Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

Blue Star Voices

The wharf at MCA Denver. Photo by Kris Abel-Helwig

Uncertainty, apprehension, confusion---are those words that come to mind when you think about modern art? For some would-be museum goers, the answer is yes. Uncertainty, apprehension, confusion---for some, the idea of the military and the military lifestyle evokes the same response.

Dr. Adam Lerner, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver offered that comparison during his remarks at the Blue Star Museum Joining Forces Initiative Event. The observation resonated with the audience consisting of military families and members from the Denver art community who had come together to participate in the July 13th program at the museum.

I wonder what the audience expected from the MCA Denver experience. How much did they know about Blue Star Museums? What did most of the audience know about contemporary art? What did some in the audience know of military families?

Of course, the Blue Star Museum program is about appreciation of military families. It’s about a pleasurable distraction from the stressors of a demanding lifestyle. It’s about enjoying the culture of the country military families dedicate their lives to protect. It’s about art appreciation. But it’s also something more and equally important---cultural enlightenment beyond the military community.

Through exposure to the unknown we learn. We see for ourselves. We form our own opinions. We either accept or reject our previously held notions of this new unknown entity. Those of us in the military community who benefit from the art community’s generosity get an art appreciation lesson with each Blue Star Museum visit.

But I suggest those who comprise the arts community also glean a cultural awareness of a sub-community known as military families---they are learning about us and perhaps gaining a first-hand awareness and understanding of who we are as well.

I wonder if the audience was aware of the diversity of the 1,500 participating Blue Star Museums. MCA Denver is a fabulous example of that variety with its unique exhibits and presentation of contemporary art.

I confess, I’ve looked upon contemporary art before and thought, “I don’t get it.” Now, after hearing Adam’s remarks, I understand that probably parts of the American population look at military families who send their loved one off to war, endure hardships, risk everything and think to themselves, “I don’t get it.”

But through programs like Blue Star Museums we can choose to expose ourselves to the unknown and increase our awareness, much like members of the Mickler family did at the MCA Denver exhibit tour.

During the tour, Rien Mickler, 14, and her brother Jonathan, 7, who are part of a Colorado Army National Guard family learned in their own way that art isn’t what they thought it was.

“I always thought of art as painting a picture and stuff,” Rien said. “Today I learned about the artist’s perspective.”

Jonathan learned that sometimes art is a wooden wharf immersed in several inches of water in the middle of a large white room.

“I thought it [the water] was black glass,” Jonathan said.

And how did Jonathan know it wasn’t black glass?

“I touched it!” he said.

And just like that, whether he realized it or not, Jonathan learned that art can be visual, tactile, and emotional. His exposure broadened his perspective.

For the record he thought the museum on a 1-10 scale of coolness was “very cool.” I’m guessing that’s a 10. Feedback after the event from the wonderful staff at MCA Denver characterized the military families as “amazing.” I’m guessing that’s a 10 as well.

Yes, all kinds of cultural appreciation going on that day.

Regina is the program manager for Blue Star Museums at Blue Star Families, and has recently gained a new appreciation for contemporary art. Please visit the Blue Star Museums website for more information about the program and to find participating museums.

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