Educational practices in the field of culture are like an old friend whom we invited to our birthday party just to be polite – we kind of like and respect him, and we appreciate our relationship, but we prefer to keep him at a safe distance from the common table. He cannot compete with new relationships, just like sensitive social projects cannot compete with big festivals, prestigious vernissages and hipster gatherings in the struggle for financial resources. Of course, such events may have an educational potential as well, but it is the systematic actions, and not episodic ones, that give hope for a positive change. To be more precise, educational and social projects are of peripheral interest to politicians/local governments and their lists of important matters. City branding comes first; big events are a showcase for the city, they attract the media, and this is how we generate publicity for our modern and progressive city. We may infer from such a state of affairs that cultural education is in a severe crisis. Yet it is not the COVID-19 pandemic that should be blamed but gradual marginalisation of such education. The epidemic has only exposed the inadequacy of the said practices in the current situation – for they are based on being together in a community, on sharing experiences and doing activities; this is why it is so difficult to adapt them to virtual platforms.
I have (remotely) met with Agnieszka Wojciechowska-Sej – a cultural educator and organiser who shows in a creative way (though I dislike the “coachingness” of this phrase) that education is primarily about relationships and learning values. Even though she works in the field of contemporary art, she avoids aesthetic analyses and focuses on discussing important social topics. We talk about her home space and how it has suddenly become a testing ground for her and her family’s every-day experiences; the space in which beetroot may serve as a soup ingredient or a source of a home-made natural paint. We talk about the current situation, how it has prompted a race to maximise the “networking” of one’s art, and how cultural and art institutions (and their organisers) should react in these difficult times in order to support educators, organisers, curators, coordinators, artists, and people of culture in general. But we have mostly talked about (and you should know that Agnieszka is quite a talker) pandemic everydayness, small gestures, strolls around offices and (corroding) relationships with our audiences, whom we miss so much in “real” life.
The interview with Agnieszka Wojciechowska-Sej is available as a podcast in the Polish version of the RTV Magazine
Jakub Walczyk – a cultural educator, organiser and researcher. Since 2013, he has been working with ZAMEK Culture Centre in Poznań, where he has been collectively programming educational activities and coordinating the Centre for Educational Practices. A PhD student at the Institute of Cultural Studies in the Adam Mickiewicz University. He cooperates with the University of the Arts in Poznań, where he teaches courses in audio-visual culture and critical humanities.
Agnieszka Wojciechowska-Sej – an art historian and postgraduate educator. Since 2008, she has been working at the Museum of Art in Łódź [Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi], in the Education Department. She has been programming and implementing educational activities aimed at all age groups. She is a member of the jury at the Arts Olympiad [Olimpiada Artystyczna]. She co-creates training programmes for cultural organisers and museum educators at the request of the National Institute for Museums and Public Collections (NIMOZ). She is a co-author of “A Book to See” [Książka do zobaczenia] and the scripts for the “Kulturanek” TV show, which was created by the Museum of Art in Łódź and TVP Kultura. From 2016 to 2017, she co-created the Polish edition of the international project “Translocal: Museum as Toolbox.” Currently, she has been nurturing the ms17 club – a group of passionate youngsters which is responsible for developing the accompanying programme for exhibitions at the Museum of Art in Łódź. From 2016 to 2018, she worked as a coordinator of Culture Coalitions [Koalicje Kultury] – the Łódź edition of the Very Young Culture programme. At the request of the NIMOZ, she co-creates the annual creative education workshops for museum educators at the Museum of Art in Łódź; she also holds numerous advanced workshops for cultural organisers, educators and teachers.