Arts, On Campus

Museum Curators and Directors Explore Art’s Modern Task

Museums act as cultural strongholds that can preserve the art and artifacts of a place and community. But what happens when the demographics of those communities begin to change? On Wednesday, the McMullen Museum hosted a panel discussion with three Miami-based museum curators and directors. The trio discussed how museums have changed in reaction to the growing presence of Latin American and Caribbean migrants in Miami and the diversification of contemporary art museums.

The virtual panel, titled “Museums of Art Respond to Latin American and Caribbean Migration,” was part of the museum’s Museum Current series, which hosts events that highlight recent advancements in museum studies. The discussion was moderated by Elizabeth T. Goizueta, Hispanic Studies professor at Boston College and curator of the McMullen Museum’s recent exhibit on the Cuban artist Mariano Rodríguez. 

Silvia Karman Cubiñá, executive director and chief curator of the Bass Museum of Art, provided background on the changing population of Miami. Cubiñá said that a large number of Cubans arrived in Miami in the 1960s and established a community in Miami-Dade County. In the past two decades, the community has continued to diversify with the migration of people from Venezuela, Colombia, and Central America, Cubiñá said. 

The panelists commented on the diversification of the Miami community and how museums have reacted to the changing profile of the public they serve. Each of the museum professionals discussed how their own museum was changing with the times. 

Jill Deupi, University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum director, said that museums need to interact with their community—supporting collaborations with artists, students, faculty, and visitors. Museums have the ability to foster connections between people and the art, Deupi said. 

Jordana Pomeroy, director of the Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, also commented on museums’ ability to influence the people that step inside their galleries. 

 “Museums should tell stories with their exhibitions,” Pomeroy said. 

While each curator operates their own unique museum, the three agreed that art museums and their exhibits should tell the story of an individual artist, without emphasis on the artist’s political views. 

“The quest of the McMullen is not to make a statement,” Goizueta said. “Rather [it is] to look at the aesthetic value of the production of the artist and enter into a dialogue about the merit and work of the artists as opposed to the political beliefs.”

The panel concluded with a discussion of the differences between the art scenes in Boston and Miami. Pomeroy said that Boston’s museums feature many older collections, while Miami is home to more contemporary art institutions. The panelists expressed hope that in the future they will be able to introduce a diverse range of art forms into their museums. 

“Change is slow, but it is massive,” Goizueta said. 

Screenshot by Joseph Udina

November 12, 2021