Handling Controversy: Challenges of Difficult Subject Matter and the Use of Social Media in Relation to These Challenges 



A seminar for curators Monday, March 7th, 9:30-4:45 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

This one-day seminar for curators will address the challenges of exhibiting sensitive subject matter and handling potential controversy, as well as the specific considerations that the use and impact of social media present for curators. Combining presentations by colleagues with experience handling these issues, internally and externally, this closed-door seminar aims to offer curators strategic tools with which to safeguard their curatorial vision and negotiate effectively with diverse stakeholders.

Controversies over art exhibitions and cultural programming dealing with race, sexuality, geopolitical conflicts, ethnicity or religion are complicated by exacerbated sensitivities over social inequities and relatively new and growing player: social media. The instantaneous wide reach of social media quickly breaks disciplinary and social boundaries making them porous. As a result, a debate that may have been previously confined to people familiar with the visual arts can easily spread beyond it and involve special interest activist groups and other unexpected participants. How can you control interpretation in a world where de-contextualized components of a show can quickly circulate to fuel activist agendas? How can you succeed in keeping the programming going? How do you encourage real debate about sensitive issues? Should institutions respond to social media criticism and where and how can institutions find the support to do so effectively?

The discussions will be led by (in order of appearance): Mike Hearn, Chairman of the Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum, who will focus on the issues facing Western art museums’ presentations of Chinese Art through a discussion of the exhibition CHINA: Through the Looking Glass; Jasmine Hagans, MFA, Boston, who will present an overview of the protests and discussion around “Kimono Wednesdays” last summer. Grace Stewart, Metal Museum, Memphis, will discuss her experience curating the exhibition A Kind of Confession at the Metal Museum, the first to exclusively feature black artists; Kimberli Gant, Newark Museum, who talk about internal institutional debates about the opening of Wondrous Worlds: Art & Islam through Time & Place, in the weeks after the Paris bombing. Taylor Newby and Kimberly Drew, the forces behind social media developments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will lead a discussion about the Social Media Strategy and Museums. Robin Cembalest, arts editor and independent social media consultant, will discuss new challenges faced by art-museum curators. Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, The Metropolitan Museum, will lead the workshop “Social Media 101.”

When:          Monday, March 7, 2016 

Where:         The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Avenue, New York

 Contact:      [email protected] 646-405-8057



The program is open to curators only. The seminar is open to current AAMC members only until 12pm ET, February 26, after which we will accept applications from non-members as well. Space is limited to 30 participants, only and registration is on a first response basis.  Registration is only accepted with a fully completed form, confirmation of curatorial status, and payment of fee in full.


Registration fee: $75

Fee includes program, breakfast and lunch.


Registration form

AAMC members: please complete the registration form in full and submit payment to attend.

Non-AAMC members: please contact AAMC offices to receive the registration material, your inquiry should include a statement of interest and description of your curatorial role to: [email protected]

After registration, we will ask you to consider submitting a case study proposal or come prepared with an example of a conflict or controversy you are interested in discussing.

For more information, contact AAMC at [email protected]


The program is organized and presented by the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), AAMC Foundation, and the Arts Advocacy Program at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). We are grateful to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for their support of our joint program.