Over the past decade, many art museums in the United States have demonstrated their commitment to DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion) through initiatives such as the diversification of their staff and boards, programs for people with disabilities, and exhibitions featuring the work of minority artists. However, museums are just beginning to consider the spatial consequences of accessibility beyond code compliance by improving their facilities to better meet the needs of the diverse publics—people of different ages, genders, races, religions, and abilities—that they are hoping to attract.
Making the Inclusive Museum intends to enrich the ongoing conversation about these timely issues by inviting members of JSA/MIXdesign to share the MIXmuseum Study, consisting of five years of research derived from collaborations with the Queens Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and the San Diego Museum of Art to understand the common and conflicting inclusive design challenges they face. Panelists from some of these institutions will discuss the outcome of this study, a toolkit of design recommendations, prototypes, and guidelines for improving galleries as well as non-gallery spaces (entry sequences, reception, restrooms, and multi-purpose event spaces).
The program will begin with a presentation from JSA/MIXdesign principal Joel Sanders that situates these contemporary challenges in a historical context: from the first purpose-built nineteenth-century civic museums to the advent of the twentieth-century “white cube,” reconciling the needs of the embodied spectator with practical considerations like security, conservation, and crowd control has been an ongoing dilemma. Following Sanders’ presentation, JSA/MIXdesign associate director Seb Choe will share key findings from the MIXmuseum Study generated through an engagement process that used surveys, interviews, and workshops to gather feedback from participating museum stakeholders and visitors.
The program will close with a panel discussion and Q&A moderated by Ignacio G. Galán with representatives from four museums who participated in the study.
JSA/MIXdesign is an inclusive design studio dedicated to considering the needs of a broad segment of the population that the discipline of architecture has traditionally overlooked: people of different ages, genders, races and abilities that fall out of the cultural mainstream. This firm collaborates with institutional clients to develop design recommendations, prototypes and guidelines geared to making public spaces and everyday building types including restrooms, university campuses, and art museums foster a sense of safety, accessibility and belonging for all. JSA/MIXdesign projects have been featured in international exhibitions and the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Museum of Art, and Yale University Archives. The firm has received numerous awards, including six New York Chapter AIA Design Awards and design citations from Progressive Architecture.
In 2018, JSA/MIXdesign launched the MIXmuseum Study, a design research project dedicated to investigating the design consequences of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA) in the museum context.
Joel Sanders is founder and principal of JSA/MIXdesign. A professor at Yale School of Architecture and School of Public Health, Sanders teaches classes examining the intersection of architecture, inclusivity beyond code compliance, and mental and physical health. He is the recipient of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s 2023 Lawrence Israel Prize.
Seb Choe is the associate director of JSA/MIXdesign, where they lead staff and collaborators on inclusive design initiatives. Choe’s practice includes music, performance, and writing which has been published in PIN-UP Magazine, Do Not Research, and books including Queer Spaces: An Atlas of LGBTQ Places and Out in Architecture.
Keonna Hendrick is the director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access at Brooklyn Museum. A cultural strategist and educator, her writing has appeared in the Journal of Museum Education and The Palgrave Handbook of Race and the Arts in Education.
Maria Nicanor is the director of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. An architecture and design curator and historian, Nicanor previously held positions at the Rice Design Alliance, Norman Foster Foundation, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Dyeemah Simmons is an educator and arts worker focused on collaborating with artists to develop spaces for marginalized communities to create, commune, and gain access to critical resources. She is currently the director of social impact at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Sally Tallant is the president and executive director of the Queens Museum, New York. She was previously the director of Liverpool Biennial from 2011-2019, and in 2018, she was awarded an OBE for services to the Arts in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List.
The conversation will be moderated by Ignacio G. Galán, an assistant professor of architecture at Barnard College and Columbia GSAPP. An architect and historian, Galán’s scholarship focuses on architecture’s role in processes of inclusion and exclusion.
About Current Work
Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art. This season, the Current Work series will look at collaborative design processes across scales, from urban design to individual buildings.
Making the Inclusive Museum is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and presented in partnership with JSA/MIXdesign. The event is co-sponsored by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union.
This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.