Drawing from her own experiences growing up in Chicago, First Lady Michelle Obama last week urged cultural institutions to be more welcoming to children of color.
“There are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers, and they think to themselves, ‘Well, that’s not a place for me — for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood,’ ” Mrs. Obama said Thursday at the dedication of the new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Daily News reported.
“In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum,” she said. “Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was one of those kids myself. So I know the feeling of not belonging in a place like this.”
The first lady praised the Whitney for offering educational programming for children in struggling communities and said more museums and theaters should do the same, the Daily News reported.
“[The Whitney is] telling them that their story is part of the American story, and that they deserve to be seen,” she said, Gothamist reported. “And you’re sending that message not just with the art you display, but with the educational programming you run here.”
“I think that every cultural institution in this country should be doing this kind of outreach and engagement with our young people every single day,” she added.
Mrs. Obama said she “fell in love” with the new, $422 million building designed by architect Renzo Piano in the Meatpacking District, the Daily News reported.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who also spoke at the ribbon cutting, similarly praised the Whitney for providing programs to people of all walks of life.
“There’s a special focus on mentoring our LGBT youth. There’s free workshops for our seniors as well. There’s focus on adults with HIV and AIDS. So much happens through The Whitney to uplift,” he said. “And yes, a focus on the students in our public schools from every walk of life, every background — this museum has made it a point to be an open door to them.”