The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 21, 2013

Partnership with arts association helps Tubman Museum 'think locally' and increase diversity

Posted by jdye


"Full Spectrum" features 38 works by 17 artists from the Middle Georgia Art Assocation.

"You can't just ignore your hometown and think you are going to thrive," declared Jeff Bruce, curator at the Tubman African American Museum, during the opening reception of "Full Spectrum" on January 20th. The exhibit features works by artists from the Middle Georgia Art Association (MGAA).

"Thinking locally" is a sentiment expressed often in the current and ever-changing world of globalization. There are numerous books championing the concept. "Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket" by Brian Halwell is a treatise on the local food movement. "Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing" by Amy Cortese affirms local investing as a sound economic practice. There are also recent examples of museums embracing the concept. Atlanta’s High Museum of Art has partnered with WonderRoot, an Atlanta-based arts and service organization, on several occasions.

The Tubman African American Museum is thinking locally with its current exhibit and partnership with MGAA, and the collaborative effort will not be a one-time affair. "Full Spectrum" is the first in a series of bi-annual exhibits comprising an ongoing collaboration between the two organizations. The high level of commitment of this series demonstrates that focusing on the local community is not a fleeting idea but a shift in the museum’s strategy.

"We want the institution to have a regional or national kind of presence... but you don’t want to write off your local community,” continued Bruce. "This community is what is going to support us, so we have to support it."

"Full Spectrum" features sculpture, photography, painting, fabric art, stained glass and mosaic sculpture. Photo by Stacey Harwell. "Full Spectrum" features sculpture, photography, painting, fabric art, stained glass and mosaic sculpture. Photo by Stacey Harwell

The precursor to this partnership was a similar exhibit of local art by members of the Contemporary Arts Exchange (CAE) over 18 months ago. The museum plans to alternate annual exhibits of work by members of MGAA and CAE. Though “thinking locally” is a trendy phrase, there are real benefits to this partnership for both the museum and the art association — increasing and diversifying audiences.

"We were talking about what their needs were and what our needs were and it came up that they are looking for more participants that are young, and they need a little bit more diversity,” explained Nicole Abdou, director of sales and marketing at the Tubman. Both organizations polled members and patrons and found very little overlap. By partnering each organization seeks to reach new and more diverse audiences.

"One of our goals, and I think one of the goals of the Tubman also, is diversity and to try to get our groups to work together more,” said Mae Thurston, president of the Middle Georgia Art Association. “We need more diversity. They need more diversity. And I'm not talking just race. We're talking about age and all levels of diversity.”

Apparently, the strategy is working. "This is the most diversity I've ever seen one of our openings,” remarked Abdou, while scanning the crowd at the opening reception.

“Full Spectrum” will be on exhibit at the Tubman African American Museum through February 23. Admission is $8 for the general public and free for members of the Tubman and MGAA.

Tubman African American Museum: 340 Walnut St., Macon; 478-743-8544; Middle Georgia Art Association: Ingleside Ave., Macon; 478-744-9557;

Back to top