Channeling Passion & Sharing History – Creation of Heritage Salon

Channeling Passion & Sharing History – Creation of Heritage Salon

This is a guest post from Jada Wright-Greene, founder of Heritage Salon.  After reading a piece where she raised the question of why there are not more African-Americans visiting museums I realized I had never considered this and wanted to find out more about her work.  Museums hold not only art but also serve to record our history and culture.  We are inspired by Jada’s passionate for sharing history and culture.

Passion and Drive

At the age of 17, soon after I arrived on the campus of Bethune Cookman College, I began working at the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation (Home of Dr. Bethune).  It was here that I realized my love of historic house museums.  At a time when most college freshman are at parties or hanging out with new friends I spent hours working at this historic home museum without pay and I loved every moment.As years went by I was still in love with historic homes. I love historic house museums because when you enter an historic home it gives you a sense of connection with the person that once lived in that particular space, it’s an opportunity to see the personal side of history.

Soon I discovered museum studies.  I worked in several small museums, and though I was never able to get that “big museum job” I knew I had to do something with my passion and drive for the museum field.

Three things drove me to channel my passion, (1) not gaining a big museum job, (2) discovering my name in a publication about African-American historic homes seven years after college, and (3) learning I was the first African-American to graduate from the Museum Studies Department at Michigan State University.

I knew then that I was not ordinary and felt I could make a difference. I knew I had to make my voice heard and share my passion with others.  Out of this Heritage Salon was born.

Creating Heritage Salon

Heritage Salon was created from my vision of sharing African-American museums and historic homes with the world. I also wanted to answer the question of why there are not more African-Americans visiting museums. I noticed at an early age I would be one of the only African-Americans visiting museums and, eventually, one of the only African-Americans working in a museum.

I knew, that because of my love of this field and my persistence in making others aware of this love, no one could better share African-American museums and historic homes with the world than me!

My vision for Heritage Salon is for the site to become a resource for individuals interested in the field.  Others can read about my passion and learn about museums around the country. I hope one aspect is for teachers to use the site as a resource for teaching and as a way to introduce their students to African-American museums.

Heritage Salon has moved and inspired me to pursue a Ph.D in African-American Studies with a focus on Museum Studies. I hope others can be inspired by my love, my passion, and my drive to make museums a part of their lives.

More About Jada

Jada Wright-Greene is committed to her passion of museums and introduces everyone she meets to her love. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bethune Cookman College (2000), Masters in Urban and Regional Planning and a certificate in Museum Studies from Michigan State University (2004).  Originally from the south, she currently lives in the Midwest and devotes her free time to her husband and two children.


Our 3 Most Popular Posts in 2010

Our 3 Most Popular Posts in 2010

SpeakArtLoud has been on vacation, visiting with family and friends and enjoying time for reflection.  We will return in January.  In absence of our regular weekly posts please consider re-reading our three most popular posts from 2010.

Most Popular

25 Ways Art Impacts the Community

Art, in its many forms, is connected to the community. Art serves to enrich the physical, economic, social and cultural elements of a community.  Below is a list of 25 ways I believe art positively impacts community, along with a few pictures to inspire thought. As you read through this list please reflect on how these items may or may not be true and share your thoughts. Read More…

Second Most Popular

Five Reasons Why We Need Art

Art, in its many forms, exists in every community, every culture, and every country. Art has been created since time began, evidenced in cave paintings and rock art, and in today’s world we know that art can be a major economic force, yet we continue to question the worth of art. Read more…

Third Most Popular

What is Art Therapy?

SpeakArtLoud believes in the inherent healing power of the creative process.  We believe making art provides a way to explore and express ideas, thoughts and feelings and that art can help us to communicate and create new ideas.  Because of this we have chosen to use art therapy in our program. Read more….

Best Wishes for the New Year!
~ Sally

Art and Public Health

November is Arts and Health Month, a great time to highlight the various ways the arts are used in health care and community settings.  Today I want to share how the arts are used in public health

Public Health

Public health works to promote healthy behavior and respond to health concerns for populations.  Public health addresses health issues at a community level, rather than at the individual level, and focuses on prevention, rather than treatment. For example, public health programs might include developing vaccines, distributing condoms or health education campaigns.

We often think about the science involved in public health, but I believe art is equally important in this field.  We must remember that art is present in all cultures, all communities, art is not something this is an “extra”, instead art is a universal trait of human culture.  In providing public health programs to communities it only makes sense to incorporate art into services.

Piano Stairs

This video of a subway stairway designed to look like piano keys shows of how art shapes how we interact with our environment.  This is also an excellent example of how art can be part of a public health program designed to promote healthy behavior (this was not a public health program).

New Ideas

There is limited research on the role of art in public health.  A few graduate programs are incorporating this topic into curriculums.  The University of Toronto Public health graduate program hosts an annual Art of Public Health conference.

