Deborah Clearwaters

Deborah Clearwaters

Director of Education at the the San Francisco Asian Art Museum

Deborah Clearwaters
By October 15, 2020 8:57 AM

When most museums furloughed their education staff due to the pandemic, the San Francisco Asian Art Museum did the opposite—they ramped up their programming. When contacted about participating in the profile, director of education Deborah Clearwaters sent a 10-page document detailing the department’s initiatives launched since COVID-19 hit the country. With the support of the museum’s director, Jay Xu, Clearwaters says the museum staff has experimented and pushed boundaries beyond expectations.  

This experimentation includes developing two- to five-minute online slide talks by docents and storytellers delivered via newsletter and, eventually, the museum’s YouTube Channel. The virtual care package they developed for people of all ages includes activities such as art-making, dancing, cooking and meditating, along with virtual school tours, including lessons on microaggression and social justice research and programming that centers on diverse and unheard voices. Recent examples include a live performance with Thao Nguyen, new curriculum materials for APA Heritage Month, a theater showcase with Gay Asian Pacific Alliance for Pride, and a virtual music and arts festival with Japantown artists and performers. They have also developed a virtual high school intern program; virtual celebration packages for families around six seasonal holidays; and a streaming program that will be continued after the pandemic ends. 

That’s just the first two pages of the document outlining the museum’s programming. The San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s education department deserves an award.

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