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art's power as art

Post #66 • July 23, 2003, 4:35 AM

From the Miami Art Museum:

American Tableaux: Many Voices, Many Stories” explores the narrative tradition in American art from the 1920s to the present and celebrates the rich variety of stories told by individual voices, communities, and cultures. ... The exhibition is organized into several thematic groups presenting different aspects of the American experience. These varying points of view range from roadside andstreet scenes found in works by George Segal, Edward Hopper and Lee Friedlander, to works by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Kerry JamesMarshall and Andy Warhol that delve into political and social issues shaping our daily experience.

But wait, there’s more:

In conjunction with the exhibition, MAM is installing a unique project in the Visitors’ Gallery, Miami Stories: A Portrait of Our Community. Visitors to the museum will be asked to share their stories by providing a personal photograph or document that reflects an aspect of who they are and where they’ve come from. Free admission will be offered to those who participate in this project … by bringing a document to install as part of the work in the Visitors Gallery. Visitors will be provided with a special template so that they can photocopy their historical contribution and add it to the wall of Miami Stories. Participants in the art installation will also be asked to write a few lines about who they are how they came to be in Miami. The Miami Stories project will be on view as it evolves, during regular museum hours throughout the run of the American Tableaux exhibition.

Part of me sees this as a laudable effort to involve the public in the arts. Part of me sees this as an educational program run amok, driven by a lack of trust in art’s power as art. I’m concerned that Miami Stories sends the message that the art in the show is merely visual documentation. What do you think?

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