Roundtable: Using Art to Build Empathy

When we invite potentially controversial ideas, exhibition content, or programming into our museum space, we also invite the opportunity for dialogues about socially relevant issues such as gender, race, ethics, and equity. In this session, our goals are to engage colleagues in: 

  • Using a thinking routine that challenges bias and builds empathy through consideration of other perspectives 
  • Personal and/or professional reflection through a kinesthetic making activity 
  • Sharing what they have and have not found effective when facilitating challenging conversations with students or community members of all ages in the museum setting. 

In the first hour of the session, participants will work in small groups and use a thinking/making routine—Using Art to Build Empathy—to guide engagement with a potentially challenging work of art. This thinking/making routine provides a structured inquiry that asks viewers to look closely, ask questions, challenges bias, and consider other perspectives. Nonprecious artmaking materials will be provided by the session hosts, with roundtable attendees responding to the following prompt: “Create a visual model that conveys the learning or shift in perspective you experienced during this process.” The session will conclude with participants sharing their object, connections, and takeaways from the session.

Raechel Cook, Curator of Academic Engagement, University of Wyoming Art Museum

Aimee Hunt, Associate Academic Curator, The Fralin Museum of Art, University of Virginia