For the first time in modern history, foot traffic at art museums across the nation has been dropping steadily, whereas until the turn of the 21st century, attendance had always gone up. (Ulysses Muñoz, Mary McCauley / Baltimore Sun video)
I applaud Mary Carole McCauley's recent series in The Sun about the challenges facing museums today, and I greatly appreciate Christopher Bedford's commentary about the need to increase not only attendance but diversity (“Making museums matter in the 21st century,” Jan. 20). In my years of teaching I have seen too many examples of students wandering through museums unable to recognize themselves in the work they see.
Things are changing in good ways. Initiatives like Art 21 provide ready access to contemporary artists with videos of the artists describing their work in their own words. It's a wonderful tool for teachers and individuals. Artists and educators who break the walls and reach out to the community, like Baltimore's own amazing muralists, Mark Bradford, Baltimore's Make Studio, the BSO's OrchKids and many other efforts help children recognize that artists can look like them, care about things they care about, and make work that matters.
Specific programs that invite new audiences to museums are also welcome. Student Art Exhibitions, the Baker Artist Awards, and the Sondheim Artscape Prize are all the means through which new viewers feel part of a museum and at the same time inform more traditional audiences about important contemporary practice.
I am hopeful that Baltimore's institutions will continue to their efforts to help a wider community engage with art that speaks to and about them.
Carolyn Sutton, Baltimore
The writer is the retired director of arts at The Park School of Baltimore.