***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators, troublemakers, small business owners to share news and insight about the creative impetus and inspirations behind their latest project, launch or business.
Name: Monica O. Montgomery
Occupation: Founder and Executive Director, Museum of Impact; Co-Founder, Strategic Director of Museum Hue
Launch Date: Museum Hue launched publically February 2015, and we are having a one year anniversary reception at the Studio Museum of Harlem Wednesday Feb 17th 6pm.
Motto: Museum of Impact: Hear. Care. Act. Museum Hue: Hue’tiful!
Describe your path to cofounding Museum Hue and founding and launching the Museum of Impact
Recently, I did the unthinkable I started a museum. The Museum of Impact to be specific. Let’s rewind the story a bit, when I started this work, I was in a totally different headspace. A different profession even. A few short years ago I was a Pre K teacher in a Reggio Emilia charter school happily humming along and teaching arc’s and 123’s with my students. And then the upheaval in society started with the extrajudicial killings of Trayvon Martin, and it blew up in the news, hurt my feelings and shook the bedrock of the black community. As I and my fellow teachers were reeling from this, more brown folks, people of color adults & children turned into martyrs at the hands of domestic terrorists, vigilantes and cops with blood on their hands from police brutality.
In the wake of each crime, each tragedy each state sanctioned non indictments I had to help
My 3 year olds make sense of this. Strangely and sadly no one else in the early childhood community or in my school or charter system would touch it or talk about it, despite the rampant curiosity of the kids. With the consent of their parents, we started slowly tackling the issues at hand. Unpacking racism, prejudice and violence. Offering the students chances to be empathetic, compassionate, mourn and find joy in the hope for the future. I facilitated learning experiences that taught my students everything from Black Lives Matter to community care and we ultimately wrote Mother’s Day cards for Trayvon’s mom and sent them to her foundation.
Shortly after I was fired by the administration for being too social justice minded and having my politics be too radical, and ‘Not a good fit’. I decided to ultimately change my career trajectory, relocate, take low paying internship and educator jobs to learn the cultural heritage sector and go into museums; in an effort to revolutionize them from the inside out.
As a former pre-school teacher, once fired from a position for being too social justice-minded, Initially conceived after a trip to South Africa for humanitarian work, the museum was initially conceived to exhibit the power of volunteerism and global community spirit.
However, the continued violence against black Americans and the rise of online and offline activism was constantly on my mind and in my tweets. The grim reality of extralegal killings of black Americans and the #Black Lives Matter movement seemed to demand a museum with a social justice outlook. It took a colleague to state the obvious. One day, while discussing my museum dream and frustration over the most recent police killing with a fellow teacher, my colleague suggested the museum’s first focus. With this inspiration, I endeavored to create a museum dedicated to shining a light on humanity, advocacy, art and activism.
One year later, the time is still ripe for this exhibit. After getting the ‘blessing’ of one of the BLM founders, Patrisse Cullors, I and a group of colleagues collaborated and curated an emotionally resonant experience for all to witness The #MovementIsRising: Journey of #BlackLivesMatter exhibit, which launched late September 2015 in Harlem.
A project 3 years in the making, the Museum of Impact finally come to pass. And the time is ripe for this project. We are starting in NYC and venturing across the country, state by state space by space.. Museum of Impact is ‘Curating the Current’ & ‘Archiving the Now’! We examine art and activism and you. We highlights changemakers who are uplifting communities. Our exhibits and programs are centered in the public interest of culture, contemporary issues, social action, and engaged art.
The #MovementIsRising : Journey to #BlackLivesMatter shines a light on social injustice with an eye towards social action movements that have transformed our nation. We celebrate #BlackLivesMatter and the wellspring of artivism that arose out of these tragic incidents.
What are the challenges to building and sustaining a mobile social justice museum?
The Museum of Impact is entirely volunteer-led, and making connections with passionate and talented people is key to pulling together. Honestly Time, talent and treasure are the 3 biggest challenges to operating this mobile social justice museum. We are on the verge of crowdfunding for a vehicle and looking to onboard more dedicated volunteers that believe in this mission and want to be an upstander and not a bystander.
What are your go-to resources as a cultural entrepreneur?
I read a lot of blogs, and attending events in the arts, culture and social practice landscape is lifesblood. I am very active on Social media in tweetchats and always scouring the internet to learn more, amplify causes and meet good people! Keeping your ear to the ground of digital resources like #MuseumsRespondToFerguson & #EduTues tweetchats, Hyperallergic, Bad News Women, Emerging Museum Professional & Emerging Arts Leaders groups, NYFA, Brooklyn Arts Council, Phila Culture, Museum 2.0 Nina Simon’s blog and legions more are important for being informed. I also attend and speak at a plethora of conferences which informs my practice of whats happening on the cutting edge of museums, audiences and social change.
How can people support what you do?
I just want everyone to come and witness the world’s first mobile social justice museum on February 6th at BK Museum, and to let it inspire them to do great things in the world, being an Upstander and not a Bystander around issues of racial justice and human rights. We also will be reaching out for support via either donations of funds or supplies, which is always key to making each site activation a reality.
What’s on the scheduled for the months ahead?
The Museum of Impact’s next site activation will be at the Brooklyn Museum’s February 6th First Saturday from 6-9pm. The activation will be an experiential exploration of the black radical tradition, from the contemporary #BlackLivesMatter movement, back into liberation movements of past decades. We will mine the visceral links between movements past and present. Our audience of around 4,000 people will leave the Beaux Arts section of the museum with a renewed connection to both the past and present, energized for activism!
For me individually, I will be a featured speaker at the annual Museum Next conference, to be held this year in Dublin, Ireland. I’ll also be speaking at the Emerging Arts Leaders of DC conference in March and in May I’ll be paneling at the American Alliance of Museums conference and hosting a creatives happy hour during the event.
Shout out to..
my real friends and Pre K educators who give me inspiration and support unconditionally
my Museum Hue crew
my mentee Ravon Ruffin of Brown Girls Museum Blog
my academic partner in crime Gretchen Jennings and her blog Museum Commons with their Join Bloggers statement which inspired me greatly
my fellow museum activists at Museum Workers Speak
The Historic House Trust of NY for giving me a millennial black woman from Brooklyn the opportunity to lead one of their institutions. They saw brilliance in me, nurtured it, and now we are reaping the benefit. I am proud to be a #MuseumAnarchist under the leadership of my mentor Franklin Vagnone
Don’t miss Museum of Impact at Radical Black History event at the Brooklyn Museum this Saturday. Admission is free. You can stay connected via social media at the following links