June 2021, Jordia Benjamin

Member of the Month for June 2021, Jordia Benjamin is holding a print fresh off a printing press.
2021 June Member of the Month: Jordia Benjamin
Jordia holding a customized wood print of the Colby College Museum of Art facade designed by Pickwick Independent Press based in Portland, Maine for the Museum’s Fall 2018 Open House. Each guest was able to print their own copy as a part of the opening activities. 
Photo by Gabe Souza.

Jordia Benjamin is the Mirken Senior Coordinator of Programs and Audience Engagement for the Colby College Museum of Art. Jordia and group of colleagues will be presenting a session entitled “Practicing Wellness Inspired by the Museum Collection” on Thursday, June 10 from 12-1:30PM EST for #AAMG2021-Be sure to check it out! Thank you Jordia for sharing your time with us, and for being a member of AAMG!

What’s one thing — either industry/work-related or not — you learned in the past month?

JB: This past month I’ve been marveling at the charity of BIPOC artists, who through the sale of their artwork have generously donated to social justice organizations, community centers, and anti-racist organizations, messaging with the objective of raising awareness. Subjects on subpar education funding in depressed areas, voter suppression, LGBTQIA2S+ rights, unequal gender pay, the overall effects of poor healthcare, COVID/vaccine race and ethnicity discrimination, police brutality, and environmental justice have been brought to the forefront, no longer to be ignored. The BIPOC artist movement is truly a call to action if we are to achieve a more equitable, sustainable, and just society. 

This resilient work is exhausting and often goes unsaid and undervalued. Thus I do hope our BIPOC community finds support, ease, rest, reassurance, and action from allies. We are truly in this together.

On Thursday, February 14, 2019, Jordia welcomed a Museum guest at the Museum’s Spring 2019 Open House in the Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness exhibition. Jordia has organized the museum’s open houses each semester that attracted over 500 guests, including Colby students, faculty, and staff along with community members and Museum patrons. 
Photo by Gabe Souza.

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

JB: No one, in particular, comes to mind but I would be interested in trading places with a world leader or to sit as a member of the United Nations to have the opportunity to make global change. 

Coffee or Tea?

JB: Herbal loose leaf teas. I’m eager to add teas from Ivy’s Tea Co., The Irie Cup, and Hands of Sage to my growing tea collection. 

Jordia presenting an image from the Theaster Gates: Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories exhibition to local teens participating in a SLICE (Students Learning Innovative Creative Endeavors) program on May 14, 2019. Jordia partnered with Waterville Creates, a local arts cultural organization, to develop the SLICE program for students ages 13–19 that offers unique experiences at creative arts organizations throughout Waterville, Maine. Photo by Joseph Bui ’22, Museum Student Photographer. 

Book/Author suggestion?

JB: For the last year and a half, I have been reading fictional books written by black women authors. A few of the books read are: The Mothers by Brit Bennett, Terry Mcmillan, I Almost Forgot About You, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and Their Eyes Are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Currently, I am reading the novel Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. 

I end each day with these novels, as they provide me with solace, refuge, and comfort. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

JB: I always wanted to be in the arts. As a child and teenager, I enjoyed the visual and performing arts along with an interest in law. The thought of pursuing a degree in Art Law with a focus on Art Theft has always intrigued me. Today, that degree would have been useful in the decolonization and repatriation of museums’ collections. Too many countries have had their valuable artifacts stolen as spoils of war, looting archaeological sites, and/or unethical purchases which have deprived them of their cultural history and identity. Unfortunately, museums and ultimately, states, cities, and countries have benefited from these conditions.

On June 2, 2019, Bodhi Simpson, a licensed art therapist with a private practice in Waterville, Maine, called Conscious Art Therapy (left) and Jordia (right) at the 2019 Central Maine Pride Festival hosting an activity table, which provided guests with the opportunity to “speak their truth”. Guests wrote their truth on postcards to be posted for the community to see, or privately submit to the pride festival, or created as a keepsake. 
Photo courtesy of Jordia Benjamin.

What do you enjoy most about being a part of an academic museum?

JB: I have enjoyed the interaction with students in my different capacities, one of them, as a college instructor.  In my first semester at my academic museum, I taught an Introduction to Museum Education which focused on the right way to engage the community and how to create or adapt programs for an enjoyable museum experience. 

I also take delight in encouraging students to stay involved post-college and challenging them to seek careers as artists, art educators, and museum professionals. Additionally, I do not just teach art for art seekers, but I utilize art as a medium to teach topics of culture, social justice, activism, perspectives, history, and critical race theory among others, so students become empowered and more informed citizens. Watching them pursue and excel in their respective fields has brought me joy.

Jordia discussing the Thomas Ball Emancipation Group, 1865, with local teens participating in a SLICE (Students Learning Innovative Creative Endeavors) program on November 5, 2019. The SLICE program takes place in the fall and spring seasons and have engaged over 200 local teens since its’ creation.  
Photo by Joseph Bui ’22, Museum Student Photographer.

What are your hopes for our industry?

JB: I hope Museums, in particular, will embrace more diversity in leadership roles. I look forward to the day when marginalized groups of people will lead departments, projects, museums, and boards with the right amount of financial support and workforce to ensure success. I hope we can expand from diversity and inclusion into liberation and justice, which will fully embrace BIPOC humanity. I also hope that Museums can learn to embrace the cultural knowledge of their community members and incorporate their voices in the designs of exhibitions, programs, and acquisitions.   

Bonus: Do you have a favorite joke to share?

JB: I take delight in corny, dry, dad jokes. So here goes: “Do you love dry erase boards? Of course, they are remarkable!”

On May 31, 2019, Jordia welcomed guests to the Museum for the first Central Maine Pride opening reception in celebration of the 2019 year’s theme: “Remember Our Heritage, Do Something Now, Love Always.” The theme was complemented by the Museum’s then-current exhibition, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness. Through this ongoing photographic project, South African queer visual activist Zanele Muholi presents a visionary mosaic of identities, an exquisite empire of selves.
Photo by Sijie Yuan.

Post the conference, Jordia will be departing the Colby Museum of Art to accept a Deputy Director appointment at Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland, Maine. If you have any Colby Museum programming questions, please email museum@colby.edu