Saturday, July 31, 2021

Making Your (Creative) Fortune




Creativity and creative enterprises sometimes take unexpected paths.

I have a bag of fortune cookie fortunes that I've saved for over 30 years (obviously I like Chinese food AND fortune cookies!)


But I only save the "good" fortunes -- the ones that somehow resonate with me. (Now if my kids get a fortune they think is a "good" one, they save it for me too.)

Anyway, I was thinking about my bag of fortunes, and how they relate to the little unexpected nudges that send us down creative paths we might not have followed otherwise.

See that picture at the top of this post? That's Lin-Manuel Miranda reading a book in a hammock while on vacation.  But not just any book, it's the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

Miranda just wanted a "big book" to read while on vacation and somewhat randomly chose Chernow's historical tome.  And from that sequence of events, the smash-hit play Hamilton was born.

The musician Brian Eno, inspired by artist Peter Schmidt, developed a deck of cards called "Oblique Strategies."  Each card offers "a challenging constraint intended to help artists (particularly musicians) break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking."  

Over the years, Eno has developed several Oblique Strategies decks that you can purchase, but there are also Oblique Strategies apps and online versions that offer creative suggestions like: "Slow preparation, fast execution" or "Steal a solution."

The composer John Cage used the I Ching to produce compositions called "indeterminate music." An example is "Music of Changes" in which all the musical and compositional decisions were determined by the I Ching.

So in the spirit of John Cage, I chose four fortunes at random from my collection to share, and to reflect on what they mean to me in the context of my creative design practice:




Sometimes in exhibit design (and in life!) there's no "perfect" choice, sometimes you just need to choose and move forward!





I like working with creative partners that don't need to always be right, but who are willing to engage in robust give-and-take and offering up options and solutions, not just criticisms.





It's good to be open to ideas that might not initially make sense.  (A hip-hop musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton? Nah, that will never work!)



Here's wishing all ExhibiTricks readers good creative "fortune" with their projects!
  

Do you have your own favorite ways to get past "creative block"? Share your ideas in the "Comments" section below!




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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Design Inspiration: Mariko Kusumoto




Mariko Kusumoto was born in Japan where she studied art before continuing her education in San Francisco. Today, from her Lexington, Massachusetts studio, Kusumoto combines a love of the ocean, creative shapes, and found objects to create their work.




I'm especially inspired by the combinations of materials that Kusumoto uses to evoke oceanic plants and animals.




To find out more about the range of Mariko Kusumoto's work, click on over to her website or Instagram account.






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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Friday, July 9, 2021

Museum Spirit?


Although he could have lived anywhere in the world, Louis Armstrong lived in a modest brick house on 107th Street in Corona, Queens from 1943 until he died in his sleep there in 1971.  I could have ferreted out that information on the Web, but instead, I learned about Louis Armstrong by actually visiting his house, which is now a museum and National Historic Landmark. With bar none, the coolest kitchen (below) I've ever seen.


Mrs. Armstrong's kitchen


There's something interesting in visiting a place and feeling, if not exactly the "ghosts" of the past, at least the "spirit" of the people who passed that way before you.  I have felt that way in visiting Graceland and the Mark Twain house, but also in very particular outdoor locations like The Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, or the shiny, silvery "bean" in Millennium Park in Chicago.  There was something very evocative in all of those spots  --- almost as if each one of those spaces had a "personality."

One of the best things I've ever heard said about the original Exploratorium was that it felt like you'd walked into Frank Oppenheimer's workshop after he just stepped outside for a minute.  The feeling that real people, with real interests and foibles, have created something for you to experience is one of the most powerful, and most authentic, of museum experiences.

This authentic museum "spirit" is not something that just casually occurs, or manifests itself through some sort of formulaic exhibit development process.  But when all the elements of such a museum experience come together, they form something that really cannot occur in any other medium.



As a little bonus about "Pops" here's a cool remembrance by Ricky Riccardi, the Director of Research Collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum, about the last music Armstrong listened to the day before he died.



