Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Open Thread: Your Stories of Risk and Reward

What's the biggest professional risk you've taken? What happened after you took the risk? 

In three weeks, Kathleen McLean and I are co-hosting a freewheeling talk show at the American Alliance of Museums conference. The theme is "risk and reward," and we plan to explore both individual and institutional relationships to risk-taking. 

Kathy and I have each spent a lot of time advocating for experimental practice and risk-taking in museums, both as consultants and on staff. We've seen the mixed results--lots of excitement, lots of push back, some progress. For me personally, risk-taking has led to incredible professional opportunities, for which I feel lucky and grateful. I'm particularly indebted to Anna Slafer, my amazing boss at the Spy Museum in the mid-2000s. Anna would kick me under the table when I shared ideas out of turn, yet she also fiercely defended me (and our whole team) so we could do creative, risky work.

But many organizations don't have an Anna. Many people struggle with fears of punishment or marginalization for taking risks. It's hard for me to evaluate the extent to which these fears are well-founded, and whether the climate for risk is changing in the arts sector broadly. 

So I'm curious: what is your experience? Did you or your institution take a risk that got rewarded? Punished? Ignored? 

Please share your story in the comments. 

And if you're coming to Baltimore, please join us on Wednesday May 22 at 10:15 for a lively conversation informed by your stories. 
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