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Museum Hack: Badass Bitches Tour

Arty Pants
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I found myself weaving my way through tourists on Michigan Avenue on a beautiful Saturday in early March, on my way to the Art Institute of Chicago. Flanked by the famed copper lions, I charged up the steps, bypassed the ticket line and stumbled into the entryway. I was in search of a my co-editor, Alexis, and a group of badass Bitches, ready to explore the museum in a whole new way.

Museum Hack

This new way of exploration is brought to us by the creative folks at Museum Hack. Founded in 2012 in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum Hack brings tours to those who traditionally steer away from spending an afternoon perusing through the works of Picasso and Monet. Instead, the group encourages a rather unconventional and approachable way of viewing art.

Museum Hack offers a number of different tour types, but Alexis and I showed up for a very specific tour on this day: The Badass Bitches tour. With a name like that, we could not pass it up. The Badass Bitches tour aims to shed light on the gender and racial inequality that exists in the art world, while adding a fun twist.

The tour was inspired by a group of super badass ladies who refer to themselves as the Guerilla Girls. The Guerilla Girls originally came together in New York City in 1985 to fight sexism and racism in the artistic community, and perhaps more importantly, to reinvent the “F” word—feminism.

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Shocking fact: At the Art Institute of Chicago, only seven percent of the works of art are works by women. This trend is consistent throughout museums across the nation and the world.

As Alexis and I gathered with the other members of the tour, we were introduced to our Museum Hack tour guide, Jessamyn, a native Chicagoan with lots of energy and a captivating personality. As we made our way through the original building and into the modern wing, we stopped at several works along the way.

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At each stop we were welcomed by either a tale or brief history about the piece itself, a game that allowed us to interact with the art, or a creative challenge that encouraged each of us to think about the work differently.

With each interaction came a lesson about the history and evolution of feminism in respect to the artistic community. We looked at pieces by Georgia O’Keeffe and discussed how she holds a reputation for painting flowers that had a tendency to resemble a very specific female body part.

But in truth, Georgia O’Keeffe herself smashed opinions formulated by mainly male art critics, and she corrected that she was in fact painting flowers. However, instead of painting flowers from a zoomed out perspective like many of her peers at the time, she elected to paint them from a micro view. This approach allowed her to be a monumental figure in the development of Modernism.

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It was conversations and lessons like these that I took away from the experience with great joy. I consider myself to be a fan of museums and art. I’ve never shied away from spending an afternoon strolling through the galleries, so I was intrigued to see how I would fare on a tour designed for those who don’t gravitate towards museums. But the way in which the challenges and games are designed allows for all members of the group to explore at their own pace.

The tour lasted only two hours, but in that short time I left feeling like I had learned more about art than I had in months. Not only that, but I walked out of the museum proud to be a woman.

Museum Hack tours are available in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Tour types, scheduling and prices vary by city. For more information and to purchase tour tickets, visit the official site, here.

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