Sunday, December 4, 2011

What are we?

A  local media organization asked to interview us for a short video production. We requested that they send us some specific questions that they might care to have answered during their interview. Since we often have difficulty generating off-the-cuff answers to such questions, three of us sat down for a half hour to discuss the questions proffered, in the process discovering responses that might not otherwise have occurred to us.

1. What is Mindport?

This is one of the questions asked us frequently by people who haven't been here. We've never been comfortable calling ourselves a "museum" or "gallery," (though we do have a space we refer to as a "gallery") because these terms don't quite fit how we understand ourselves. Usually we tell people that it's best if they come and see what they think we are. In a sense, we're a "work in progress," because the work that appears here depends a lot on who happens to be on the staff at any given time. The majority of us have been here for quite awhile, so where we go creatively also depends on where our personal explorations are taking us at the moment. We assume that whatever interests us will likely interest our visitors, which has proven to be true nearly all the time.

2. What sets your "museum" apart from other history/art museums?

One important factor that distinguishes us from other "museums" is the fact that we're not a government-defined "non-profit" organization, hence we on the staff entirely set our own direction. We are not responsible to a board of directors or other outside forces. This gives us great freedom, not enjoyed by most other public organizations who display artistic work.

3. How many exhibits are built at Mindport?

Almost all exhibits at Mindport are built by staff members. Occasionally  we find something we like "out there" and either display it as-is, or incorporate it into exhibits we build. We've discovered that in-house exhibit-building is a rarity in the museum world, possibly because most such organizations have more money than time, whereas we have more time than money.

4. How long has Mindport been open?

Mindport opened in 1995 at our previous location at 111 Grand Avenue in Bellingham, right across from Henderson Books. In 2000 we acquired our present building and spent a year remodeling it before reopening in 2001.

5. What exhibits are most popular?

We avoid any measurement of exhibit popularity. Such measurements tend to force all exhibits to fit some average or standard, which eliminates the surprise factor and dampens a spirit of creative exploration. There's nearly always someone who likes any particular exhibit, and we believe that the average should not receive too much favor over the exceptional. Many people like many or our exhibits, and a few like even the ones that are less popular with the masses.

6. What kinds of reactions do you get from visitors?

Reactions run the gamut from those who stick their heads in then run the other way, to some who get hooked after a few minutes of exploration, stay for a couple hours, then write us a donation check for $50, telling us how much they appreciate what we're doing. Some visitors engage our docents in long conversations, others walk around checking out the exhibits, then leave without further ado. Some spend an hour here then tell us they'll be back with friends or family members.

7. What do you hope people take away from their experience here?

In answer to that, I'll respond by describing my own reaction when viewing the creative work of others: Creative work and beauty always raise my spirits and give me hope. They remind me, especially during an era when things are looking pretty grim in the world at large, that human beings are capable of doing wonderful things, and amidst ample examples of humanly created ugliness, there's also the possibility of beauty. We hope visitors leave Mindport with renewed curiosity, calmer minds, and greater optimism about human possibility.

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