What is a Just World? Our Visitors Respond with Love, Equity, and Tacos
The Hammer Museum believes in the promise of art and ideas to illuminate our lives and build a more just world. This is our mission statement. It is simultaneously realistic and optimistic, daunting and galvanizing, an affirmation that our work is important and a guiding principle reminding us that there is much more we can and should do.
For many Hammer staff, we come to work every day aspiring to tip the scales towards equality through our exhibitions and programs, knowing full well that a contemporary art museum can only do so much. As a public institution, one thing we can do is provide a safe space for our visitors to explore and share ideas about justice, inclusion, and equity. We do this by discussing how these themes relate to works of art in our galleries, by encouraging dialogue in programs like forums and community gatherings, and through an interactive space we call Open Corner.
Open Corner is an area near our Hammer Store that is designated for visitor participatory projects. In our current iteration of Open Corner, we encourage visitors to engage with the overarching goal of our mission statement—build a more just world. For the past few months, visitors have been invited to complete the sentence, “A just world is....” The resulting panoply of ruminations, drawings, and proclamations offers a heart-warming glimpse into the values of our Hammer community—one that is highly sensitive to the feelings of our fellow humans, deeply impacted by the current sociopolitical climate, and (for a few) jonesin’ for tacos.
We reviewed hundreds of Open Corner responses and discovered that there were many commonalities across visitors of all ages and from different parts of the world. Below are a few themes that emerged.
A World for Everyone
Many visitors referenced our global interdependence in their visions of a just world, one that is full of empathy, happiness, and peace. Drawings of our planet were sprinkled across Open Corner, a collective acknowledgment that we are occupying the same space and time. We are, after all, in this together.
Equality for All
Division, be it division among racial, gender, religious, or socio-economic lines, is not acceptable in our visitors’ versions of a just world. Visitors expressed their desire for our differences to be celebrated instead of used to incite hate and fear.
A Platform for Political Opinions
The very notion of an “open” corner allows for a multiplicity of opinions on any number of topics. Hammer visitors proposed tweaks to the US political system as well as international calls to action.
President Donald Trump was by far the most mentioned individual in Open Corner. Many visitors are highly critical of the current administration, positing that our world would be more just without Trump at the helm.
Through the Lens of Love
To give and receive love, it seems, are key to building a more just world. Visitors both referenced love in general terms and directed it specifically at loved ones (“A just world is…one with Camille in it!”). Most touchingly, it was asked of us in the voices of some of our youngest visitors.
Tacos (and Other Fave Foods)
At first the many references to food, and tacos in particular, surprised us. The more we thought about it, though, the more it made absolute sense. Tacos are undeniably delicious, and food equity is certainly an issue that requires global attention. Access to food, good food at that, should be a given.
Random but Remarkable
There were a handful of prompts that we couldn’t neatly categorize into an overarching theme, but we just had to share. Justice, it turns out, may be as simple as the sensation of hugging a loved one, as shown in a beautiful drawing of two young girls from Rome. Perhaps it means appreciating the well-documented friendship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And who doesn’t love cats?
This speaks for itself.