January 22, 2010

Upcoming webcast: a lecture on demographic change

The Center for the Future of Museums hosts a talk by Los Angeles Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez on cultural transformation. It’s not just for museums.

The free webcast is next Wednesday, January 27 at 2pm Eastern time. You’ll need to register here.

The lecture was actually given by Rodriguez in Washington, DC in December and taped for this webcast. But he’ll be online Wednesday for a live Q&A, and there will also be a panel discussion.

Rodriguez is a big name in the world of demographic change, ethnicity, and policy, especially on Latino issues. He was asked by Elizabeth Merritt, who runs the new Center for the Future of Museums at the American Association of Museums (AAM), to turn his gaze on cultural institutions and speculate about how demographic shifts will affect them.

You can get a glimpse of his thinking in an op-ed column he wrote after giving the talk, “Big Tent Salvation for the Arts.”

In audience research and evaluation, we’re often asked to study Latino populations as a distinct group with its own special needs. But that can be a form of segregation, or at least compartmentalization. It might be smarter — and it will probably become necessary, anyway — to try to integrate our understanding of Latinos and other growing minorities in every “general” study we conduct.

I’m plugging the webcast not just because I’m on the advisory council of the Center for the Future of Museums, but also because we all need to be talking about the place of the arts in a soon-to-be majority-minority culture, and especially about what the dramatic growth of Latino populations means for how we program, communicate, and advocate for the arts.

There are also huge implications for the colleges and universities we work with. (Sorry to be so arts-centric here.)

So give a listen on Wednesday, and let me know what you think of Rodriguez’s talk and the discussion that follows.

Jon Silpayamanant — January 22, 2010

Excellent! Thanks Peter. I am very much looking forward to watching this!

Jon Silpayamanant — January 24, 2010

Some readers might be interested in this public policy paper by ethnomusicologist, Robert Garfias:

from the summary:
"The cultural diversity underlying the nation is something which has always been an important, if little recognized factor. As the demography of the country changes with ever increasing rapidity, the inability of our cultural and educational institutions to keep pace with these changes becomes increasingly apparent. Part ...of the difficulty we face in absorbing these diverse Americans into our image of what the nation should be, lies in the fact that the Western European veneer endorsed by our cultural and educational institutions has prevented a more open acceptance of other cultural values. Until now they have not been successful in accommodating the existing diversity and there is little indication that as this increases, they well serve us any better.

America's insistence on a narrow Western European cultural focus together with its long standing comfortable isolation from the culture of other nations has fostered a condition in which cross cultural outreach often stops with the discovery of elements in other cultures which reflect our own. As a consequence of all this, a wedge has been effectively driven between the nation's cultural and educational institutions and the growing number and diversity of those "other" Americans."

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