Posts Tagged ‘minorities’

Photo: MICRO
A visitor examines the MICRO mollusk museum.

Good things come in small packages, even museums, as we saw in this 2013 post. Since then, enthusiasm for micro museums has only increased, as Margaret Carrigan reports at the Observer.

“When scientist Amanda Schochet and designer Charles Philipp unofficially started MICRO, they wanted to make the world’s smallest museum about mollusks, a passion of Schochet’s.

“They realized that might be easy, considering there were no real mollusk museums at all. But as they started developing content and design, the pair realized that even small museums could have a big impact.

“In a year-and-a-half, they’ve created five 6-foot-tall natural history museums that have been installed around New York City, with the latest unveiled in mid-December at the Ronald McDonald House on the Upper East Side. The goal for Schochet and Philipp is to foster equal access to fundamental knowledge by creating installations that can be found outside of the traditional museum setting. …

“With intentions to become the most-visited museum in the country within five years … Schochet and Philipp plan to debut a new MICRO museum module every year, starting with the core sciences before delving into math and art. Their first physics edition, the Museum of Perpetual Motion, [was scheduled to] launch in early February. …

“Philipp: It started as a kind of tongue-in-cheek idea just between my partner, Amanda, and I. Amanda is a computational ecologist and knew there was a really rich history of mollusks in New York, especially oysters. So when she first moved here a few years ago, we started looking into whether we could go to a museum about mollusks. But we couldn’t find one, so we joked that if we made the smallest mollusk museum it would also de facto be the largest. …

“It wasn’t until we had a four-hour wait in a doctor’s office that it seemed like there could really be a market for something like this. There was a captive audience right in front of us looking for entertainment, and something to distract them that wasn’t just whatever rerun was on the office television. It was then we realized a mini-museum could have an impact, and we bounced the idea off some friends who worked in museums who really saw some sort of potential.

“We started doing some research and found that something like 90 percent of museum visitors across the U.S. are non-Hispanic whites. We also found that there are 135 museums in Manhattan, but in the Bronx — which has a comparable population — there are only eight. These both seemed like problems that could be addressed by bringing more museums to areas where there were few institutions with larger populations of minorities. And one way to do that was make small museums that could be installed anywhere. …

“We don’t have enough room in MICRO to get into a lot of history and context, so we have to be really mindful about how to present information and how best to do it that would entice the average passerby: How do we make someone with little knowledge of the subject who is perhaps just in the middle of running an errand and totally focused on the day-to-day stuff they need to be doing interested and curious enough to spend 10 minutes learning?

“We’ve come up with some interesting ways of solving that. In the mollusk museums, we’ve installed an eye-catching hologram in the base of it that boasts a digital aquarium. And we chose to use recognizable B-movie alien characters as a way of introducing mollusks to the viewer, since we found that many of them are based on these organisms because they seem so otherworldly.” More here.

I love that they want to get their museums into the Department of Motor Vehicles. Now that is an idea whose time has come!

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Do you mix up Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan? I do. But while Americans go about their business completely unaware of those Central Asian countries, a vibrant culture flourishes there.

Every once in a while, I make an effort to learn something about the “stans” — for example, when I read a Uzbek novel, The Railway, a few years ago. Even that I found hard to follow.

Tara Pandeya is an American dancer who decided to immerse herself in the traditional dance of Tajikistan. She writes at Dance Magazine, “Two years ago, I was touring the world as a principal dancer in Cirque du Soleil’s production of Dralion. But after 1500 shows on a five-continent and 170-city tour, I left the commercial entertainment world to reconnect with the art form I’m most passionate about: Central Asian dance.

“I have dedicated the last 18 years of my life to dance styles from the Central Asian Silk Road region. My fascination started when I was 13 and fell in love with the miniature paintings of Central Asian dancers and the Arabic calligraphic script I saw in museums. …

“Months after leaving Cirque, I moved to Tajikistan. I had planned to stay for one month but ended up staying for a whole year and dancing as the first Westerner in Lola, the state-funded Tajik National Ensemble.

“The other dancers were confused, cautious and curious about me. In the beginning, I felt like a complete outsider. I was new to their culture, food and environment, and could not speak the language. My daily routine after a full day of rehearsals was to also take a private class to better understand the nuances of the different styles and to push myself technically. The other dancers observed my dedication, and over time I earned their trust and respect. …

“Sometimes I had issues getting into high security buildings because of my American passport, so our director had to start carrying a certified paper clearing me for entrance. We toured within the country on poorly-maintained roads via a bus provided by the state.

“There were rarely enough seats for all of us, and often the men would stand for long parts of the journey so the women could sit. …

“During rehearsal one day, a local journalist noticed me and, thinking I was Tajik, invited me to participate in a televised dance competition which brought together dancers from every region of the country.

“I made it through all four rounds of cuts and amazingly, I won. … I was stopped several times on the street by strangers — the produce guy at my local grocery store said he was excited to see me dance so beautifully in a style from his culture, and hoped that if a foreigner placed so much value on their art forms that local Tajiks would learn to appreciate these forms more themselves.

“This year, I was selected by Forecast, an international mentorship platform, to have my work produced in Berlin … [It will] express the concepts of migration, otherness and gender inequality.”

That interests me — especially as what I know of Tajikistan today is that it is a harsh dictatorship and dangerous to minorities. Anything that builds understanding among ordinary people has to be a step in the right direction.

More at Dance Magazine, here.

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Photo: Leigh Vincola, ecoRI News
David Kuma, left, is learning to farm under the tutelage of Ben Torpey.

In this story from Leigh Vincola, an ecoRI News contributor, several good things are happening simultaneously.

“David Kuma set out to grow more of his own food as he learned about industrial agriculture and all of its poisons. His father, a biologist, always had a garden growing up, so an innate knowledge of plants followed his curiosity.

“Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised partially in rural Illinois and then in Attleboro, Mass., Kuma understands urban, rural and suburban lifestyles and how plants can fit into each.

“Today, Kuma is one of three participants in the Southside Community Land Trust’s (SCLT) farm apprentice program …  Acknowledging that it has been historically difficult for minority populations to enter into commercial growing, the program’s mission is to provide organic farming experience and education to those who are interested.

“Kuma is partnered with Ben Torpey at Scratch Farm, a small-scale, chemical-free operation at Urban Edge Farm. Urban Edge is a state-owned, 50-acre piece of land managed by SCLT, where seven separate farms grow and share resources. The farm was established to give new farmers access to land and a community to learn from. As part of his paid apprenticeship, Kuma spends a full day on the farm two days a week and is learning a lot quickly. …

“From transplanting and cover crops to solarizing and low-till cultivation, Kuma is learning what it takes to run a small-scale farm naturally. His eyes have been opened to the importance of soil health.

“ ‘There’s a lot more to it than putting seeds in the ground,’ he said.

“For Torpey, having an apprentice is rewarding.

“ ‘Dave comes with a intuitive sense of plant biology and his curiosity reminds me that what we’re doing is fun,’ Torpey said. ‘It encourages me to experiment with new things.’ ” More here.

Don’t they both look happy? Nature can do that to you.

Photo: Scratch Farm


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