"The multi-disciplinary nature of the Museology Program encouraged me to see the expanded nature of museum practice. I’ve found it a great value to understand the many hands and minds that work together to create an exhibit or event. Having a broad institutional understanding of museums in a general sense allows for a more balanced perspective in the workplace and helps you appreciate the time and talents of those you work with."
A graduate of the University of Washington’s Museology program, Whitney Ford Terry organizes lectures, screenings, workshops, and events as the program coordinator at the Henry Art Gallery. She has had the opportunity to work in a variety of non-profits and museums like MoMA PS1, KEET-TV/PBS, and The Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum. As co-curator of The Hedreen Gallery, Ford-Terry helped develop HOUSE SYSTEMS, a yearlong experiment in ad-hoc collaboration, free choice learning, interdisciplinary study, and endurance at Seattle University. She is also an active volunteer within the arts community and a creative consultant for Lost Sound Tapes, an independent tape and record label based out of Seattle.
What do you like most about your current positions?
My job allows me to explore the world of contemporary art in its most exploded sense by developing programs, exhibition related or otherwise, that tether a broad range of ideas that both challenge and engage visitors. As an arts instigator working within a university context, at both Seattle University and the University of Washington, I enjoy exploring the role of arts education in a way that is a little more cerebral than traditional institutions. Situational understanding is crucial to the dialogic process of education and encourages learners to explore the dynamics between information and curiosity. Unlike the mediated learning space of the classroom, galleries and museums offer practice-based experiences that allow for teachers, learners, dilettantes, and curious to explore, question, and confront work and ideas in a way that is uncompromisingly accountable. The experimental nature of academia paired with the innate curiosity of artistic practice creates a space that is uniquely suited for discovery.
At the Henry my focus lies mainly on creating meaningful supplementary experiences - lectures, workshops, and the like - that help expound upon ideas explored in the museum’s exhibitions. I enjoy developing programs that allow people to more directly align the work on view with their day to day experiences.
My work at the Hedreen Gallery, alongside co-curator Jessica Powers, allows me a little more freedom. As a curator I am able to develop programing and educational opportunities in tandem with the artists from the very beginning. The programs and activities are tied together more deeply and often inform one another. The collaborative nature of these projects is deeply cathartic and allows for educational discovery of another kind altogether.
What classes or experiences (field trips, internships, ...) did you enjoy the most while in the Program?
Work study opportunities, internships, and practicums provided me with the invaluable experience of working in my chosen field with the academic support of the Museology Program. Having a creative job and working while still being in school created a laboratory of ideas in which even my failed experiments proved useful and enriching.
I also really enjoyed Nina Simon’s class during which time we were asked to not only learn about, but create experiences that ask visitors to engage with one-another. While fast-paced, I felt that the coupling of experiential education and classroom content really fortified the ideas explored in the class. It’s these experiences that really impacted my museum education.
What skills from your museology degree have been most useful in your current position?
The multi-disciplinary nature of the Museology Program encouraged me to see the expanded nature of museum practice. I’ve found it a great value to understand the many hands and minds that work together to create an exhibit or event. Having a broad institutional understanding of museums in a general sense allows for a more balanced perspective in the workplace and helps you appreciate the time and talents of those you work with.
Overall, the most valuable skills I learned while in this program were persistence, accountability, and enthusiasm. If you have an understanding of what you want to do, and communicate that, you will do well.
What advice do you have for current or future museology students?
Go to everything, talk to everyone, and write about it - even if you don’t openly share it with others. Find the balance between exhaustion and exuberance.
What is your favorite museum, exhibit, or museum experience?
During my internship at PS1 MoMA I used to spend a LOT of time in queens, New York. Just north of the museum, along the waterfront, is the Socrates Sculpture Park, the only site in the New York Metropolitan area specifically dedicated to providing artists with opportunities to create and exhibit large-scale sculpture and multi-media installations in an outdoor environment that encourages interaction between artists, artworks and the public. The Park's existence is based on the belief that reclamation, revitalization and creative expression are essential to the survival, humanity and improvement of our urban environment.
The work was always interactive and compelling, and the view of the Manhattan skyline in the waning summer sun could not be matched. In the summertime they formed a partnership with Museum of the Moving Image and Rooftop Films to develop a summer cinema series that I attended nearly every week. The films were often coupled with performances and other opportunities to engage with both the films content and the work on view in the park. Even if tenuous these connections that were drawn between these institutions and the content available to the public truly altered my perception of the space and ideas presented each week.