By Engager (and recent graduate of NYU with a Masters in Educational Leadership! Congrats!) Lawrese Brown

For many of us, repeating anything is a form of low-level torture. We spend our lives both personally and professionally convinced that we should “get it right the first time.” We think that if we just move slowly enough, plan meticulously enough, and forecast appropriately then we can nail it and never have to worry about it again. Sometimes that works, but sometimes the only surefire way to learn anything, and even more so to learn how to do anything well, is by doing it again.

Here’s what I mean: It is only in the continuous doing of anything that we really grow in our competence of it. It is in our repetition that we transform what we do well into what we do best.

As the fable goes, a pottery professor divided his class in half. To the left side, he said, “you will be graded on the quantity of work you produce” and to the right side he announced, “you will be graded on the quality of the work you produce.” Fast forward to final projects eight weeks later and the students with the highest quality pots were those whose grades were dependent upon the quantity of pots produced.

Even if this story isn’t true, it is important. In its outcome, it speaks to repetition as a means of learning, and also as the root of excellence. It also begs the question: why do we so commonly position quality and quantity as counterparts instead of complementary pieces?
When I started taking improv, my fellow improvers and I would look to Jen as the guru. We just knew that no matter what scene she was in or what word she was thrown, she was always going to ace it. In our minds, she knew everything. But when Jen overheard us all aspiring to be an improv master like she was, she said, “You guys know there’s no such thing as an improv master, right?” In that moment and in that question, she wasn’t negating the fact that she had decades of improv experience. She was highlighting the fact that while continuing improv would undoubtedly strengthen our skills, there would never be a point where we were so perfect that we never had anything left to learn. Even as we became more confident and quick thinking, there would always be a reason to keep going because there is always room for improvement.

Both taking and teaching improv have been powerful tools for my personal and professional growth. I no longer think of learning in terms of completion but as a process along a continuum – I know that every time I take an improv course or teach a class, my desire for improvement (strengthening old skills and learning new ones) is what will push me toward a level of quality and excellence. As Bruce Lee famously said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” It is in the practice, the repetition, and the continuous doing that quantity and quality converge.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.19.20 AMA note from Jen:
The first Mashup was born in a car on the way to Whole Foods. And not a NYC car ride – this was a 10 minute conversation en route to picking up snacks for a reception at SECCA. Debbie Randolph was pushing, more than I was, to embody the spirit of improv in our next round of experimenting in museums at the 2015 NAEA conference. I remember having the conversation, getting excited about a great idea, then emailing the others to refining the car plan.

I’ve always had a level of tentativeness with truly incorporating improv into what I’m doing – blame it on years of hearing “improvisers are losers” from a theatre director who RAN an improv theatre. While others may have seen me as risky, I knew I was holding back some of the ‘crazier’ ideas. But over the last three and a half years, I’ve gotten bolder in taking the lead in improv integration within museum pedagogy Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.18.46 AMAND owning my experience and opinions. The Mashup doesn’t belong to that little group of renegades from NAEA. It’s not mine – it doesn’t belong to any one person. We don’t have to be there to train people how to do it or to run it. The idea of experimentation within museums is present within the museum field already. But this celebration of failure/positive risk-taking/off-the-cuff/Yes, And mentality? This is improv. This is what, through The Engaging Educator, we are teaching and embodying – and have been for three and a half years, and will for many, many more. And here’s my experiment, embracing it all and running with those ‘crazy’ ideas that don’t seem so crazy once they get rolling.

So, moving forward we’re stewarding #MuseumMashup. This page is a place where we’ll promote, help organize, host resources, reflections, photos and information – it’s also where you can find organizers near you, and get involved in our next adventure this late summer/early fall – the Worldwide #MuseumMashup. That being said, welcome and do Yes, And the fun!

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.23.34 AMA note from Shaelyn: On the first Nationwide Museum Mashup Day, events were organized at 6 museums across the country. Museum educators, enthusiasts, and the public were invited to visit a site near them or follow along online with the hashtag #MuseumMashup. Between 10 am and 8 pm EST, there was only one half hour period when no group of museum enthusiasts was holding a Museum Mashup!

The hashtag generated nearly 800 tweets, with 300 original tweets and 400 retweets. Messages sent on twitter about the event appeared in timelines 800,000 times for as many as 3 million views. The hashtag reached #1 among trending hashtags in the United States in the evening. Whether participating online or in person, the first Nationwide Museum Mashup Day provided a wonderful opportunity for people to share the experience of looking at museums in new ways.

Visit our Storify summary of the day to see a recap of how it unfolded according to the tweets participants shared: