Without Sanctuary Project Case Study: The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA
The Andy Warhol Museum presented the traveling exhibition, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America—100 photographic prints and postcards from 1870 to 1960 that document the history of lynching in the United States. Racially motivated killings in the city had heightened existing racial tensions, and the exhibition provided a potent context for refocusing dialogue about race in Pittsburgh. The Warhol worked with a community advisory group to determine how the exhibition should be presented and interpreted both within and outside the museum. A timeline depicting African American achievement and resistance set against the history of lynching in America, was developed in collaboration with community advisors and later reproduced for distribution to all high schools in Allegheny County. Artmaking dialogues, led by artist-educators trained in dialogue, assured Without Sanctuary visitors a way to respond immediately to the highly charged images. A range of other dialogue opportunities included daily facilitated public dialogues, a video response booth, group tour discussions, use of the museum as a space for community groups to hold meetings and dialogues around race relations, and artist-educator outreach projects to extend the dialogue into the community. For training and to lead dialogues, artist-educators and museum staff partnered with the local YWCA Center for Race Relations, the National Conference for Community and Justice, and the organization, Facing History and Ourselves. The Without Sanctuary project galvanized energies and focused collective attention on racial issues in Pittsburgh. More than 31,000 people saw the exhibition and approximately 1,000 engaged in dialogues. The activity surrounding the exhibition drew substantial media attention, which, in turn, prompted further public discourse. The project revealed the tensions and challenges inherent in a largely white institution choosing to do this project, and the lessons learned while working with its advisory group to effectively involve the African American community. The project experimented with how a museum can creatively operate in the cultural sphere as “civic engager,” using its social space, as well as its traditional position as arbiter of taste, to focus attention on civic issues. Outcomes: awareness, discourse/dialogue, participation, skills/practice Evaluation sought to: Assess if and how the project focused collective attention on racial issues Understand how difficult subject matter may be a galvanizing force for collaboration and dialogue within and across communities and organizations Assess nature of community participation and numbers of participants in project dialogues and programs Understand if and how museum practices (curatorial, marketing, education, engagement) adapted and employed through this exhibition advanced the Warhol’s civic mission (perceived both internally and externally) Approaches to evaluation: Outside evaluators (see below) guided project staff and the Without Sanctuary Advisory Committee’s assessment efforts. Interviews were conducted with museum visitors. Visitor comments were collected in various ways and analyzed media results and analysis? Featured Resources: Hidden History: An Exploratory Case Study Looking at the Impact of the Andy Warhol Museum’s Without Sanctuary Project by Lynn Connor Connor measured the impact of the exhibition on visitors by focusing on the range of methods and means by which “dialogues” were held during its run. Connor reviewed written and video comments made by exhibition visitors and postcards written by participants to themselves upon seeing the exhibition. Evaluation of Community Advisory Board Process by Karen Knutson, Research Associate, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh In addition to innovative exhibition elements created for Without Sanctuary and a team-based design process, the Warhol actively engaged community leaders in their planning process. In particular, this study documents the Community Advisory Board process for Without Sanctuary from the perspective of the advisory board members themselves. It describes the board’s activities, successes, and failures and its potential impact on future museum practice at the Warhol. It also examines aspects of the show’s development from the viewpoint of museum staff, who felt that the civic dialogue and engagement processes utilized to stage this exhibition and embedded within it marked a significant development and change in their professional practice.