Art transcends our differences. As communities of all sizes around the globe address issues of immigration, religious expression, sexual orientation, and gender identity, museums have become safe places to build gateways for understanding. The incredible power of the arts and humanities in all their forms inspire us and enrich our lives, comfort and help us heal during our darkest times. However, within museums and cultural institutions, works of art are often displayed according to geography or the cultural paradigm in which they were created. Although this is usually the most straightforward and pragmatic approach to interpreting objects, it perhaps encourages and reinforces hierarchies and incomplete historical narratives that are played out on a grand scale for mass audiences.
As an art lecturer at ART SMART, my Diversity & Inclusion Tour at The Metropolitan Museum of Art will share stories about individual creators, offer alternative art histories of the interconnected world, and explore non-Western cultures inclusively, raising the questions:
- What is diversity? Why diversity matters? How to understand diversity through art?
- How did artists from Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East create works of art in different times and places?
- How do creators break through barriers to communicate new visions?
- How are artists and designers shaped by their environment, and how does environment affect artistic production?
- How have artists used their works as a means of capturing human subjects and as an active method for identity formation?
We will take an unconventional and mind-bending route to visit various galleries of The Met’s permanent collections and sometimes timely special exhibitions. We will discuss the gendered histories of cultural objects from around the world and make natural connections with our personal experiences, artistic expression, and new ideas relating to the intersectionality of gender, class, and race. We will unpack works of different mediums in the collections that highlight changing cultural understandings of gender and sexuality and the creation of hybrid identities including femininity and masculinity. We will challenge existing social norms involving nation, citizenship, ethnicity, language, religion, geography, and a broad range of contested terms such as beauty, body, modernity, performativity, temporality, appropriation, and authenticity.