Your Future is Looking a Bit More Brown…// Tu Futuro Se Aparece Un Poco Mas Cafecito

*By Patricia Arteaga

**Thank you Anna Stewart for letting me use your account to post this.

For my audience, I researched working class Latino high school students. Now its a very specific audience, concentrating an ethnicity, and age, and an economic factor. Even with its narrow window, I wanted to focus on this particular subject due to two factors: first for my own personal and and highly related experience as well as the importance of this audience to museums’ endless goal to become more “diverse” in their visitors and workforce.

Why this Audience

A major talking point of museums is providing accessibility to audiences that have long been overlooked as visitors, especially Latinos. Now to concentrate on Latino high school students is to explore that realm of possibilities for future museum go-ers and even museum/cultural institution workforce.


Currently, this population that find themselves in the working and middle (middle) class have the largest high school drop out rates in comparison to Blacks and Whites[i]. They are exposed to more military recruitment in their high schools than college information[ii]. Even with college information, they have little exposure to those who have attended college, so the opportunity for a mentor or someone to navigate them through the higher education level is not present.

Most importantly, they are the fastest growing ethnic group[2]. Census Bureau predicts that by 2021, one in four students will be Latino. In U.S. Southwest like Texas and California, it will more one in two students, thus half of the population, will be Latino. In these states, the future has already arrived. They are inextricably bound to the future of the United States.

Yet they are the least educated in comparison to Black and Whites. Of course, the levels of achievement levels have increased for Latinos, but that level is stagnant and drops off significantly in high school. Entering 9th grade, Latino high school students’ math and reading skills are about one year behind. However, by 12th grade, their levels have not caught up and and are at the same level as 13 year old white students[3]. In the span of these vital 4 years of high school where students should be gaining critical skills, being challenged by opportunities for advanced level coursework, is not happening in the school that majority of working class Latinos attend. Educators cite many reasons for this:

  • Lowered expectations for students of color (SOC)
  • Growing income inequality and lack of resources at schools (such as arts and after school programs)
  • Unequal access to experiences teachers.

Now isn’t education supposed to level the playing field?

What do Museums have to do with this?

The issues presented above are bigger and more complicated than any museum or its programming can do to ameliorate the situation. However, if museums are interested in catering to a more reflective US population, then this audience is a great start. Programming has to start when they are young and high school is the ideal age since they are:

  • Exploring their personal interest
  • Thinking about their future possibilities


A must have requirement, for me, is not necessarily about the content, but what the program provides for the student.

  • Mentorship
    • Comprehensive support system (about careers, higher education, personal interest)
  • Exposure to the different museums
  • possibilities for a future (does not have to relate to a career in museum related field)
  • Teen productions where they can take take ownership/produce something
  • Ask them what they want to see!

What do they want from Museums?

Instead of wondering what museums can do for them, I went ahead and asked them. The students are from Anaheim high school district in California, one of the largest school districts in the state with a heavy population of Latinos.

The results where eye opening to me in rethinking how to approach this audience in becoming museum members. They do feel welcomed, they would spend money visiting a museum, and best of all, they want exhibits that reflect their own personal interest, not just based on their personal cultural background. In all, they are simply high school students wanting to explore what they find interesting.

What is being currently done?

Smithsonian Latino Center:

Youth Ambassador Program is a national program for graduating high school seniors that focuses on fostering Latinos in their potential in the arts, sciences, and humanities. While foremost a leadership program, the YAP also aids in exposing students to the various opportunities offered at museums and their future careers, through a Latino lense.








3 thoughts on “Your Future is Looking a Bit More Brown…// Tu Futuro Se Aparece Un Poco Mas Cafecito

  1. valeriebundy

    I think Patty subtly brings to light a fantastic point about museum accessibility. We as museum educators, museum people, and soon to be museum representatives ultimately need to collaborate with the people we are intending to serve. We should not just be theorizing, talking, and researching with each other how best to serve these audiences, but actually talk and work with them. We might think a working-class high school Latino audience doesn’t feel welcome in a museum for various reasons. But Patty asked a portion of this population, and the responses were for the most part, the opposite. They do feel welcome. They just do not go that often or at all.

    Now, let us all just figure out how we work with them so they do go. And more importantly, how we can decrease the achievement gap.
    As Patty said: Our future is brown. Lets make the brown future less bleak.


  2. rljungren

    Val, what a great point about the audience feeling welcome in museums, which was the opposite of what Patty thought would be the response. This was extremely enlightening for me– lack of visitors at museums I have worked at in the past signaled to me that people just didn’t care, and didn’t feel welcome. Hearing that the students Patty surveyed were actually interested in museums, and that they felt welcome in that environment, gave me a new perspective on what our goal should be. Maybe it’s not just about making museums “interesting,” but instead about creating routes of accessibility. Excellent work Patty!


  3. megwilliams44

    Patty, your idea that it is ‘not necessarily about the content, but what the program provides for the student,’ is really interesting to me. If this is true (and from the responses to your survey it looks like it very well might be), this really opens up a lot of doors for ALL kinds of museums to reach out to broader audiences. And this is part of our job as educators, right?: to find ways to make almost any subject matter or content interesting, exciting, and relevant to our audiences. Of course, not everyone will be interested in everything, but I do think that with thoughtfully organized programming centered around well-researched content, almost anyone has the potential to become engaged in something that they were initially uninterested in.

    The fact is, like you so effectively reminded us in your presentation and blog post, you cannot box in any group based on stereotypes. Just because people are of a certain race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, religion, etc. you cannot assume that they will all like the same things or that they will all be disinterested in things unrelated to that aspect of themselves. Each person is an individual!

    Of course, I feel like there must be a balance to be found in creating programming that offers all of the things that you mentioned a group might need or want – like mentoring and the opportunity to produce something – but that also has content that meshes well with those other things that we want to offer. So we should be sure to thoughtfully and carefully create programming that builds off our exhibitions in a meaningful way. The objects and exhibitions are where museums can set themselves apart from community centers that might be offering the other resources that you mention in your blog post.

    Also, as we have all mentioned in terms of many other audiences, as well, partnerships with these community centers and other organizations can help strengthen both institutions. Partnerships with schools, community centers, churches, etc. could be a good way to get those interested not-yet-museum-goers in the door – a way of “creating routes of accessibility,” as Becca said.



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