RMSC highlighting contemporary ‘Changemakers’
The Rochester Museum & Science Center’s featured exhibit, “The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World,” shares the stories of women from the Rochester region and Haudenosaunee Confederacy, past and present, who changed Rochester and the world.
About half of the women featured in the exhibit are contemporary, but it was difficult to capture their ongoing work to make history while the exhibit was being developed.
Rachel DeGuzman, founder and executive director of 21st Century Arts Inc. and a featured “Changemaker,” worked with RMSC staff as a community curator throughout the exhibit development process. Seeing this need to document current events, she proposed an idea that would allow for the inclusion of more women who are making change in the present. Her idea was a video installation titled “ChangeNOW.”
Guest curated by DeGuzman and housed within the larger “Changemakers” exhibit, “ChangeNOW” spotlights local women of color who, through their leadership in this tumultuous era, are transforming Rochester in real-time. The content is changed monthly and DeGuzman’s work helps RMSC expand what a “Changemaker,” and the change she fosters, looks like.
“The premise of the ‘ChangeNOW’ installation is to spotlight women who are making change in real-time and, when possible, to center their voices and not interpret the meaning or significance of their work,” DeGuzman said. “During this time of heightened social justice protest through the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement, which was founded and is led by womxn, local Black Lives Matter leaders will continue to be highlighted.”
“ChangeNOW” features photos and videos by Martin Hawk taken at local Black Lives Matter protests during spring and summer of 2020. The digital nature of the installation enabled DeGuzman to modify her plans as needed to include stories and footage of current history as it unfolded over the past year.
“When we look back at changes instigated or contributed to by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony and, say, Cesar Chavez, we tend to think, ‘I could never do anything as important as they did,’ because we are viewing their work through its impact, through the lenses of their achievements,” DeGuzman said. “We admire these people as almost superheroes or demigods. When we view contemporary women through their successes and failures, without the vantage point of time and glossing over the struggles, making change does not seem like an unattainable dream.”
Inspiring visitors to be “Changemakers” by sharing the stories of women who are like them and have made — or are currently making — an impact on the world is one of the goals behind commissioning the “ChangeNOW” installation and developing the larger “Changemakers” exhibit, according to Kathryn Murano Santos, senior director of collections and exhibitions. DeGuzman’s work through “ChangeNOW” provides another layer of authentic storytelling that enables people to realize that anyone, including themselves, can be a “Changemaker.”
“Continuing to document, preserve and share the stories of local women featured in ‘ChangeNOW’ as their work unfolds will contribute to our community's understanding of this moment in time and the impact of these women in the future, all through a more inclusive lens,” Murano Santos said. “We hope that by recognizing the importance of the work they are doing — and the many forms that changemaking can take — visitors will feel empowered to use their passions and interests to create a more just, equitable, healthy, connected and sustainable world.”
The ChangeNOW installation is available to view online at rmsc.org/changemakers/changenow and in-person at RMSC.