lot of dusty artifacts in badly lit display cases. Nonetheless, fun place to check out. Ignoring some of the outdated anthropological sets. ; )

Most beautiful beast ever.

These are average sized children. Holy cow!!

Passing through central park on the way to the Met.

The Met: Love. This is pretty much all I can say. Go. Spend days soaking it up.


Left: It’s a Moche vessel!! These things are so incredible. Did you know it’s modeled after a real person? That’s right, it’s a portrait!

Below: Silver … not sure from where.



Ugolino and his sons. 1865 by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux

I’m in a gothic sculpture class right now so this is relevant to me! It’s a column statue of a king from Abbey church of St. Denis.

Caravaggio. It’s even more beautiful in person.

MoMA: This was last on my list of places to go for my first NYC trip. I don’t really consider myself a modern fan, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But my mind was blown. The product design exhibit especially was so incredibly cool. I loved seeing the crazy inventions artists developed and wanted to have them all sitting on my kitchen counter.

Van Gogh and Picasso. Just chillin’.

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