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What if? Demand the Impossible. On Museums and the Struggle for Social Justice

November 1, 2016 @ 6:30 pm

Location:  University of Michigan Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium

What if museums were to acknowledge their complicity with systemic forms of oppression, and commit to a reparations movement as part of a process of truth and reconciliation?

What if museum and exhibition programs at universities were to foster a form of fugitive studies?

What if access and equity were to truly be at the center of museum work?

Through an exploration of current and fictitious museums, works in progress and not yet realized projects, this talk examines these “What if” propositions, and takes the impossible as the only realistic option for museums in these fiercely urgent times.

This talk is inspired by Bill Ayers’ most recent book Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto (Haymarket, 2016), where he asks us to “unleash our radical imaginations and push ourselves to break the straightjackets of conventional thinking.”  Join in a conversation about how museums and other cultural institutions might fulfill a moral obligation to recognize the capacious, colorful, and diverse world of all that is beautiful, true and just.

Co-sponsored by the University of Michigan Museum of  Art.


Lisa Yun Lee (PhD) is the Director of the School of Art & Art History, an Associate Professor, and member of the Art History, Museum and Exhibition Studies, and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Lisa is also the co-founder of The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council, an organization dedicated to creating spaces for dialogue and dissent and for reinvigorating civil society. As the previous Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, she oversaw a new core exhibition, and reinvigorated public programming that connected the museum with contemporary social justice struggles.  She most recently served on the American Alliance of Museum’s Direct Care task force that made new recommendations around the ethics of direct care.  She researches and writes about museums and diversity, cultural sustainability, and spaces for fostering radically democratic practices. Lisa received her BA in Religion from Bryn Mawr College, and a PhD in German Studies from Duke University. She is the Co-Chair of the Executive Committee of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at UIC, and she serves on the national boards of the American Alliance of Museums, Imagining America: Artists & Scholars in Public Life, the Ms. Magazine Advisory Board, and the boards of Rebuild Foundation, the National Public Housing Museum, Young Chicago Authors, and 3Arts.

Lisa Yun Lee 8.5 x 11


November 1, 2016
6:30 pm
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U-M Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium
525 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 United States
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