I know that I get a lot more networking done, hear more actionable advice and cement potential institutional collaborations by staying at the events closest to my field, (I have worked in ultra-contemporary arts spaces since I was 25, never written a word about an art object over 50 years old since grad school, and have mainly never dealt with collections management issues.) But then the link to the online AAM Advance Program lands in my in-box and as I start to peruse the many exciting offerings, I feel the call of those other types of museums, those related enterprises that seem to have nothing to do with my daily concerns, but beckon nonetheless and pique my curiosity.
Years ago I was having an early midlife crisis (I was 35,) and was flipping through Aviso job listings and there it was—an alternate-reality future for me. A “Curator of Mollusks” was being sought by some nautical museum. I could do that, I thought, I could go back to school and study bivalves and start my life anew. Those sorts of daydreams are a constant for me, and I am sure many others out there, during the AAM Annual Meeting.
There’s so much to learn, so much to do when AAM converges on a new city. One of my favorite ways to explore museums is during the AAM sanctioned Evening Events. And this year in Houston, the events are nothing sort of spectacular and guaranteed to deliver multiple WOW moments.
On Monday May 23, I will be holding court at the museum I call home, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, for the event we are co-hosting with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston –A Texas-Sized Block Party – featuring a delicious Tex-Mex dinner, marvelous margaritas and fantastic tunes. However, that means I will have to miss the fun events at the Houston Zoo and Space Center Houston. Lucky for me though, I get to those destinations with some regularity, so I can forgive myself missing their offerings, as tempting as they sound. Who can resist animal serenades around the reflection pool at the Zoo and the virtual reality “Feel of Space” experience at Space Center Houston?!
AAM friends –I don’t envy the choice you’ll have to make on Monday night, but whichever evening event you select, I know you’ll have a blast! Just don’t miss out! Buy a ticket to one of the Monday night evening events now because (tomorrow!) April 15 – is the advance conference registration deadline.
Come Tuesday night, May 24, I should be at The Menil Collection with many of my closest colleagues, lending support to our friends at there—helping to point out some Surrealist art object that I have learned to love on my nearly weekly visits with folks from San Diego and Des Moines. Bonus for the Menil event –it also includes the renowned Rothko Chapel, the beloved Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum (where you can see the only intact Byzantine Frescos in the Western Hemisphere), and the amazing Houston Center for Photography (with yummy desserts!). The other events on May 24 are very alluring as well. The Houston Museum of Natural Science (you haven’t danced until you’ve danced under the dinosaurs!), Texas Southern University Art Museum (Live jazz music and TSU’s world famous Wall Murals encompassing more than 300 years of African-American History!), and the Heritage Society are all hosting events. I have been living in Houston two years and those wonderful old houses at the Heritage Society in downtown require so much more attention than I have given them…so I’m wondering if I can justify leaving the world of visual art for a night to hobnob with AAMers at the Heritage Society. I don’t have much time to contemplate because I have to buy my ticket super pronto! As for my AAM friends, I encourage you to find the event that best fits your interests….art, history, science, culture….and go!
When I have left my discipline at AAM and engage in discussion with colleagues from other areas of museum life I always gain some radical new insight. At AAM in LA the best piece of advice I got on the reaccreditation process (that CAMH is in now) was from the director of an Arboretum. Those chance encounters are the reason AAM is such a vital forum.
I go to so many conferences where everyone comes from the same discipline and the discussions concern the minutiae of our daily work. A few jolts of wisdom from other spheres is something I only get at the AAM Annual Meeting and for which I am truly grateful.
For this reason, I am also looking forward to the Wednesday, May 25 evening events…again, I have to decide quickly where I am going to land. And it’s a tough decision, with three outstanding options before me. Noche Latina – En Familia at the Children’s Museum of Houston (the number one children’s museum in the country!) and The Health Museum features hot Latin flavors…food, drinks and the very popular Norma Zenteno band (have I mentioned how much I love Salsa music?!). The George Ranch Historical Park is hosting a “yeehaw” of a good time with a traditional Texas barbeque dinner and cowboy campfire sing-along. And the 1940 Air Terminal Museum, is soaring with Big Band Swing and vintage aircraft. What are you going to pick?
–Bill Arning, Director, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston & AAM Events Subcommittee Co-Chair