Free First Friday Art Works Exhibition Opening 27511424606 O
Tools & Resources

Thu, Dec 05, 2019

3 Ways We Invite You to Share Unexpected Connections

At the MAH, our mission is to ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections all in the name of building a stronger, more connected community.

We believe that when people make unexpected connections here—both with strangers and with new forms of art and history—we build bridges that bring our community together in the best way possible.

But we don’t only wish for these magical connections to happen. We design them. Read on to see the three core strategies we use to bring strangers, like you and me, together at the MAH:

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1. Encourage people to talk to strangers.

This sounds really obvious but it's not easy. When is the last time you said hello to a stranger passing by? When do you go out of your way to talk to someone you don’t know? Probably not very often. It’s not intentionally encouraged in the design of most spaces and experiences. But it’s the easiest, simplest way for us to connect -- to talk to each other.

Sometimes we need permission or a little nudge of encouragement. We need to know that in this space -- that’s OK and at the MAH, we want you to talk with strangers.

Our programming explicitly asks you to talk with people you don’t know. Sometimes that’s with an icebreaker before a lighting talk, in an ancestry UNO card game in an exhibition, an action card that asks you be a phone check-in buddy with a senior, group capoeira in Abbott Square, a Café Charla discussion on culture, or an around the town history scavenger hunt.

We explicitly ask people to talk to strangers here and design experiences that make talking to each other safe, easy, and fun.

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2. Make it easy and interesting for people to learn from each other.

If you’ve been to the MAH you know in every exhibition and event we ask you to share your ideas, stories, or creativity. We do this because we believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute. We all have something to learn from each other.

For those who choose to participate, you’ll know your contribution is valued. We proudly display your ideas, stories, and creativity right on the walls of the gallery. We hope that your candidness will inspire someone else to open up or maybe a stranger will relate to your response and for the first time see themselves featured inside a museum. That's when the magic happens.

We often have activities that ask you to work together with strangers: make together, play together, discuss together, move together, or dream together. When we work together, we learn from each other. When we learn with each other, we build trust. When we build trust, we are often able to create something bigger than ourselves.

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3. Share different perspectives and highlight surprising connections.

Each person has a unique perspective to share because we all experience things differently.

At the MAH, we can’t tell every story. But we can create platforms that invite many different ideas to the table. And we can prioritize perspectives from people that have been traditionally underrepresented in museums.

When you come to the MAH for an event, tour, or exhibition -- you’re interacting with a constellation of art and history from different people and perspectives. You may relate to or identify strongly with some perspectives. However, these perspectives may be drastically different than your own. Our job is to help you navigate these differences. To help open up commonalities that may surprise you. We hope your experience here invites new ways of understanding, encourages you to try something different, or challenges your assumptions.

You may see yourself reflected in the stories we share. You may not. But with every person or perspective, you encounter that’s different than your own, we’re inviting you to build respect for those differences and an openness to find a connection.

Connecting with strangers isn’t always easy. There are few places that intentionally bring different kinds of people together for the purpose of connecting. At the MAH, we strive to be that space. Because when we connect people across differences we are building a healthier, stronger Santa Cruz County. On your next visit we hope you explore the galleries with this intention in mind and let us know what you think.

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