Sunday, February 1, 2009

Too Intelligent to be Fooled

A brief foray back into the US museum world. In the past week or so, incredible attention in the media and in the blogosphere has focused on Brandeis University's proposal to close the Rose Art Museum and sell the entire collection.

My friend Claire, a freshman at Brandeis, sent me an essay written by Julia Sferlazzo, a senior student arts major at Brandeis and posted on the student blog, Innermost Parts. I won't repeat the full essay, but as I read it, I was struck by the parallels with some of my work here in Ukraine.

Julia writes,

Our school is in a dire economic situation right now, but the loss of the Rose is one that will damage our history, legacy, and standing in the public view forever. While it is certain that changes need to be made and programs may be cut, we must urge the Administration and the Board of Trustees to have confidence that the students can be trusted to take part in these hard decisions. They should know that this institution has made us too intelligent to be fooled by press releases and evasive answers. We have each been taught to inquire and debate. We have learned never to accept an answer without proof. Our voice on this issue and our unity in demanding transparency is a testament to the very motto of this university, "truth even unto its innermost parts." I ask the administration to honor that motto, to give us the hard answers to some very hard questions, and to trust that our time at Brandeis has educated us to understand. If the administration makes the situation clear, we will not feel as if they are doing something to us, but as if we are all working together to solve an incredibly difficult situation. We must each attempt to understand another perspective and examine what is best both now and for the future.

The sense of questioning and transparency is still less than one generation old in Ukraine. But in my work here, I can see, as at Brandeis, that young people committed to such thoughtful inquiry are genies that cannot be put back in the bottle--that such change, if nurtured, will become permanent.

Window at St. Sophia's, Kyiv

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