Rachel Ropeik is a museum educator and museum adventurer who brings thoughtful, playful, and progressive approaches to engaging people with art. (rachelropeik.com)
Experienced and sought after museum professional in many facets, Rachel has worked for the Guggenheim Museum, Brooklyn Museum, MoMA, the Met, Dulwich Picture Gallery, The Courtauld Gallery in London, Smarthistory?the Khan Academy online. Creator of high-end educational travel content. Also, she has taught and been a contributor at Pratt Institute, New York City Museum Educators Roundtable, NYCMER, Museum Computer Network, and the American Alliance of Museums. Prolific creator of digital and in person engagements emphasizing discussion and empathy building around art and ideas, Rachel’s work goes beyond the confines of digital or simply educational. She has worked for and designed dynamic engagements such as Verbal Description audio Guides (GOAL: to increase access for museum visitors who are blind, have low vision, or are fully sighted though vivid descriptions of specific artworks) Summer of Know (GOAL: to stimulate museum visitors’ thoughts about current world events during extended hours programming in the summer), and One Hour, One Object (GOAL: to facilitate deeper, slower looking for museum visitors). (rachelropeik.com)
My goal in interviewing Ms. Ropeik was to learn about her philosophy and approach to designing engagement programs and to find her advice and reactions to my project’s idea to bring the principles of the Law of Attraction into our busy digital lives in combination with an art gallery’s collection. My interview had an overarching agenda to introduce myself, the project, and my idea. Also from the beginning, I wanted to provide Rachel with my audience interview findings and the evolving solutions to those ‘problems to be solved’. I hoped for her to give me some ideas about where she might go with something like my idea, what to keep in mind while moving forward based on her vast experience and lastly to glean advice about a career in museums today. Rachel reaffirmed my firndings that most engagers today are dealing with digital fatigue greater than any other time, that their patience for meaningless experiences is less than ever, and she also confirmed that audiences are reaching for joy, pleasure, and depth of connection. Rachel complimented and encouraged my ideas around bringing well-being into an initiative and attaching that to art in some way, that art and reflection are meaningful and sought after events in audiences lives. We discussed Prof. Allen Grey’s advice to me to find ways to interconnect engagers with each other and Rachel told me of a few examples to spir my ideas. She spoke about an empathy building activity she ran through a Zoom workshop she developed for the surrounding art collectives in and around the Aspen Art Museum where participants were partnered and “took a walk” together taking their Zoom partner along. Seeing the other’s life and perspective gave conversation and relatable contexts for the participants. Another mindful activity during this workshop was a simple reading event where each partner read a recent important passage and discussed its significance. Several other ideas we discussed that seemed to connect with my idea and solution was the SFMOMA “show me” project we about in class and the Tate Museums’ similar project called the Magic Tate Ball where participants could find a piece of art and life reflection with the listening device that “read” your ambient surroundings and presented a piece reflecting that scene. We laughed that it’s like Shazam for art. “It’s interesting to see how art can show up in our lives in different ways” was her comment. I too believe that it’s interesting and also very related to the ideas of the Laws of Attraction which emphasize that our current vibrations bring forward in our lives the next manifestation. What an insightful and immediate way to see what we might be manifesting with our vibrations!
Another great takeaway idea from my interview with Rachel was something like a gift or art card pack that could contain a relevant Law of Attraction idea couple with a piece of art and additionally with a QR Code that could link a participant with further discussion, reflection, or even the ability to connect with other people in and around the art and the laws.
Thanks to Rachel’s sincere encouragement that being completely out of the box in terms of experience in creating digital engagement previously is a benefit and he belief that what is orbiting a creator’s mind at the moment is a great thing to go with and to see where that leads you, I feel like I can move forward and know that my idea has some merit in the museum digital engagement world. I feel good about further morphing my project toward an Art Card concept that can be both digital and tangible. It also simplifies the project which has been a needed element from the broad ideas I had in the beginning.