In which context are you working as an art educator?
I recently joined the Outreach and Mediation team at Stadtmuseum Berlin. Before that, I was a trainee in the education and outreach department of the Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur. The traineeship took place within the framework of lab.Bode – Initiative to strengthen outreach work in museums. This gave me the enriching opportunity to meet every 3 months with 8 other volunteers from Germany for further training at the Bode Museum in Berlin. During this time, we, Gila, were also able to hold the Art Educators’ Talk together on the topic of ‘Becoming’ in the then newly opened “207m². Space for action and collaboration” at Berlinische Galerie. Before, I studied art education at Burg Giebichenstein, Kunsthochschule Halle, and worked with performance and video.
With whom do you cooperate?
On the one hand, I am in contact with colleagues from many different departments in the institutional environment, because in the projects we work in an interdisciplinary way. This includes, for example, the areas of public programs, permanent collections, and communication. In addition, there are external people who advise the museum, for example as experts in their field, or focus groups who share their experiences with us. I find that the perspective from outside the institution is essential in the development of exhibitions or new concepts for museums. In addition, I think we should not be afraid to involve people if we have little or no experience with a particular topic, for example, if we are not part of the group of people affected by it. In educational projects, I think it’s great to work at the interface of performance and dance. Recently, I realized a project together with the dancer and choreographer Patricia Woltmann at the Berlinische Galerie: https://berlinischegalerie.de/berlinische-galerie/bildung/kooperationsprojekte/bitte-folgen/. On the other hand, I work as a freelance art educator with the Friends 13+ of the Nationalgalerie, Berlin. This is a project that is currently in its development phase with a group of young people. I consider it valuable to switch between the two roles, because I have both an institutional and a freelance view of the field of art education.
What is your understanding of art education?
Before that, I would like to clarify what art means to me: Good art has a power of innovation. It contains a non-conformist, resistant element. This becomes clear, for example, in an authoritarian system, where hardly anything is censored and banned as quickly as the freedom of art. When art can express itself, it becomes a medium of communication. As an art educator, I transmit these forms of communication and take them to people who want to deal with it. First of all, however, I have to face art and develop an attitude towards it. In my case, this happened mainly through a practical approach in art studies, where I experienced artistic processes myself. I understand the task of the art educator to create a field of possibility for discussion. Art provides a space to which we, as viewers, have to relate. Sometimes it speaks directly to me and activates me, sometimes it annoys me and doesn’t let me go. There is also the case that I close myself off to it. Everyone reacts to it in their own way. We can start with such reactions in our practice: We can enter into discussion, take a position, endure friction, and continue to evolve.
I think it’s important not to confuse art education with pure knowledge transfer. We need knowledge about the social contexts of the time in which the work was created in order to be able to classify the social relevance of the artistic work. At the same time, we need openness and flexibility in our thinking in order to link it with our current experiences and knowledge.
What is the relationship (for you) between education and art?
The means of (non-language-based) art are beyond language. Therefore it offers many possibilities of reception. An aesthetic experience that takes place in the encounter between the viewer and a work of art can affect the whole body. In our society, speaking has a high social value. When we want to engage with each other about art, we also usually start talking about it. I am also interested in non-verbal forms of exchange such as body language and actions. Art education offers the possibility to express ourselves beyond the linguistic level.
As an art educator, I see myself in the position of a mediator. In an exhibition space – which is always also a place of communication – as many people as possible should feel welcome, so that a coexistence in the museum becomes possible. In doing so, I find it important to look at which mechanisms cause people to feel unwelcome or excluded; or if people are unable to access the museum due to barriers.
Why mediate (contemporary) art? / Why educate people about (contemporary) art?
For me, art represents a counterpart. It tells, asks questions, triggers thoughts and emotions and is a patient listener that constantly returns my gaze. At the same time, I can go on a creative search for the right form that expresses my thoughts appropriately. As soon as I get away from the claim that my drawing of the dachshund must look exactly like the photo of the dachshund, I can disregard the evaluation of right or wrong. Then I can question norms and conventions and realize that I am capable of making changes. With paper and pencil, my own body and in social processes. I think that art can empower us.
In what kind of relationship do you see the practice of curating and educating?
Ideally, the two fields are not conceptualized separately from each other, but rather bring each other forward in the planning process. I think it’s important to dissolve the boundaries between these two fields. This also has to do with hierarchies, which often still play a role. Mediation cannot be an add-on that is simply put on top of an exhibition which has already been planned. It is a critical practice in its field that we have to take into account from the very beginning if we are to take seriously our mission to enable all people to participate in social and cultural life.
Why is art education important for a museum or an institution?
Outreach and mediation form an interface between the museum and the urban society. In collaboration with partners, sustainable projects can be carried out under this title and relationship work can be done. In this way, interested groups can come to the museum on a long-term basis and get to know it intensively with its characteristics and changing exhibitions. On the other hand, the museum and its employees increasingly adapt to the respective groups. This can lead to a process of change, to which external persons contribute. Art educators also offer space to critically question the authority of the institution and to develop alternative narratives and make them visible. In this way, it enables the museum to take the critical view of different communities seriously and to integrate it into internal work processes. Currently, the role of mediation is often to examine the accessibility of visitors to the institution on several levels. However, this should not only be the task of mediation & outreach, but should be understood as a cross-sectional task for all departments.
Where do we find the (institutional) spaces, in which we can have a discussion about our experiences of art?
