An Inclusive World: Bridging Communities, the 2015 United States Society for Education through the Arts (USSEA) North American regional conference, filled every space in the bright and welcoming Queens Museum with art educators, museum educators, artists, and administrators. It was the inspiration for the recently published Bridging Communities Through Socially Engaged Art edited by Alice Wexler and Vida Sabbaghi (See https://www.routledge.com/Bridging-Communities-through-Socially-Engaged-Art/Wexler-Sabbaghi/p/book/9780815396802).
Holland Cotter (2013) wrote in his review of the updated Queens Museum, “A Local Place for a Global Neighborhood,” that the high-ceiling, sky-lit atrium has the feel and spirit of a community commons. The book attempts to capture the spirit of a borderless community that inhabited the attendees of the Conference. Participants attended seminars and shared their resources, expertise, and ideas about Inclusion in Learning Communities; Effective Tools for Diverse Community Engagement in the Museum; Debating the Terminology of Outsider Art; Art and Social Practice; and High and Low Tech Tools for 21st Century Art and Museum Education.
Teams of high-school students developing Find Cards at the Fluidity of Genderexhibition. 2016. Photograph by Karen Keifer-Boyd. Chapter 23, “Finding Unfamiliar Bridges: Questioning the Familiar” by Karen Keifer-Boyd
The mission of Bridging Communities Through Socially Engaged Art is to seek innovative, re-envisioned approaches to the arts in education and society. The tendency to organize groups based on shared interests or categories is common practice. Homogeneous groups effectively work together on mutual goals through cooperation. Yet while this practice has been a productive way of fostering strong relationships and developing social skills, identity, and solidarity within specific groups, the authors of this book suggest that entering into unfamiliar territory might achieve microcosms of peace and understanding among diverse communities.
On Being Black in Amerika, first scene in Nick Cave’s (1992) performance, courtesy the artist, photo credit: James Printz. Chapter 21, “Fiercely Exuberant Extravagances: Queerly Reading Nick Cave’s Soundsuits, Installations, and Interventions” by James Sanders III
The primary question posed in the book was how art and museum educators might safely open new physical spaces where new ideas can happen. The authors in the four sections of the book respond to the diversity and urgency of these topics in the following sections:
Section I: Museums and Cultural Institutions in Diverse Communities
Section II: Art Pedagogy in Diverse Communities
Section III: Critical Race and Gender Perspectives
Section IV: DIS/ability Justice and Outsiders.
The USSEA An Inclusive World conference was held in the same building in Flushing Meadow – Corona Park, Queens that hosted the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in the United States in 1946. The symbolism of the coming together of such a diverse group for peaceful purposes was not lost on the Inclusive World attendees who also came from all over the world.