Role of Art in Universal Communication and Feeling Deeply

Last week, Teen Guide Council (TGC) Leaders at the Rubin Museum of Art participated in a series of live international exchanges through video conferencing in partnership with Global Nomads Group (, connecting with high school classrooms around the USA and communities in Nepal to Celebrate International Women’s Day with CARE International and to learn about poverty in developing countries and the special role education and women and girls play in transforming their communities. 

A few interesting topics have come up in our group as a result of the conferences.  First, we’ve been reflecting on how conversation leads to ownership. After communicating with our friends in Nepal, the teens shared how their sense of ownership has shifted so they now feel the issues directly involve them.  We discussed how learning about something in an intellectual way or just thinking about something doesn’t lead to the same feeling that it directly relates to them as a conversation does.  We’ve come away from the experience with a new appreciation of the power of conversation.  TGC was also excited about the power of conversation and art to effect change.  One of our teen leaders, Carlos, shared a ted talk featuring semi-anonymous French street artist JR, who’s interested in how his public art can spark community dialogue about important local and global issues.   What are ways you’ve seen conversation lead to ownership?

 Relying on translators to understand our friends in Nepal resulted in some of their message being lost in translation.  In one of our sessions, our group tried repeatedly to get one of speakers, Jurni Kami, an 18 year old Nepalese student activist, to be more forthcoming about her child marriage and current situation as her comments were unusually brief and unemotional.  Our Apprentice Museum Educator Ankita’s family speaks the same dialect as Jurni so she understood every word and shared with our group afterwards that the translator was mainly summarizing and that there was a lot of nuance and emotion in Jurni’s storytelling that didn’t get across in English.  Reflecting on what’s lost in translation, particularly emotion, has me thinking about effective communication and the role that art plays in universal communication. What is it about art that allows people to connect no matter what their background, country, etc?  What special roles does art play in deepening communication or experience? 

During our session on bonded labor,  I couldn’t help but think about a film I love, the Churning (Manthan) by Shyam Benegal which is related to the idea of bonded labor and caste discrimination. I was grateful for the memory of that film in helping me to bring more personal meaning, emotion and depth to the conference session.  I think that art’s ability to allow us to experience “feeling deeply” deepens and nuances our understanding of the world.  RMA’s education philosophy is to Look Deeply, Think Deeply, Feel Deeply.  During the last week’s conference, we thought a lot about feeling deeply and its role to connecting and understanding.

About Pauline

As Manager of Youth Development at the Rubin Museum of Art, I design, facilitate and teach youth development programs for teens and college students that take place during out-of-school time. At the Rubin Museum, I can combine my huge love for Asian Art and culture with my other favorite thing: working with students!
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