Public health programs have a great opportunity to improve services by incorporating the arts into their work.

What other ways can art be used in public health?  Share your ideas!

More Information

#3 Ways Art is Important to Democracy

As a child in the late 70’s I grew up with episodes of Schoolhouse Rock during Saturday morning cartoons.  Even today I can hum the tune to “I’m Just a Bill”, one of my favorite Schoolhouse Rock films.

As we prepare for mid-term elections I am reminded of this first lesson in civics. I have art to thank for that lesson – the song and animation are both forms of art used to help educate children on civics.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize how important art is in democracy.

Art and Democracy

Art is complex, more than an expression of beauty, art is a fundamental element of human society and a means by which we have expressed and shared ideas for ages. Art is a meaningful form of communication, both personal and public, and as such it is an important medium for democracy

“Art called up a sense of humanity to deepen understanding around persistent social issues of race, economic inequity and identity”
~ from INROADS: The Intersection of Art & Civic Dialogue

On this election eve I want to share 3 ways in which art is important to democracy:

  1. Awareness Art can help to raise public consciousness, illuminate issues and provide us with a way to see, feel or understand the human condition. Art can help us to become more informed and increase our awareness and understanding of complex issues. Creating well informed citizens is important to democracy as it is the citizens who through voting make decisions and shape government.
  2. Voice Art gives a voice to those who are often overlooked or silenced, providing a medium to share ideas and experiences. Art raises voices that may otherwise go unheard. In a democracy all citizens are equal under the law and afforded basic human rights.  As a citizen having knowledge of  the conditions, challenges and concerns of your fellow citizens is important.
  3. ParticipationArt can anger or inspire us, touching us in a way that calls us to action.  Art can also be used to bring people together, including those with differing points of view, allowing us to engage in civic dialogue and better understand differing perspectives. Democracy requires public participation and art can be an effective tool to encourage dialogue and civic engagement.

Creating Change: Thoughts on Art, Connections & Community

After reading this piece “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not be Tweeted” I have been thinking about social connections and how important it is to create connections.

My Connections

Through my work in developing SpeakArtLoud I have been fortunate to connect with wonderful people. I find myself routinely amazed each time someone reaches out to me – from short email messages sharing how art made a difference during a difficult time, to ideas or suggestions of resources, and even a few meetings over coffee filled with laughter and stories. I have been honored and humbled by these connections.

“Creative has helped me immensely and I think that I why your organization has stuck with me…  I have reached a point in my life where I want to give back ….”
~excerpt of an email sent to me

Each time someone offers a word of encouragement or shares a personal experience I feel more excited, more passionate and more driven to continue to develop SpeakArtLoud.

Why Connecting is Important

Human as social creatures, even the introverts, myself among them, need to connect with others.  There is all kinds of research on the importance of social connections – social connections and good health, social connections and career and social connections and life span .  In short, having social connections is good for us as individuals.

Having connections, or what those in the community development world call social capital,  is also an important element in healthy communities.  Social capital can be understood as the connections we have with others in our communities, that network is important as it allows individuals to collaborate, cooperate and create community change.

Using Art to Create Connections

SpeakArtLoud recognizes that art is more than an object or a product; Art is also a dynamic interaction. We believe that art can help us to connect with one another on a personal and/or emotional level. Both our art class and our art show are intended to stimulate dialogue, foster cooperation and build social connections.

“The arts can nurture social capital by strengthening friendships, helping communities to understand and celebrate their heritage, and providing a safe way to discuss and solve difficult social problems.”
From – Bettertogether:
The Arts and Social Capital

Our art class, offered to small groups of women with a shared experience, provides a medium for the women to begin to explore their thoughts and feelings about their future.  Using art to explore complex emotions, the participants share their ideas, building a sense of trust among one another and creating a network of supportive social connections.

The community art show also works to create social connections.  By providing members of the community with a reason and a place to gather we create opportunity for both friends and strangers to come together to share in a common experience, a starting place for creating new connections or building upon existing ones.  Beyond this, art can raise issues or stir emotions, allowing for community members to engage in dialogue of some depth or simply to look and listen, gaining insight on such matter.

Connections Are Powerful

As I mentioned earlier, those folks who reached out to me with a kind word or an offer to help have inspired me more than you can imagine. Thank you. That kind of inspiration is powerful, it helps fuel me and it is a force behind social change.

More Reading on Social Connections

The Arts and Social Capital

Happiness is Being Socially Connected

NY City Street Art Trying to Build Social Capital

Oaxaca & a Few Thoughts on Art & Community

Vacation in Oaxaca

I believe art has a vital role in developing healthy communities. To illustrate the relationship between the arts and community I am sharing a bit about a past vacation, by doing so I hope to highlight the connection between art and community development.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of vacationing in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Oaxaca is a beautiful city in southern Mexico, known for its food and its vibrant art scene. Oaxaca’s creative culture was one of the primary reasons why I chose to visit this city.

