Tag Archives: museum events

Film Forward sparks dialogue…again

Earlier this year the Imperial County Film Commissioner’s Office brought the Sundance Institute’sFilm Forward Program to the Valley. We were invited to participate in a continuation of that program through a Google Hangout.

Last Saturday at the 3,000 artifacts event, we screened “Somewhere Between” a film about several young woman who were adopted from China into American families and their struggle for identity. This morning, we joined participants from across the country and internationally to compare and discuss the reaction of our communities with each other and the film’s director.
I watched the film apart from our group of participants, and I have to say I’m glad I did. I almost the exact opposite reaction as this group of college-aged students raised in a border culture. I thought of my very good friend who was adopted into a white family in a white dominated area and mourned. But even my friend’s experiences were different than those in the documentary – that is to say, American families aren’t in the habit of flying to China yearly. In the film, one of the girls’ families flew 4 people over to meet her birth family – as completely unthinkable in Imperial County as it is in middle Pennsylvania.
And Imperial County had no sympathy. The IVC student participants, one can generalize, are accustomed to differences. Even within their small group one person was the only Columbian in the room, another was the only white person. These young adopted Chinese women should not be so worried about their differences to from the world around them. They should find their self-worth in themselves and the people who love them. Thus concluded the group who are accustomed to being “different”.
The hangout discussion lead by the Film Forward monitors focused less on the film and more on the personal stories of the girls. The participants from Arizona State University included an adopted student who was born in China and was willing to share her experiences. Our group was extremely engaged in the discussion with her and her personal comments on whether her own journey to find identity was found inside or outside her physical appearance.
I absolutely love the Film Forward program and I love holding it at the museum. The students were enthusiastic and engaged with other students who were enthusiastic and engaged. It sparks conversations and broadens viewpoints for all involved. It was fantastic to watch; and to be a part of. After the discussion digitally concluded, we screened the film a second time and the lively conversation continued into the afternoon.

3,000 Artifacts in a Day event

Twenty-four volunteers helped curate 1,908 artifacts.

Saturday the museum held a 14-hour, 3,000 Artifacts in a Day event: 10am – midnight. Twenty four volunteers made good headway toward the ambitious goal, contributing over a hundred hours combined.  People actually started working around 9:00am and came throughout the day. At the end of the day, around 8pm, a  group of IVC students arrived and gave the event a second wind. We worked through the night.

Normally our volunteers complete 600 artifacts in a week, so trying to re-curate 3,000 in one day was a large goal. In the end about 1,900 artifacts were moved from temporary storage into permanent storage.

Imperial Valley College students curated through the night.

Some of the archaeologists who originally collected the artifacts were on hand to talk about the significance of the collections and their experience in the field. Volunteers were also invited on tours of the collection rooms, where they received a behind the scenes look at the process of starting a new museum. 

One of our volunteers, a new curator, saw a sign posted on the wall that the most someone had curated in a day was 161 artifacts. Intending to stay from 10:30am-2pm, he actually worked until 7pm to beat that number. “I was late,” he said, “I came at 10:30. I had to put in my time.” When he left, we tallied up his total: 181 artifacts.

At the very end of the evening, we screened the movie “Somewhere Between” as part of the Sundance Institute, and their partners, Film Forward program. The documentary records the life experience of 7 young girls who were adopted into American families from Asia. I continued to lead the curation, but I heard some stimulating conversation going on during the movie. Curation and movie = success.

Slow season


Following the watercolor workshops that ended our youth summer programs, we held two hikes into the desert for some plein aire painting. Here’s one of mine of Indian Hill in Anza Borrego State Park.

It was a good end to the slower summer months. At the Society of American Archivists conference I managed to garner a lot of encouraging support for the museum. Simmons College, where I completed my Masters, is very interested in establishing an intern program in Ocotillo.

Back on the home front its time to prep for the influx of visitors known as “snowbirds”. When the desert calms down and becomes more… tolerable…. the annual visitors to the Valley will start filtering back in to take advantage of our unique environment.

With a commitment from a new intern and a plan to stock the gift shop with local art, I’m excited to welcome the next wave of visitors to the new Imperial Valley Desert Museum.

In the Press – paper & video


There is nothing in the Imperial Valley Press that this county doesn’t see. This week the museum was featured on the press website in a video and article about our watercolor class. We are testing various programs to see what type of programming the community is interested in, while at the same time “being seen to be hard working” as Ben Franklin would advise. We are building an audience.




Art in Miniature

The artist who arranged the museum’s Every Day is Earth Day exhibit invited Jenica and I to another opening this weekend. In Mexicali, Mexico.

The exhibit Madrecita: Arte en Miniatura allowed people to get up close and personal with the pieces. There were several that enticed the viewer with minute details, compelling a closer look and an intimate study of the work.

After the opening, which started at 9pm, we went out for karaoke, which was good for practicing our Spanish.

The artists didn’t stop working. (Sound familiar? I think we are going to get along with this crowd.)

Jorge Estrada, photographer

Pablo Castaneda, Visual artist

We got home as the sun came up.

Exhibit Opening and Bran Nue Dae

Our first exhibit opened on May 2nd.


I have always liked May.


The exhibit, entitled Every Day is Earth Day allows us to see the world through the eyes of seven members of the Imperial Valley College Arts Faculty.  We marked the occasion with a celebration of art and film that continued all evening.

Earlier in the month, we held a preview of the event for the Friends of the Museum, a support group of members who have made a commitment to support the museum with a gift of $500 every year for the next five years. Lauryl Driscoll, who attended both events, commented that her parents had worked for more than 30 years to see this museum get built, “and it is great to see it finally happen.”

