Kantara Souffrant and Robert Stein are two new senior leaders at the Museum as of January 2021. The positions that Souffrant and Stein were hired to fill, Curator of Community Dialogue and Deputy Director/Chief Experience Officer, respectively, are integral to the Museum’s Strategic Direction, which, in short, outlines the work the Museum is committed to doing to ensure that everyone in the community feels welcome. Souffrant and Stein recently connected over Zoom to discuss their roles in designing experiences that not only connect people to the art and each other, but also unfold across the galleries, online at home, and out in our neighborhoods.
This year marks the 45th year the Milwaukee Art Museum has hosted the Scholastic Art Awards: Wisconsin Exhibition, celebrating the artistic talent of students in grades 7–12 from across our state. Unlike in years past, the exhibition is entirely virtual, with more than two hundred works available for viewing through March 21, 2021.
Selecting the works to include in the annual Scholastic exhibition is a challenge in normal times. When twenty-nine arts professionals from across Milwaukee’s creative community gathered online in early January to judge the over 1,800 art submissions, they all agreed this exhibition of next-generation art felt more essential than ever.
Nearly forty years ago, in 1981, a group of twelve Museum Members with an interest in prints and drawings established Print Forum. George Evans and Kent Anderson served as the group’s first president and vice-president, respectively. One of the Museum’s nine currently active support groups, Print Forum is among the longest standing.
This is your art museum. And I am delighted and proud to share with you today that we have set course on a direction that allows us to respond to our changing times and makes it possible for you, your friends, family—all people—to see yourselves at the Museum and better understand your world through the art we hold in public trust for you.
The Museum’s staff, board, and volunteers, together with the Museum community, committed more than a year to ask the hard questions, consult with peer institutions, and study today’s evolving landscape to shape this new strategic direction, a framework for the Museum moving forward. We last released what we referred to then as a strategic plan in 2006. This is an exciting moment. Yet I want to be clear: our work does not end here. We now call on your active involvement to ensure we continue to make progress—and do so boldly.
Offered at the Museum since 1976, the Junior Docent School Program (JDSP) is a multi-year, multi-visit program for upper elementary students. Legendary Museum Educator Barbara Brown Lee developed the program along with two art-advocating Milwaukee school teachers, and it has since become a model for Museums across the nation, adding depth to art education with its intentional multi-visit design.
At MAM, the program includes ten themed, docent-guided tours, given to students over the course of three years. In the first year, students learn about the elements of art and are encouraged to investigate works using their senses. In the second year, students make personal and interpersonal connections with art by exploring Portraiture, Wisconsin Stories, and Communities and Traditions. In the third year of JDSP, students extend their understanding of art and history with an American Stories tour and an Antiquities to Contemporary tour—and eventually select a work of art for the culminating capstone graduation project.