AIA New York’s Future of Cultural Centers series considers the role of museums following an era of uncertainty

What's Next?

AIA New York’s Future of Cultural Centers series considers the role of museums following an era of uncertainty

Still not through with a roller coaster of a year, leaders of cultural institutions are now looking how to adapt to a future in which the old frameworks are no longer relevant. (Courtesy Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino/Provided by AIANY)

Arts and cultural institutions have been forced to confront what seems like several decades-worth of societal upheavals, financial crises, curatorial reassessments, and dramatic shifts in the basic ways that they operate all packed into a less than an eight-month span. Many museums have, and not without some hiccups and heartbreak, managed to rise to the occasion during this most tumultuous year. Others remain on wobbly ground with an unclear path ahead following the initial wreckage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

To help these institutions look beyond these calamitous times and better adapt for the future, the American Institute of Architects New York’s (AIANY) Cultural Facilities Committee, in partnership with New York- and Rotterdam-based cultural forecasting and institutional strategy firm David Van Der Leer Design Decisions (DVDL DD), have launched the second part of the Future of Cultural Centers series. The series puts DVDL DD’s David Van der Leer in informal conversation with a diverse range of museum professionals to discuss topical issues facing cultural institutions—technology, racial and social justice, inclusion, community, and on—while pondering the basic question: What’s next?

As a press release from AIANY puts it, the conversations that take place during the Future of Cultural Centers’s fall series will implore participants to look beyond the current moment and consider: “What would museums for the 21st century become if we were to take this unprecedented time to explore new missions, visions, and programs for existing and new institutions? And ultimately, how does this impact how architects design the museums of the future?”

outdoor BLM screening in front of a museum
(Anita Ng/Courtesy The Africa Center/Provided by AIANY)

The series kicks of on October 20 with a conversation between Van der Leer and Courtney J Martin, director of the Yale Center of British Art followed by talks with Miranda Massie, director of The Climate Museum in New York (October 27); Uzodinma Iweala, author, filmmaker, medical doctor, and chief operating officer of The Africa Center in New York (November 10); and Estuardo Rodriguez, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino (November 17).

On December 1, the series will culminate in a panel discussion titled NextGen Reflections that invites a younger generation of museum professionals from the U.S. and further afield—Naiomy Guerrero, formerly of Miami’s Perez Art Museum; Lisa Kennedy of the Museum of Dissent Collective and The Science Museum in London; and Alice Power of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London—to “reflect on and reimagine what’s in store for cultural institutions.”

“Museums are notoriously intricate institutions that today have a responsibility and opportunity that goes beyond the care, presentation, and interpretation of objects,” said Van der Leer in a statement. “Museums can help us see things differently, help us make sense of an increasingly complex world and be a true part of everyday life. In our conversation series, we have learned that museum professionals are often stifled by the bureaucracies and frameworks they operate in, but also that so many of them care deeply and that they want to speak up about great ideas for change they have for the field. This series provides exactly that platform for dialogue and innovation.”

The series, taking place virtually, is sponsored by Microsol Resources. A spring 2021 installment of Future of Cultural Centers dialogues will be announced early next year. In addition to learning more about the upcoming group of museum professionals participating in the talks, you can also watch previous conservations from the summer 2020 edition of the series at the AIANY Cultural Facilities Committee homepage.