Music, dancing and learning about history blended on March 27 inside the Telling New Mexico exhibit. The History Museum and New Mexico School for the Arts Dance Department developed “The Borders Project Workshop” as part of the museum’s Routes and Roots program. René Harris collaborated with Adam McKinney, Dance Department chair, and teachers Micaela Gardner and Sarah Ashkin, to devise a means for turning thought into action. Students exploredquestions related to the themes of immigration and the movement of peoples, then used movement and dance to help process that information.
The school’s 9th–12th grade students started in the museum classroom to ponder what it means to be a New Mexican, how boundaries or borders are created, and who draws the lines. They then moved into the exhibit to create dance steps in response to prompts related to borders, immigration, identity and homeland in four areas of the gallery. They reconvened in the classroom to discuss how “dancing the exhibit” helped the illuminate the questions that were posed and showed their respective compositions. A short video will be produced to document the experience.
“This collaboration is a fresh and creative way to approach exhibit interpretation in a history museum,” said René Harris, collections and education programs manager. “Students have a chance to develop skills in collaboration, improvisation and self-expression. I appreciate the commitment of NMSA’s staff to develop this project with us.”
McKinney said the program “puts Santa Fe on the map of a national conversation about the ways that dance groups and museums can work together to inform audiences about our rich regional and national cultural histories.”
“It has been a wonderful venture to approach learning in the exhibits in innovative ways,” he said. “Placing students at the center of learning, our hope is that this is the first of many collaborations between New Mexico School for the Arts and New Mexico History Museum.”
Routes and Roots was developed as part of a series of National Dialogues on Immigration affiliated with the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, which funded this program. The coalition is a worldwide network of museums, historic sites and initiatives commemorating struggles for justice of human rights.