Jennifer Pearl Gray is a curator, artist, consultant, and librarian. She received her BA in History from Morgan State University in Baltimore in 2013 and a M.F.A from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2015. Working in Baltimore's arts community, from 2013- 2017, where the vibrant and robust art scene informed her practice as an emerging curator, that focused on contemporary art and social justice. Her curatorial work focused on raising awareness, encouraging discussions, and challenging public attitudes around social justice issues. In 2015 she won a fellowship with the DC Public Library Foundation, in partnership with MICA, as their first Curatorial Consultant. While working in DC, she got the chance to combine her two passions, library stewardship and curatorial practice. In 2018 she began working for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Library System. As a librarian she uses her curatorial perspective to engage in audience engagement, community partnership, and public programming. Jennifer currently resides and works in Pittsburgh, PA.
As a new and emerging African-American curator and educator, I have only recently began to consciously explore and develop my philosophy of my personal pedagogy. Becoming aware of my observations and experiences has allowed me to re-evaluate my socio-cultural identity between institutions and society based on social class and skin color. With what has happened within this past years of 2013 – 2017: the killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and Freddie Gray, our culture is at a pivotal point during which educators must develop some critical culturally responsive teaching strategies. As a young African-American Arts professional who embraces her culture, Max de Pree quote on diversity and inclusion is one the resonates with me.
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”
As an arts educator my pedagogical philosophy revolves around this statement on diversity and inclusion. Consciously reevaluating my ever evolving socio-cultural identity and understanding others’ ways of thinking, behaving, and how we are influenced by race, ethnicity, social class, and language will provide an avenue for constant flow of growth for personal and professional reflection. Secondly, by being one ’s self, having an affirming attitude towards audiences from culturally diverse backgrounds significantly impact learning, beliefs in self, and overall academic performance. By having dialogue about different cultures with small and broad audiences, programs become more inclusive.
The third philosophy stems from exercising our diversity. My method revolves around extrinsic an intrinsic motivation. I seek to provide an individual personal experience for the audience by engaging museum participants in challenging, worthwhile ideas, which emphasize visitor-educator relationships, multiple sources of knowledge, and the importance of collaborative learning. My museum practice actively engages both children and adults in positive dialogic positions; that utilizes experience as an importance source of knowledge; that emphasizes knowledge as distinctly relevant to our lives, and recognizes the overall participatory nature of the learning process for both curator and participant.
Through my pedagogical philosophy and related ideas, I strive to educate participants for a society in which they may become moral agents of transformative change for a better quality of life for all people. Enabling the educator to confront barriers/obstacles to change and develop skills for collaboration and dealing with chaos. As a agent of change I will ultimately help institutions become better equitable over time. “The outcome beyond learning and teaching specific topic content is recognizing that education is a life-long process and not just a preparation for a future career” said John Dewey.