The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum is an amazing museum in Washington DC with a mission to to tell stories of everyday people making impactful changes, who use their collective power to tackle complex issues and advance a more equitable future for all.
But the museum leadership wanted to go beyond that mission: not just tell those stories but also give their audiences the opportunity to understand what works to catalyze change in today’s world. They knew the creativity and culture is key to making change, and they knew that our research and approach is aimed at helping people use those powerful tools for change. So, we made an interactive exhibit!
We helped them craft an experience that guides visitors on a journey through steps we’ve seen so many people around the world take as they create truly remarkable and impactful campaigns. The experience starts with a portal where people ‘power up’ and pick up a Dream Book, a guide they can write in to record their ideas as they travel through the exhibit.
PART 1: FEEL
We wanted to remind people that emotions and experiences, not just data and facts, compel people to take action to stand up for something they believe in. Although anger can drive activism, so too can hope, joy, humor, and a vision of a better world.
PART 2: DREAM
In the DREAM space, visitors envision their own version of a utopia and are invited to imagine, with all obstacles removed, a world beyond the problem at hand to the awe-inspiring end goal.
This is Maps Glover, one of the fantastic Smithsonian activators who are guiding people through the Utopia Project exhibit. Maps also painted the utopia wall behind them. It serves as a “reverse coloring wall” where visitors are invited to draw the world they’d like to see.
PART 3: GATHER TOOLS
This section helps visitors connect their vision of the world they want to strategy, and to ideas for planning campaigns that have real impact.
Throughout the exhibit are “How Does Activism Work?” areas. In this section, we break down the strategic and creative steps involved in creative activism. We invite visitors learn methodologies and ways of thinking that help create change.
This section also includes fantastic examples of really diverse kinds of activism and activists. We wanted to remind people: Activism doesn’t always look like what you expect. It could look like a party or a comedy club.
In the descriptions of these diverse activist tactics, we analyze them: What are the principles behind the tactics that work? Why did it work in these particular cultures and contexts?
PART 4: ACT
After visitors have felt, and dreamed and thought, there’s a space to take action! The ACT area welcomes visitors to build, prototype, draw, collaborate. It’s a space where visitors put their own creativity into action to start to visualize how they want to change the world.
Visitors have made posters, sculptures, mission statements, declarations of love and declarations of commitment to an issue, and so much more.
PART 5: REFLECT
The fifth and final part of the exhibit is about reflection, and invites visitors to take a moment to think about what’s meaningful to them and what they want to take forward.
INTERACTIONS FOR STUDENTS AND ADULTS
We also helped the museum create a live interactive program lead by museum ‘activators’. Especially, but not exclusively designed for middle- and high-school students, the tour is an Artistic Activism Reality Show Competition. The educators at the museum are also welcoming advocacy organizations and activist groups to use the space to plan their next campaign and get inspired.
GO SEE IT!
The Utopia Project is at the museum from Nov 1, 2022 – March 1, 2023. Now that we’ve seen how people respond so enthusiastically to this physical manifestation of our work, we’re itching to make more exhibits. Contact us if you know of a museum, library or gallery that might be interested in this timely and engaging kind of exhibit experience.
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