Playfully Laboring through the Beautiful Unknown

Blake Ward, Museum Experience Manager

30 May 2017

In her book The Rise:Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, author and educator Sarah Lewis explores the journeys of people working to master their creative pursuits. I was reminded of her words this past week as we began the process of testing our newly created museum experiences in the pursuit of mastery of experiences which provoke the imaginations of our visitors and which inspire play filled lives within our community. In her book, Lewis describes mastery in this way;

“Mastery requires endurance. Mastery, a word we don’t use often, is not the equivalent of what we might consider its cognate — perfectionism — an inhuman aim motivated by a concern with how others view us. Mastery is also not the same as success — an event-based victory based on a peak point, a punctuated moment in time. Mastery is not merely a commitment to a goal, but to a curved line, constant pursuit.”

Photograph by Marcos Hernández mago

Lewis describes the constant pursuit towards mastery as different from mere incremental day to day work, rather she calls it a form of labor. She says,

“Brilliant emotions and human feats that have come from labor — an endeavor that offers the world a gift from the maker’s soul — involve a path aided by the possibility of setbacks and the inestimable gains that experience can provide. Some could say that what we call “work” often does not. “Work is what we do by the hour,” author Lewis Hyde argues, but labor “sets its own pace. We may get paid for it, but it’s harder to quantify…Writing a poem, raising a child, developing a new calculus, resolving a neurosis, invention in all forms — these are labors.”

“Young children naturally operate at the pace of their labors and regularly linger in places of un-knowing and inquiry.”

As we begin exploring the pace of our labors, through observing, wondering, testing and responding, I’m reminded of the courage it takes to venture into places of un-knowing and inquiry. Leaning into the pace of our endeavors requires courage, but also reaps rewards, such as the sheer exhilaration of reaching a peak point. Giving in to an easeful pace and leaning into the unknown is something I think we can learn from children if we are willing to slow down, look and listen. Young children naturally operate at the pace of their labors and regularly linger in places of un-knowing and inquiry. It is in these places, in which we are at our most venerable, that moments of discovery truly thrive. When we allow ourselves to lavish in the aesthetics of a piece of art or beautiful environments such as we have created in our newly remodeled museum, we experience the familiar in new and exciting ways. Encounters with beauty awaken the senses and re-open our eyes to the possibilities in our surrounding environment.

Photograph by Marcos Hernández mago

Educator and philosopher John Dewey put it this way;

“Art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moments in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is.”

As we observe our visitors encounter the beauty of our new museum environments and as we labor towards mastery of aesthetic experiences which invite play, and awaken our visitors’ creativity, confidence and all the many powers of play, we in the Museum Experience department will work to capture the many moments of discovery which will happen all the time throughout the museum. We will try and document with video, images and words the beauty of all of our labor, as well as, the playful discoveries of our visitors, and share them with you. Please enjoy the images of some of the moments of discovery which happened during this past week’s testing period, and linger in the beauty of unknowing, the labor of play, the peculiar intensity of the now, and look forward to the quickening of what now is…


Blake & The Museum Experience Team

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