An American Museum Educator in Dubai

Submitted by Chelsea Hogan, Education Specialist

One day in November 2015, I arrived at ESMoA with coffee in hand ready to teach a school group. Eva Sweeney, one of ESMoA’s founders greeted me cheerfully. She had just returned from a Global Private Museum Summit in Shanghai, China, and was brimming with ideas and energy. “So. Do you want to go to Dubai?” She asked. I probably responded with something like “Um….sure?” But as I listened to her tell me more, I was excited. Eva had met Deborah Najar, Co-founder of the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation (JPNF). The Foundation was slated to open in March 2016, and would house the American and European Minimalist collection of the late Jean-Paul Najar (Co-founder) and present exciting exhibitions of notable contemporary artists from around the world.


Image courtesy of

Although the staff at JPNF are versed in Art History and connoisseurship, they have less experience in developing and facilitating public programs in museums, and were intrigued by the work that we do at ESMoA. Hard pressed to find Museum Education experts in Dubai, Deborah and Eva wondered if I could offer my expertise based on a Master’s degree in Museum Education, ten years of experience in the field, and the work I’ve done to help develop ESMoA’s Education approach from the ground up. While I had never imagined going to Dubai, what little I had heard of it sounded amazing! A place where everything is flaked with gold, and people have jaguars as pets. I love to travel, and as a member of ESMoA staff, it’s my job to “spread the spark of creativity,” so why not do it on the other side of the world? And maybe even take home a jaguar.

My initial Skype meeting with JPNF’s small staff began with a powerful statement from Deborah Najar: “If people walk into the Foundation, take a quick glance and leave without ‘getting it,’ we have failed.” This statement has stayed with me throughout the planning process, and has guided my thinking as a collaborator on this project. Deborah and the staff are passionate about the Foundation’s collection and story, and want visitors to feel the same. In addition to this heartfelt goal that continues to resonate with me, they have five other goals for their Educational approach, and therefore my visit:

  • Educate the public on the artists, collection and its Collector, Jean-Paul Najar.
  • Educate the public on the very specific period in art history that the collection represents: Contemporary American and European Minimalism.
  • Give context and meaning to artwork within the collection.
  • Communicate the importance of art in general.
  • How to read art and find meaning in what one sees.

A tall order, but one I’m excited to take on.

In addition to teaching them a few tips we’ve picked up, like how to maximize space and turn public areas into flexible studio spaces, I’ll share methods for creating and delivering programming. On the first day I’ll present on ESMoA’s main Educational areas of focus: School, Adult, Family, Teen, Intern, Volunteer, and our international Artist-in-Residence program. Then, we’ll dive into Gallery Teaching practices, looking at works of art together, engaging in activities, reading articles by prominent Museum Education philosophers, and reflecting on why we do what we do.

In the second week, I’ll be facilitating a family program, training volunteers, and giving English/Arabic tours for the public with a JPNF staff member. Finally, I will be participating in a conversation with JPNF and nearby commercial gallery owners about ways nonprofits and for-profit art spaces can learn from each other.

You can follow this special collaboration here on the ESMoA blog, as I post from Dubai, as well as my reflections afterwards. I leave this Saturday, October 8th, and am nearly ready to go. One thing I still need to figure they allow jaguars as carry-ons, or do you have to check them?

To learn more about the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, please visit

Chelsea Hogan is a Museum Education Specialist who is passionate about connecting people to themselves, each other, and the world around us through art. She has taught diverse audiences in a variety of museums in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Upstate New York. Chelsea is currently an Education Specialist at ESMoA, where she designs and implements educational programming with a particular focus on K-12 Schools and Adult programs. Chelsea earned her Masters in Teaching Museum Education from the George Washington University while also working as an educator in a variety of Washington D.C. museums. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Ithaca College.

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2017-12-15T05:17:14+00:00 October 7th, 2016|Uncategorized|