4 Must-Watch Videos about the Power of Listening

These inspiring stories help us think about the intentional practice of deep listening. How can listening promote respect, justice, equity, and ownership?

We’ve been thinking about listening.

Why should museums make listening a core practice — especially in communities with rapidly shifting demographics?

In this Talk from last year’s National Innovation Summit for Arts and Culture, Janeen Bryant of Levine Museum of the New South addresses this question and talks about the power of listening to promote respect, justice, equity, and ownership.

Watching her Talk prompted us to ask: What does it take to be a good listener? How can you step back to authentically ask and seek the stories of those outside your organization?

We took a look at our Innovation Stories collection and found other examples of organizations that made intentional space for deep listening, and learned how it can be transformative.

We came across three other stories about listening from Cleveland Public Theatre, McColl Center for Art + Innovation, and Portland Art Museum. Check them out below:

2. Teatro Publico de Cleveland  Cleveland Public Theatre

We just recently posted this story about how Cleveland Public Theatre and members of the Latino community formed Teatro Publico de Cleveland, an amateur ensemble theater company that created space for meaningful dialogue and new, powerful performances.

We are inspired by how CPT made the intentional move to halt its common practices and really listen to its neighboring community. In this ongoing project, deep listening laid the foundation for fostering relationships among people who had not worked together before, and defied the view that cross-cultural work is always tokenizing or marginal.

3. Artist-led Ecosystem Interventions  Lisa Hoffman

The Charlotte, NC-based McColl Center for Art + Innovation has a four-pronged framework that values: art, science, education, community. In her Summit Talk, Lisa Hoffman shares how the organization and its artists-in-residence center their work on building trusting, culturally responsive relationships with community members to serve their needs and address environmental legacies.

Why is it necessary to build relationships between art, the environment, education, and community? Why must artists/organizations engaging in social/civically engaged practice check themselves in their own approach to community relationships? Why is it important to build trust and recognize a vibrant, unique community for the cultural asset that it is — through authentic listening?

4. Object Stories  Portland Art Museum

Launched in March 2010, Object Stories invites Portland Art Museum (PAM) visitors to record their own narratives about personal objects—whether a piece of clothing, a cherished record album, or a family heirloom. By capturing, honoring, and sharing participants’ stories, this project aims to demystify the Museum, making it more accessible, welcoming, and meaningful to a greater diversity of communities – while continuing to highlight the inherent relationship between people and things.

Current visitors to the Object Stories gallery encounter a recording booth, where they can leave their own story, as well as a central table with two touchscreens that enable them to browse, search, and listen to hundreds of collected stories about personal objects and works from the collection. Object Stories’ interactivity is based off of the concept that visitors’ stories are worth collecting; that visitors should be listened to. PAM flips the expectations of museums as presenters and instead, creates the platform for listening with and between community members.

How does your organization practice listening as a way to build and strengthen relationships, evolve your internal organizational culture, and open new doors for engagement? What would change at your organization if you intentionally made the space to deeply listen? We encourage you to share your own stories about the process of listening with us.

Kendra Danowski is the former ArtsFwd Editor & Engagement Coordinator at EmcArts.