Everywhere we take them: In the exhibition room, in the parking lot, in the vestibule of the elevator, and while smoking outside. In the exhibition room, however, we are not always welcome with it, especially if we are loud or do not want to stand in silence. On the other hand, there are more and more museums that create exactly these permanent (free) spaces: With a special quality of staying and visibility of the mediation within the exhibition areas. These are designed to create opportunities for exchange and to offer materials on which one’s own perspective can be visualized. Later visitors* can respond to this again. In 2019, for example, the Berlinische Galerie has created “207m². Space for action and cooperation”, the Berlinische Galerie has installed such a space. In the Bode Museum, three of the former exhibition spaces have become permanent places of mediation with “Freiraum,” “Denkraum,” and “Plattform”.
To what extent can art education and art mediation open up a new sphere of action?
The first step towards agency is to be present as a person in the setting in which art education takes place. At this moment, there are many people and groups of people who do not feel represented or are not represented in these settings, or who are confronted with discriminating structures on site. Therefore, I think that institutions need to become more diverse and sensitive to discrimination on several levels. It starts with the staff, who bring in different perspectives. They can impact programming and only then appeal to a more diverse audience. In order to shape programming together with external parties, and thus in a multi-perspective way, I think participation processes make sense. What bothers me a bit about the word “open” is the hierarchy it implies. I would prefer to think of art education as being able to create a framework in which an audience can take its own space for action. Nevertheless, there is no question that institutional art education & outreach programs cannot be free of power structures as long as they are part of a hierarchically structured institution.
When do you think art education is successful? When do you think art education is complicated?
Here I would like to start from the setting of a mediation project: I find a project successful when the participants have as much say as possible in the choice of topics, techniques, methods, and other important aspects. Process-oriented work is a good way to do this, with room for discussion, experimentation, failure, and reflection. In this process, all participants can learn from each other. At the end, a presentation of the project should be prominently displayed in the museum rooms so that mediation is visible. I find it difficult to provide art education by applying the same rules as in school. The free space that the museum offers must be used! In digital mediation via video conferencing or social media, it is challenging to communicate during the museum closing, because direct feedback is often missing.
Is there a specific method or strategy you currently work with?
In the practical projects, I currently use the techniques that I most enjoy myself. In developing digital suggestions, I want to motivate young people to think and work creatively during the lockdown. To do so, I make collages and stop-motion films and distribute them through several digital channels, accompanied by suggestions on how to proceed. In this way, I can take up my own artistic approaches and, in the best case, pass on the joy and curiosity in the exploration of my environment. On Instagram, the project can be found under #dreizehn_plus. We use an internal group at Signal to exchange work statuses, suggestions, and results.
What are you currently working on?
Completely new for me is my current involvement with construction-related issues regarding inclusion and accessibility. In a large construction project, the renovation of a heritage building, I am contributing the perspective of mediation & outreach as part of the team. In the process, the careful look at floor plans and functional descriptions alternates with the creative process of developing an agenda. I particularly look forward to working and exchanging ideas with experts on their own behalf, focus groups and critical friends.
Which books and projects are important for your work and why?
“Curating as Antiracist Practice,” ed. by: Natalie Bayer, Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, and Nora Sternfeld. Being part of the staff in an art museum made me notice my non-whiteness even more than before in my studies. Since then, I have been more intensely engaged with my postmigrant biography. I love the graphic novels by Liv Strömquist. With clever humor the volume “Der Ursprung der Liebe” gets to the heart of socially pressing issues such as sexism and the role of women. Currently I am waiting for the new anthology “Vermittlung Vermitteln“, edited by Ayşe Güleç, Carina Herring, Gila Kolb, Nora Sternfeld, Julia Stolba, whose book launch made me curious about the different perspectives it contains. Under non-pandemic circumstances, I would have stopped by the ngbk briefly, as it is actually on my way to work.
Which questions would you like to ask an art educator?
Shall we form alliances?
How do you imagine the future of art education?
I am optimistic about the future of art education, outreach & mediation in the German-speaking world. With lab.Bode, the initiative to strengthen art education in museums, the German Federal Cultural Foundation has made possible a major project that is broadly based on the pillars of volunteer programs, school cooperation, and discourse. As a critical practice, art education can open up spaces for reflection and constantly question and develop itself through discourse. Unfortunately, the working conditions in the field of independent art educators are still very precarious, which became particularly clear during the pandemic. I would like to see more back-up for art educators and more commitment on the part of the institutions.
Marie Newid *1989, studied art education and art history at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. Subsequently, she was a student in the diploma program in art education in the class of Una Moehrke at Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle. During this time she participated with exhibition contributions in various group exhibitions and received a scholarship for the Alps Art Academy in Tenna (CH) in the field of “Mediation/Education”. As part of the volunteer program of lab.Bode – Initiative for Strengthening Educational Work in Museums, she worked as a research volunteer for two years at the Berlinische Galerie. She currently works at the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin, focusing on mediation and participation, and as a freelance art mediator for the Friends of the National Gallery. Contact: marie.newid[at]posteo.de
Published on 07.03.2021
Suggested Citation: Newid, Marie (2021): We are capable of change!, Interview, The Art Educator’s Talk. What does s/he say? Online: https://thearteducatorstalk.net/en/?interview=marie-newid-we-are-capable-of-change
Interview: Gila Kolb
Image in header: ” Please Follow” performance by students of the Carl-von-Ossietzky-Schule. Photo: Pascal Rohé, Berlinische Galerie, 2020