Economics and Art

Often the arts are dismissed as a luxury, but the arts are linked to the economic vitality of communities. Deciding to visit Oaxaca was based in a large part on the arts and cultural. I know that not everyone visits locations for arts and culture, but for many this is a draw.  Beyond that, other business prospers when there is an active art scene and retail and restaurants often show increase in sales around art events.  The arts positively impact the economy of a community.

Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca

Prior to my trip I had read about Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca (MARO), a women’s art collective in Oaxaca, and knew that I had to visit the shop.  MARO provides women artist with a way to sell their art and crafts, sharing the cost and responsibilities of running a store and supporting one another in artistic work (I have even read that the collective shares child care responsibilities).

MARO’s shop is an explosion of color and offers everything from bottle caps turned into magnets to landscape paintings. There are traditional crafts, like rugs and metal work, along with recycled materials turned into colorful shopping bags. And everywhere, in every medium there are images of Frida Kahlo.

Cultural Expression and Art

This artist collective is an example of how art can be used to express and share culture.  MARO provides skilled artisans with a way to continue to practice a traditional craft while making an income, thereby keeping cultural heritage alive.  In MARO you can find traditional hand woven rugs still made with natural dyes created from ground up insects. Visiting MARO provides the visitor in a colorful tutorial of the culture of Oaxaca.  MARO is also a wonderful example of how the arts can be used to create social connections, after all this is a collective of women artists who work to support one another.

Dancin’ Queen

One evening my husband and I found ourselves in a small club full of locals, a live band squeezed into a corner and tables and chairs pushed to the wall to make space for dancing.  We watched a fellow dancing with several women, he danced well and as I feared, before too long he asked me to dance. I tried to resist, knowing I would not be able to follow his footwork, but soon found myself on the dance floor. I think I did more laughing and tripping then dancing! Later he and his friends joined my husband and I, buying us drinks and drawing a map of sites we should see during our stay.  Though our communication was limited, his English was fair and my Spanish is poor, we had a wonderful time.

Communication and Art

I think this experience is a great example of how art can help bring us together for a shared experience no matter what our barriers may be.  Here, there were language barriers and cultural differences but through music and dance (and it is hard for me to call what I did dance) we were able to share an experience, build rapport, exchange information and leave having a positive memorable experience with someone who I may never have had opportunity to interact with otherwise.

Final Thoughts

As much as I enjoy reliving my trip to Oaxaca what I hope you will take from this is an understanding of how fundamental art is to our lives.  Art is a part of who we are as individuals, communities, cultures and countries. Art connects us and helps us to build relationships, share ideas, and strengthen our communities.  Once we understand how integral art is to our lives we can begin to explore how we can use the arts to create stronger, healthier communities.

For More Information

Mind Your Creativity

Mind Your Creativity

We are by nature creative beings.  Creativity is innate to who we are, it is a fundamental part of our nature and important to our individual and community well-being.

Left Brain – Right Brain

Our brains are made up of two different sides, two hemispheres, with each hemisphere in control of different ways of thinking.  The right side of our brain is responsible for creativity, while the left side is responsible for more logical and fact-based thought.

Left Brain

Looks at parts
Detail oriented
Fact based thoughts
Words and language
Present and past
Math and science
Order and pattern perception
Reality based


Right Brain

Looks at wholes
Big picture oriented

Symbols and images

Present and future

Philosophy & religion

Spatial perception

Fantasy based

Risk taking

Individuals may be more inclined to be more “left brained” or “right brained”, but we are all born with the ability to tap into each side and use our whole brain. You can try this short quiz to see which may be your dominant hemisphere (I’m about evenly split between my right-brain and left-brain).

Cultivating Creativity

Our culture plays a large part in how we develop our brains.  Our education system and workforce help shape and establish how we think.  In a society that values left brain thinking, logic, analysis and accuracy over aesthetics, feeling, and creativity, we end up developing the left side of our brain while our more creative side is underdeveloped.

In recent year there has been a lot written on the importance of creativity – researchers are trying to measure it, city leaders tout their creative communities and some state that creative capital is needed for global change.  We are beginning to recognize the value of creativity.

Creativity isn’t just about art, it is about original ideas and different perspectives.  Creative thinking stimulates curiosity and can generate new ideas, and as individuals and communities it is in our interest to be creative in terms of how we approach problems and develop solutions.

More Info On Creativity

If you are interested in learning more about creativity and our brain here are a few suggestions:

  • I highly recommend watching Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor speak at T.E.D. about her experience having a stroke, she offers amazing insight on how the different sides of our brain work.
  • Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind addresses the importance of right brain skills in the professional sectors, and it is a fairly easy read.
  • I also like The Cultural Creatives by Ray and Anderson, a Sociologist and Psychologist who conducted years of research and write on a growing shift in American culture.