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Art Museums: Do they enlighten or isolate individuals?

pbernal's picture

Jessica Bernal

ESEM- Play in the City


Art Museums: Do they enlighten or isolate individuals?

When I was younger, I never went to museums. My mother would say, “We don’t have time for that.” The first time I ever walked into a museum, The Museum of Natural Sciences, I was about nine years old and I thought this might be what Disney World is like too, huge and overwhelming. Growing up, we didn’t have the money or the time to wander through museum’s unique collections. As I got older, I kept going to more and more different types of museums through school, but to this day, never have I been with my mother. As she’d say, Yo no le entiendo a esas cosas, I don’t understand those types of places.  

It’s not that my mother doesn’t like art or find paintings interesting, it’s that she doesn’t feel comfortable in that type of environment museums provide. And unfortunately, it’s not just my mother who feels this way. Underprivileged individuals don’t find themselves pursuing Art Museums, or museums in general as a means of enjoyment and entertainment for a family weekend. Art Museums don’t cater to the underprivileged. Art museums isolate individuals in society rather than welcome them, which is the sole purpose of museums in general, to make accessible artifacts and collections to the people to explore and enjoy.

Artists use art to express emotion, influence and challenge society. It captures a moment to which the artist witnesses and finds stimulating. If art is a form of expression, why frame it and enclose it in a building that does nothing but keep it from the public to see? Art museums unintentionally create a social class barrier. Its intentions are to create a safe space trustworthy of the public to enjoy and have the opportunity to educate in some way, but art museums now have shifted to become more of a prestigious place for those fortunate ones with background knowledge and privilege of higher education, myself included.

Museums have two primary concerns, one to preserve these collections and two to make art available to the public for the purpose of education to which some individuals don’t have the privilege of having. And if, these primary reasons are neglected, then art for that matter should just belong in someone’s home and put away from the reach of the public. There is no need to host fancy events, such as wine and cheese in a museum. There’s a place for everything and having a formal elegant wine and cheese event at an art museum would be like having a Presidential Inauguration Ball at a university to the public.

Rather than keep art enclosed for only certain individuals to enjoy, street artists like Bansky express themselves to the open without restrictions or boundaries to hinder their power of expression. Murals and graffiti are all more than just a form of art; they’re a social movement, better out than in. Street art is a form of deep play because it not only challenges society, but the artist creates using materials within their surroundings. It is open to the public and those who choose to stop and appreciate it do and those who don’t choose not to but at least the art is exposed to everyone without any social restrictions, in the open where everyone walks among each other equally.

I am a part of the privileged group of people who can walk into a museum and find art to be entertaining, worthwhile, and vital without finding myself sweating a river on the floor. I appreciate that museums ultimately mean well and all they want is to preserve these collections for more and more people to have a chance to enjoy as well. But, like my mother and many other underprivileged people who didn’t have the opportunity of receiving an education or the chance to pursue higher education, art museums have become an unwelcoming place for them to be a part of. Art Museums are to be enjoyed, not feared.


Works Consulted


"From Duchamp to Banksy: Street Art Continues 100-Year Movement | Writing on the Wall | Land of Sunshine | KCET."KCET. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <>.


"All Things Considered." 'All Things Considered'. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <>.