2019 Retreat

equity by design

The Culture Lab Cooperative (CLC) is coming to New Orleans, a city alive with culture, music, creativity and celebration. There’s no place better to explore the future of museums as hubs for community-centered empowerment than through the lens of this place—as culturally rich and complex as any in America.

The Culture Lab Cooperative (May 17-19) is a weekend-long immersive training for a carefully-selected cohort of local and national curators, education specialists, administrators, and other museums practitioners. The CLC begins with intimate site visits led by New Orleans-based design Shift, where participants will engage with New Orleans artists, community organizers, and cultural practitioners to cultivate tangible, applicable methods of community-centered museums practice. Participants will also get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s philosophy behind Culture Labs has helped institute innovative, socially-engaged museums programs nationwide.

Finally, the Culture Lab Cooperative will culminate in the world premiere of a new musical art installation presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. A collaboration between renowned artists New Orleans Airlift and Christine Sun Kim, the yet-unnamed work will join the beloved Music Box Village’s campus of “music houses” in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, as an interactive sound structure that explores how music can be created and experienced by Deaf and hearing communities together. This event will be open to the public, but CLC participants will be invited to an exclusive pre-opening meet-and-greet with the artists.

Host Committee

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center introduced the concept of Culture Labs in 2016 to encourage and empower museums and cultural institutions to prioritize community-centered principles of equity, imagination, and sustainability. Its weekend-long Culture Labs include CrossLines in Washington, D.C., CTRL+ALT in New York City, ʻAe Kai in Honolulu, and an upcoming Culture Lab in Tāmaki Auckland in October 2019. Collectively, the SmithsonianAPA Culture Labs have forged collaborations with over 150 artists and organizations, and drawn over 40,000 visitors. In 2018, SmithsonianAPA published the Culture Lab Playbook, a resource for equitably-minded cultural production that has since been put to practice by dozens of museums, schools, and cultural institutions.


Shift is a New Orleans-based design non-profit that designs products and builds social ventures to help solve social problems. Shift works with organizations toward deep and lasting social impact, offering methodology, specialist skills and experience to help them improve their solutions and develop new ones. Shift’s recent public programs in New Orleans include Architecting Sustainable Futures, the Library Make ‘n’ Shake, and Historypin’s Storybox.