A Wake-Up Call in Two Parts – Monday General Session

 You were warned on this blog earlier – you did not want to miss the entertainment before Monday’s General Session. The Dominic Walsh troop took the stage first, with prime-time dance moves that were beautiful to watch. After being mesmerized by them, the growing crowd was jolted awake by the music and dance of the four-man group HIStory, joined by fellow West Side High School products Inertia Dance Company. Those of you following #aam2011 on Twitter saw the crowd response repeated in cyberspace – they were fabulous.  Very helpful to those of us who had not yet had enough caffeine – you could not watch this and sit still.

Alas, there was business to conduct, so we said good bye to the talented Houstonians and their fabulous moves.  Ford Bell set the stage for the session by stating that museums are not luxuries, they are essential. He then introduced AAM Board Chair Doug Myers, whose duties included thanking those who serve on the board of AAM, and recognizing those concluding this service.

Conference Chair Gwen Goffe came to the podium to introduce Houston’s Mayor, Annise Parker, to give the welcome address. Mayor Parker reflected on her own involvement in arts and culture in Houston, and suggested to the audience that the best way to ensure that political leaders support the arts and culture is to work to elect those that ‘get it’, that way there is no need to lobby them, only to remind them. She then worked a little magic and declared that May 23, 24 and 25, 2011 are officially American Association of Museums day in Houston, a gesture for which she was well-rewarded with enthusiastic applause.

The session then moved to the second wake-up call of the morning, a town-hall style discussion entitled “Tough Economy, Tough Choices”.  Session moderator Carol A. Lewis, PhD, opened the session and introduced the other panelists. Joining Dr. Lewis were Minnette Boesel, Director of Cultural Affairs in the Mayor’s Office; Gwen Goffe, Interim Director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Terry Grier, Ed. D., Superintendent of Houston Independent School District; and United States Senator Jack Reed, who joined by satellite.  The conversation focused on the challenges posed by the economy, and the recurring theme of the remarks made by the panelists was the importance of museum’s to advocate. Dr. Grier talked about the budget challenges affecting the ability of schools to make the field trips that have been a big part of student engagement with museums. He encouraged museums to continue to engage the schools, and to look for new ways to collaborate with their education partners.

The big thought for the day? Museum Advocacy! Moderator Dr. Carol Lewis closed the session and urged everyone to choose to do something to advocate in the next 60 to 90 days, and that sounds like great advice. But I confess – I am still stuck trying to figure out how that young man spun around on his head.

-Jon Iszard, President & CEO, The Health Museum
Co-chair, Public Relations and Marketing Subcommittee
Member, Local Host Committee

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