ROCHESTER, NY, March 24, 2021 – When celebrating Women’s History Month, it’s important to highlight the achievements and contributions of women who are actively working toward change in the present as well as Changemakers of the past.
The Rochester Museum & Science Center’s (RMSC) 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, due to the nature of physical exhibits, 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 in this exhibit, worked with the 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 BIPOC womxn who, through their leadership in this tumultuous era, are transforming Rochester in real-time. The content is changed monthly and DeGuzman’s work helps the RMSC further 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 to, when possible, center their voices and not interpret the meaning or significance of their work,” said DeGuzman. “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,” said DeGuzman. “We admire these people as almost superheroes or demi-gods. 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 at RMSC. 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,” said Murano Santos. “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 in person at the RMSC Museum and online at RMSC.org/changemakers/changenow.