Our Guiding Questions: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Our Guiding Questions

The Block’s work and its organizational culture are fueled by questioning. At the center of who we are as a museum is our willingness to ask—indeed, our insistence on asking—questions of our work, our motivations, and our values.  We also invite our partners and audiences to join us in reflecting on the role of art and the role of museums as shapers of knowledge.  These questions guide our work:

How can we activate the possibilities of what art can do?

Experiencing works of art can open spaces within and between us. Museums are special sites for exploring these spaces. The Block convenes bold conversations that explore the relevance of art to our lives and that deepen our thinking about the world, ourselves, and our relationships with one another. We are as committed to exploring what art can do as we are to studying what art is.

What does it mean to be doing our work now and from here?

We deepen the resonance of our work by making decisions grounded in our time and place. We consider the needs of the current moment and its connections to the past. We think about our place in all its richness and complexity: within Northwestern; within the context of our region; and as part of the global community. We think about our place on Indigenous lands. 

 How can we continually live our values?

We strive to hold our commitments to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion as a fundamental framework through which we understand, pursue, and assess our work. We aspire to be an institution in which equity is fully present in the who, what, where, when, why, and how of our work. We acknowledge that centering diverse identities and perspectives within the museum is essential to our institutional excellence and sustainability.

How can the way we work be as important as what we produce?

For us, the journey is as important as the destination. Our most transformative efforts result from a museum-wide commitment to dialogue, collaboration, and reflection. Shaping our approach to the specific needs of projects and partners, we challenge ourselves to try new ways of working that often yield unexpected insights and outcomes. 

How does our work connect diverse fields of study to yield new ways of thinking?

We believe encounters with art and artists can be a catalyst for discoveries that happen at the intersections of academic disciplines. Our work embodies this belief and amplifies Northwestern’s distinct commitment to interdisciplinary teaching, learning, and research. We are creative in imagining and encouraging collaboration among faculty, students, and staff from across the University that connects fields of study and changes the ways in which we think and work.

How can we expand the possibilities of what an academic museum might be?

We have, at times, found ourselves constrained by assumptions about what a university art museum is and does. Our new mission statement preserves an openness to how we define “museum” and how we execute our mission and vision. The Block is more than its gallery walls. Through our work within and beyond our building, we nourish inquiry, ideas, and insights.