Our 2017-18 program year has started at 27 alternative education classroom sites across Los Angeles. We took a moment to catch up with Erik Greenberg, Director of Education and Visitor Engagement at the Autry Museum of the America West, one of this year’s three cultural partners. Our theme with the Autry this year is: "Voices of a Movement: La Raza and Community Journalism." The Autry’s exhibition “La Raza” opens this weekend as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.
Q: What first drew you to artworxLA
E: What first drew me to the organization? Well, first a colleague introduced me to program. I was instantly taken with it for a number reasons. First, I failed out of college twice and eventually became a historian – I have a Ph.D. in history. I believe very much in the importance of second chances and third chances and however many chances you need to get it right. The fact that artworxLA takes seriously both the artistic and intellectual contributions of students in alternative high schools, those who are very often very dismissed as not having much to say, that just appealed to me instantly. I’m very interested in museums as sites of community engagement. Part of my work is not just bringing people in, but to reach out and have a dialogue back and forth. That means a great deal to me.
Our signature program, our award-winning outreach program “Autry Classroom Curators” came out of my experience with artworxLA. I was so impressed with what artworxLA was doing, that I thought the Autry should be doing something along those lines as well.
Q: Can you tell me about the theme we will be exploring with the Autry this year? What do you hope to accomplish with our students?
E: So, the Education Department at the Autry this year is working on a theme called "LA Raza". All of our projects, especially our outreach work, is circling on the idea we're calling “A Voice of Community by Community”. We are looking at the ways people can tell their own stories by taking control of the resources available to them. We are looking at how they tell the stories we typically don’t know about. A lot of that comes from the exhibit we are doing about “LA Raza”. "La Raza" is the magazine or newspaper that documented the Chicano movement. It occurred to me from looking at the show that a lot of the kids that we’ve come into contact this year were very much like the kids involved in the Chicano movement that is "LA Raza". They are young people from East and South LA who looked around them and saw their needs and their interests weren’t being represented. Eventually, these teens spoke out. We thought that it was really important to make that connection. We want our students to understand that there’s a history of kids from East LA and from South LA speaking out for the things that they need. And, if there’s an objective that I would like the artworxLA students to walk away with, it’s just that. Each student is part of a long tradition of citizen journalism. We are really pleased to partner with artworxLA this year.