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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Questioning the Core


One of the worst trends to come out of the continuing collision between COVID and museums is the notion of invoking the "core" purpose of an institution as a rationale for eliminating staff positions.

When a museum centers, and privileges, its building(s) and collections over its staff and visitors it sends a clear message, "We value stuff over staff, and buildings over programs."

When COVID forced the closure of precious museum buildings, institutions were forced to de-center their physical locations and create different types of offerings in the virtual world.  It has become clear that valuable, and in many ways, more accessible, programs can be offered by cultural organizations that are building-independent.


So how would museums be different:

• If they favored Staff over Stuff?  

• If collaborations with communities de-centered (both physically and mentally) museum buildings?

• If the notion of "core" went beyond just buildings and collections, and meaningfully encompassed staff and programs?



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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Thanks Dad! (Connecting Childhood Memories to Adult Careers)


Father's Day is a meaningful day for me, not only because I have four great kids, but because it gives me time to think about my father, Orlando Orselli, who died in 2001.  My dad certainly helped set many of my ideas about work and parenthood, and I'm thankful for that.

My dad worked most of his adult life for The Ford Motor Company, first at the Rouge Plant, and then at the World Headquarters building (The "Glass House") in Dearborn, Michigan.  He was a Stationary Steam Engineer, which basically means he worked with BIG boiler systems.

Even though he didn't go to college, my dad instilled a love for books and learning, and the importance of education, upon myself and my two younger brothers while we were growing up in Detroit.

Because he worked the midnight shift, he made time to go on school (or scout or Boys Club) field trips during the day and then take a nap before he would drive to work later that night. He thought it was important that my brothers and I helped him fix things around the house and knew the names and uses of the tools in his basement "workshop".

When people ask me how I got into the museum business, I am sure memories of the day when my father took me when I was little (by myself, without my mom and brothers, for some reason) to Detroit's "Cultural Center" to visit the Historical Museum (the streets of "Old Detroit"!) and the Children's Museum (things I could touch!) and the Institute of Arts (Mummies!) all in one long afternoon may have something to do with it.  Many, many family trips involved museums, or zoos, or nature centers.

Even though my career choice in museums might have puzzled my father a little bit, he always told me, and other people, how proud he was of the work I was doing.

Please never underestimate how important museums can be to people, especially kids and the adults they will become.

Thanks Dad!


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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Exhibit Cheapbooks are now FREE!



The four Exhibit Cheapbooks are now available for FREE online!  

That's right -- nearly 100 free exhibit "recipes" contributed by museum colleagues from all over the world are now available to download as PDFs from the POW! website.  (Did I mention that they're FREE?)

A little history --the idea for the Exhibit Cheapbooks started during sessions at the annual Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Conference with the purpose of sharing "cheap" exhibit ideas and creating a written record of how to replicate these simple and successful exhibit components.

The very first "Cheapbook" was compiled and edited by Paul Orselli and published by ASTC in 1995. Subsequent volumes appeared in 1999, 2004, and 2014.

The Exhibit Cheapbooks have always celebrated the "sharing" nature of museums. You will find varied exhibit ideas from museum colleagues from around the world inside each volume. 

Sincere thanks to everyone who has shared their ideas and expertise by contributing ideas over the years! And special thanks to ASTC for allowing all the Exhibit Cheapbooks material to now be shared freely online.

Think of all these Exhibit Cheapbooks entries not as detailed shop drawings, but rather as creative jumping-off points for your own exhibit building.

So what are you waiting for?  Click on over to the Exhibits Cheapbooks Download Page and start making cheap exhibits!


Have fun!



Don't miss out on any ExhibiTricks posts! It's easy to get updates via email or your favorite news reader. Just click the "Sign up for Free ExhibiTricks Blog Updates" link on the upper right side of the blog.

Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

If you enjoy the blog, you can help keep it free to read and free from ads by supporting ExhibiTricks through our PayPal "Tip Jar"