Suse Anderson is an assistant professor of Museum Studies at The George Washington University and the former Director of Audience Experience at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She also hosts the Museopunks podcast. Before participating in a panel asking “Does Art Really Make Us Better Citizens?” at a Zócalo conference in downtown Los Angeles entitled “What Can the World Teach California About Arts Engagement?” she answered some questions in the green room about shopping centers, ice cream flavors, and her reasons for loving Halloween.
What surprised you most about podcasting, when you started doing it?
How many people just say yes when you ask them to be involved. We started the podcast to explore topics that my cohost Jeffrey Inscho and I found interesting. But it was also a chance to talk to people that we maybe wouldn’t have had a chance to talk to anyway. And so often we just say, “Hey, would you do this thing?” And almost every time people say yes.
What do you recommend to visitors in Newcastle, Australia, your hometown?
Newcastle is beautiful and wonderful. I think one of the loveliest things are the ocean baths. This is not unique to Newcastle—they are around Australia. The water comes in fresh from the ocean. You swim in this beautiful swimming pool but it’s populated by water straight from the ocean. It is really wonderful.
Oh, wow. Why don’t we do that in the U.S.?
I do not know! In fact, Americans to whom I’ve shown the ocean baths have asked that question constantly.
What’s your favorite holiday?
My new favorite holidays would be Halloween and Thanksgiving. I think in part because neither of them are Australian holidays. So they still feel very fresh and spontaneous. But also where I live in Baltimore we probably have 400 to 500 kids come on Halloween, and to see the joy and excitement in their faces is such a wonderful experience.
What good book have you read recently?
I’ve been reading very different things in the U.S. from what I was reading in Australia. Now I need to read books that are from here and of here to understand not just the culture and the voice but also the cultural reference points that people have.
Anything stand out?
Coming from Baltimore there’s a really amazing book called The Other Wes Moore. It’s a story of two men from Baltimore who grew up blocks from one another—both with the same name, similar ages—looking at how differently their lives have unfolded. I think books that really contextualize this country for me have become so significant. I recommend it highly. I saw the author speak a couple of years ago and he was wonderful as well.
What’s your go-to ice cream flavor?
Oh, all of the above. There is a really great Baltimore ice cream company called Taharka Brothers. And they make amazing flavors. Right now my favorite of theirs is their honey graham ice cream, which is pretty fantastic. It’s a current favorite.
Where do you go to be alone?
Lots of places. Sometimes shopping centers. For me a shopping center is a lot like a museum experience that I can touch. I like to watch and look at colors and feel fabrics but also have time to think and to be with myself.
What superpower would you most like to have?
I would like to be a chameleon, to have the capacity to walk into any room or any situation and be able to fit that circumstance.
What do you most want your students to know about museums?
The class that I’m most excited about teaching at the moment is a class called “Critical Visitor Experience.” It breaks down the visitor experience through so many different lenses, and I really want my students to be able to look at the museum and its experience holistically rather than just looking at their very small piece. And being able to see how the actions they take fit more broadly into people’s lives.
What would you do if you had one more hour in the day?
It would change every day.