“I like the idea of having a new cultural institution that will support the arts,” said Bernardo Olmedo, who was instrumental in organizing the exhibit. Carol Hegarty, the Head of the Humanities Department at IVC, agreed, “It takes everyone working together in a community for local arts to be successful. It is not about competition, it is about partnership.” As I said when I opened the event that evening, I am realizing that much of what the Valley has to offer is under-appreciated and the Desert Museum can help highlight this spectacular community.

Rachel Perkins discusses her film, Bran Nue Dae.

The evening continued with a screening from the Film Forward program. This international program from the Sundance Institute brought two independent films to the Imperial Valley with the film directors. Here at the Museum, we screened Bran Nue Dae – my absolutely favorite Australian film. Director Rachel Perkins captivated the audience and demonstrated, as I’d been promoting for months now, that this was not an event to be missed.

We had an intimate group of 30, a solid turn out for a weekend event 25 miles outside of town. And now they are 30 people who now understand my adoration for this quirky little film. They join the 8 million people in Australia who have viewed the film – a huge number for a country with a population of only 2 million. Many attendees commented that the film was funnier than they thought it would be and the director explained that this film is one of only 3 Aboriginal comedies – and she has produced two of them. Usually, she said, films about Aboriginal people are somber and serious and she deliberately made a film that people could see themselves reflected in and laugh. People asked about the lack of dreaming references (though someone else said the jail scene with traditional dancing – ie dreaming – was the best in the movie). Rachel explained that this film was not a vehicle for that aspect. It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about this film. It’s irreverent and zany, reaches all audiences, and captures the contemporary spirit of Australians today. 

The night overall successfully stimulated conversation on the commonalities and differences between cultures, cultural expression through art, and the charming grace of passionate communities.

This morning the last Film Forward event was an informal chat with the directors. I went with an aspiring young film maker who is now so excited I have to go out and find film editing software so he can make movies in the Museum’s technology lab. As we left the event, I was incredibly loathed to leave. “Did you ever imaging that when you came here and made us watch Bran Nue Dae that you’d be having a casual cup of coffee with the Director?” Never in my wildest. But I should know better than to be surprised. Australia is the biggest small town there is.


First Exhibit – Every Day is Earth Day

Bernardo Olmedo joins in one of the many simultaneous discussions about expressions of culture through art.

If Earth Day is just one day, our days are numbered. At the Desert Museum, we celebrate the Earth every day – and we have an art exhibit to prove it.


The Desert Museum is a community-based project. Our philosophy is “if you need it, we can help you build it.” One of the artists participating in our new exhibit came to the Desert Museum to discuss a project partnership, and left with a commitment to fill our empty walls. There are very few galleries to show artists work, he told me, and people are always looking for new spaces to showcase their talents. “Bring me something,” I said, “and we’ll put together a show.” In a matter of weeks we had the commitment of 6 artists, all members of the Imperial Valley College Arts Faculty.


We have filled our empty walls with our FIRST exhibit, and the artists have a professional looking exhibit. On May 2nd the exhibit opens with an artist reception. The director is away at a conference, leaving me in charge of the event. He’s nervous, as you might expect. The reputation of the museum rides on each one of these early events. But he doesn’t know I was trained by the best gallery owners Rhode Island has ever seen. They’ve since retired from the business, but they left beauty in their wake.

Starry Night @ the Museum

I’m trying not to be impressed by our own success, but no one at the museum expected to have 140 people show up at last night’s event. We were thinking 20-30 interested souls. In retrospect, I’m not surprised. The community’s desire to see the museum open has been tangible since day 1, but yesterday was the first day that it was demonstrated en force.

I had a great conversation with one participant about the importance of the museum in the community. He’s seen it coming for some time and has encouraged others to invest in it. He hasn’t had a great response thus far, but we hypothosized that if we got this type of audience with shoe-string budgeted program, we can tug the community’s imagination as to what a need there is for this museum and for what we can achieve.


Archives Event – Spring 2 Collections

On the heels of all the wonderful Spring 2 Collection events at the museum came the Archives Event.

This was a great moment for me. Finally, I would get to show people what I was here to do! I’m always introduced as the Visiting Archivist at the Museum, but I’m sure that people don’t know what that means. Or how significant it is in the Turks and Caicos.

I have the same speech for everyone: The holdings of the museum are the only secured and publicly accessible archives in the country. And we’ve just applied for a grant from the British Library for Endangered Archives to collect pre-1900 records. (that always gets an eyebrow raise). When pressed, I’ll add a bit about archives as living memory.

So at the event that night I was able to show people exactly what I’ve been talking about. I showed them a “before” (unorganized piles) and “after” (pristine boxes with labels). We talked about the importance of acid-free containers, the ink/paper reaction of 1800’s records, the benefits of saving the originals vs. placing materials in a database.

I think this last point hit home when we looked up one of the participant’s family names in the 1888 hurricane relief report. The report listed the occupation of the head of household (carpenter), the number of family members (6), and the damage (kitchen totally destroyed). Of all the documents I’ve come across in the collections, this report is the most powerful. It tells a story all on it’s own and demonstrates how archives can tell a story long after living memory has forgotten. Which is what I told my listeners and watched with satisfaction as they nodded in agreement (success!!).

All in all, I think the Archives Event was a great way to end the Spring 2 Collections Series at the museum. I was happy at the response we got, and we had a rather large crowd and some new faces. We finished the night at the Bohio (Italian night) with some new friends and some old. For my first lecture I think it went very well.