Champagne In The Ladies Church/Restroom

I was somewhat amused by the story of a museum in Tasmania that had a lawsuit brought against it because one of its exhibits was intentionally designed to exclude those who did not identify as women. The experience of being excluded or welcomed was part of the exhibition.

It was designed to take the concept of an old Australian pub – a space which largely excluded women until 1965 – and turn it on its head, offering champagne and five-star service to female attendees, while refusing men at the door.

[…]

The museum had responded by claiming the rejection Mr Lau had felt was part of the artwork, and that the law in Tasmania allowed for discrimination if it was “designed to promote equal opportunity” for a group of people who had been historically disadvantaged.

The person who brought the suit claiming it was a violation of Tasmania’s anti-discrimination law, won the case on that basis.

The exhibit had been closed since that ruling, but last week I saw a follow-up article stating the lounge is being turned into a restroom and a church in order to take advantage of a legal exemption to maintain the original exclusive intent. Envisioning the space operating as a restroom and church is the part that amused me most. And then I read the additional irreverent plans the artist has for the use of the room and I had a little cackle.

“There is a fabulous toilet coming to the Ladies Lounge, and so in that sense the Ladies Lounge will operate as a ladies’ room.

“It’s a toilet that is celebrated the world round. It is the greatest toilet, and men won’t be allowed to see it,” Ms Kaechele said in Australian media reports.

Some of the key artworks, like the ones by Picasso, will be moved into the museum’s existing ladies toilet to ensure “uninterrupted viewing” while she applies for other exemptions.

And only on Sundays, men would be allowed into the space – to learn ironing and laundry folding.

“Women can bring in all their clean laundry and the men can go through a series of graceful movements (designed by a Rinpoche and refined by tai chi masters) to fold them,” she said, in an interview published by the museum on Tuesday.

[…]

“Thanks to the ruling, we have no choice but to open ourselves to a whole range of enriching experiences – spiritual, educational… to discover fascinating new possibilities, and to become better,” she said.

Creativity Isn’t Locked Away In This Shed

Rochester Institute of Technology (RTI) has a new building that puts creative spaces right next to each other. The Student Hall for Exploration and Development (SHED) has acting and and dance studios with transparent walls as featured spaces in the building next to maker spaces with equally transparent walls and garage style doors which open to a common space embracing the philosophy that arts and STEM practices can inform each other.

“Placing performing arts facilities so close to tech-project spaces encourages a unique kind of cross-fertilization. For a play presented in the Glass Box Theater called Ada and the Engine, fourth-year mechanical engineering major Catherine Hampp used the SHED’s 3D printing technology to build a stage version of Charles Babbage’s 1832 calculating device, a precursor of today’s computers. The textile lab can aid costumers of theatrical productions, then turn to the task of crafting headgear that can comfortably support devices that allow facial and eye movements to control a wheelchair. These are refined by student researchers in the co-located electronics lab.”

These spaces open on to an atrium with tables and chairs where students can socialize. The building connects the library and student union which results in about 15,000 students passing by all this creative activity and displays on a daily basis.

Right from the start of the article, I immediately thought of the way Steve Jobs designed Pixar Studios building with the restroom and mail room at a central hub so that people from different parts of the company would bump into each other and talk about what they are working on. His goal was to spur innovation with cross-pollination of ideas. The story I linked to in my 2014 post on the topic isn’t available any longer, but my recollection was that employees at the outskirts rebelled at having to walk so far to use the restroom and Jobs eventually relented and installed some in other parts of the complex.

Interestingly in that same 2014 post, I wrote about the segregation of the creative class from the rest of the community in many cities, especially in college towns. This sort of dynamic manifests in a cultural divide because there isn’t intermixing between the general community and the creatives who gather near the campuses. One of the places where the divide is least present are places in the Midwest and Sunbelt. In 2014, Rochester, NY was the second least segregated community behind Minneapolis-St. Paul.  RTI’s approach with the SHED isn’t new to the institution so I wouldn’t be surprised if they contributed to the overall culture of of the city in this respect.

 

 

Getting All Eyes And Minds On Accessibility

Yesterday, the Western Arts Federation (WESTAF) sponsored a webinar on accessibility lead by Betty Siegel, Director Office of Accessibility and VSA at The Kennedy Center.

Siegel was absolutely fantastic. Her presentation was dynamic, full of relatable examples, and humor. One example she gave as the best sources of information about the history of accessibility was Comedy Central’s Drunk History episode on Judy Heumann’s early advocacy for disability rights. She frequently claimed the Drunk History series was a primary source of information for her.

While she did talk about legal and human dignity issues associated with accessibility, the overall goal of her presentation was about getting staff and volunteers to the point of internalizing the philosophy of making spaces and events accessible. You can renovate the physical space and compose policies, but if everyone isn’t invested in the practice, situational barriers may arise that people overlook as problems.

The example she used was of a historic building that has stairs at the front door and a ramp to a side door. The janitor opens both doors every day, but one day he is absent an a staff/volunteer comes in and not being aware of the full practice, only unlocks the front door.

Interestingly, that aligned with an experience I had just a week earlier when I realized that cleaning or facility staff might be deactivating the powered doors in our buildings at night and no one was turning them back on in the morning.  If someone hit the door plates, they wouldn’t open. So I had taken to tapping the door plates on my way in every day to make sure the doors swing open. But I also need to make sure everyone else is checking the doors as well.

Video of the webinar below. List of resources WESTAF provided below that.

 

 

Accessibility Resources

  • U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ): 
    • 800-514-0301 (voice); 800-514-0383 (TTY)
  • U.S. Access Board:
  • ADA Centers National Network:
    • 1-800-949-4232
  • W3C (wcag 2.1 aa)
  • National Endowment for the Arts:  
  • Access Smithsonian:  
  • Kennedy Center Office of VSA and Accessibility:  

Take Care That Mural Isn’t Destroying Instead Of Revitalizing

I was walking through a building lobby when I noticed a table with a pamphlet discouraging people from painting murals on their brick buildings. My first thought was that this city department was undermining community beautification efforts. But as I read more closely, I realized the brochure was warning people about some very real issues associated with damaging the structural integrity of buildings.

If you are a member of the arts community trying to cultivate a more creative environment in your city, you don’t want to have your beautification efforts responsible for hastening the decline of the very neighborhoods you are trying to revitalize.

I recently wrote an ArtsHacker post citing some of the issues raised by the brochure I came across.

I mentioned the following among the things to consider, but there are more details in the full post:

Many of the issues painting brick structures creates are related to trapping moisture in what is normally a relatively porous, breathable material. Temperature changes causing expansion of that moisture can undermine the structural integrity of the brick and mortar.  The paint can obscure the development of these issues until the damage becomes severe and repairs more costly and extensive.

[…]

Keep in mind that geographic location should also be factored in to the materials and process chosen. The guide linked to here is calibrated to the conditions of cold, snowy winters and glaring summer sun at elevations exceeding one mile. Murals will weather differently in the relatively warmer, more humid climes of the southeast and drier, hotter deserts of the southwest, as well as the mix of annual weather conditions across the rest of the US.

 

 

Don’t Be Too Quick To Paint That Mural