In 2015, I visited 12 different museums in 12 months in 7 different cities.
HERE'S WHAT I LEARNED:
I learned a lot this year. I actually had more than 12 museum visits over the past 12 months—once I got going, I found that I really enjoyed being in museums, so I started adapting parts of my life to include them more often. I became a member of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and started working out of their cafe some days with my laptop and a mocha by my side. My breaks involved walking upstairs to look at the various exhibitions.
I have a broader design education today, moreso than I did 12 months ago. After my visits, I would often research some of the artists I encountered. I learned about their lives, and how their artwork actually impacted people.
I gained more reference material in my head. As a designer, the more you know, the better. I just spent 12 months gaining a better arts education, and I'm a better designer because of it.
And in terms of a historical education, I definitely learned the most this year about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, how American deathcare has been affected by these two cultural events, the cultures of different cities in the US and how certain elements of those cultures came to be, September 11, the Cold War, typography and lettering, the history of Las Vegas, the sexual revolution, signage and neon sign production and the Civil Rights Movement.
On some of my museum visits, I went with friends. The last museum visit of the year I went with people I work with—and has become a memory we all share. In fact, on the visits with friends, we usually had some interesting things to discuss afterwards. After visiting the 6th Floor Museum in Dallas, I had a really thoughtful conversation about death in American culture. And after the St. Louis museums, my friend and I talked about art and how each of us were or were not exposed to it growing up. Museums bring up all kinds of stuff to talk about. They are an important catalyst for these meaningful conversations.
There is not one museum visit that wasn't 'worth it' this year.
3. Changing Viewpoints
I had a big shift this year in all my museum-going. 12 months ago, I saw art as something of value in that it made people happy, or was used as a tool (like art therapy). I recognized that it was valuable.
But I didn't really truly understand how valuable.
I feel like a 'bad' designer in saying this, but a year ago, I realize that I truly did not understand how important the arts are. (Please, hold your stones.) I have been deeply impacted by many of these museum visits. I have a better understanding of history (especially American History), culture, various movements and a great appreciation for the artists who have contributed their work to the world. My professional work in thanatology has gained some new roots as well. Being able to actually see artwork that helped solidify historical and cultural events gave me a new gusto for my professional and personal work.
A year ago, I could not see the painting for the paints, so to speak.
4. Feeling More Grateful
I feel incredibly grateful for all that I have. Many of the works I was exposed to this year taught me about tragedy and loss. I will never, ever, ever forget walking through the Pulitzer Photo exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
5. Considering That My Own Work May Have Value
I have worked on various pieces over the years—starting to work more seriously on them in my early 20s. Actually, I think when I was 20 I really started learning more about drawing techniques and about basic things like how watercolor works vs. acrylic and how to make a canvas.
But, I've never shared any of that stuff. It has value to me, and me only, I thought. It is all like a diary. All of my pieces are neatly filed into binders and I can pull any page and remember what was going on in my life then, or in the world.
I realize now that my work, or some of my work, may have value to other people even though I do not consider myself an artist. You don't have to 'be an artist'. You just have to 'be.'
And that's the biggest thing I gained this year from my 'year of museums.' I gained the confidence I needed to show some of my personal work to others, and to feel that my personal work could be meaningful to someone else.
On my website, I've posted a few pieces of my work. Please take a look. I'm excited about sharing these things more publicly because I have not, um, ever done so before! If they resonate with you, please tell me. And if you have work of your own, I'd like to see it because I can probably learn something from you.
In 2016, you can be sure I'll be visiting more museums. And I'll be sharing more of my personal work, too.
Here are the 12 Museums I Visited This Year, in order