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Reacting to art with our bodies with Rachel Ropeik



Today I’m talking to Rachel Ropeik about her work. We’re talking about the many ways in which we can incorporate movement into our work as educators and how it can help with engagement.

Rachel Ropeik is an educator, facilitator, adventurer, experience builder and pirate who brings thoughtful, playful, and progressive approaches to catalysing change in arts and culture.

She currently works independently, sharing her skills with various clients. Before going independent, Rachel’s arts education career spanned many a major art museum and travel company in New York, London, Paris, and the internet.

I first heard of Rachel’s work more than 10 years ago as part of a small group of educators that I admired and followed for their innovation and experimentation in the art museum education space.

In our chat today, we talk about Rachel’s work past and present and the values and principles that guide her practice.

We focus on why movement has been and still is such an important part of her work and how we can incorporate more movement into our programmes. Rachel shares lots of examples of the different ways in which she has used movement in different programmes, with different groups and artworks over the years.

We talk about how we can create physical comfort and put people at ease, so that we can use movement without any fear or feelings of uncomfortableness.

Rachel shares tools and techniques that we use to incorporate a range of movement into the way we lead our museum programmes. And also how we can use movement ourselves as a way to become more present, aware and reflective.

Finally, Rachel shares 3 amazing books that you all must read immediately. Do stay tuned for her recommendations!


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Books recommended by Rachel:

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff

Wintering by Katherine May

BBC Radio 4 abridged version of Wintering by Katherine May:


Claire Bown 03:59
So. Hi, Rachel, Welcome to the Art Engager podcast.

Claire Bown  03:59

So. Hi, Rachel, Welcome to the Art Engager podcast.

Rachel Ropeik  04:04

Hi, Claire, I’m glad to be here.

Claire Bown  04:06

So could you tell us paint a picture of where you are right now in the world.

Rachel Ropeik  04:12

I am in glorious autumnal, New England on the east coast of the US. I am in Massachusetts. And we’re in a really lovely time that I always appreciate about the fall where some of the trees are still green. And the days are not too cold yet, but then some of the trees are starting to change into all of their beautiful Fall colours. And there’s a little bit of that cold snap to the air. So I’m starting to bring my my boots and my jeans and my sweaters back into circulation.

Rachel Ropeik  04:46

Oh, lovely. You’re painting a gorgeous picture. I’m getting the autumnal vibes from you. So now I feel as though I’ve known you for a very long time. I was trying to think back this morning. How long When I first became aware of your work, and I think it was probably about 10/11 years ago, something like that. So I feel like I’ve been following you for a long time. But could you explain to our listeners what it is that you do? And how you came to be doing what you’re doing now?

Rachel Ropeik  05:17

Sure. Yeah, I was actually trying to think the same thing. When did we first encounter each other, and I feel like it must have been through Context Travel, somehow. But I, I have been a, an art museum educator for decades. I was in New York City for a long time. I was in London for a few years. Right before the pandemic, I’m an art historian by academic training. But I have mostly used that in education roles in art museums. And right before the pandemic, I moved out to Colorado, I left New York, and moved out to Colorado to be the Head of Education for a small contemporary art museum in western Colorado. And for a number of reasons, I left that job. I was glad to be out of New York and in a very beautiful, natural part of the world that was much more sparsely populated during the early lockdown days of the pandemic. But the job was not the right fit for a number of reasons. So I left that job, I think I’m one of those people who had a kind of, you know, great resignation, pandemic, mental and physical health, tipping point. And, and also, I would say, kind of professional tipping point as well, where I think seeing, especially in the US what so many museums were doing, and how poorly their staff were faring and how poorly things were being communicated. I feel like I lost a little bit of the idealism that I had for trying to work towards change from inside the system of museums. And I didn’t lose the love for museums, and the people who work in museums and the objects and the storytelling, and all of those things that are kind of the building blocks of museum education. But I decided to start working independently instead of working for a museum. And so that has been a couple of years now of sort of finding my way into exactly how I want to work in that space independently. And it is still an ongoing journey. But the way that I am describing myself now is more by the roles that I would like to be taking rather than one specific kind of bucket. So I am I am talking about my work. Now, as I am an educator, an adventurer, a facilitator and experience builder, and a pirate. And I, I have always loved pirates. I’m a real nerd about lots of different things, but pirates is one of them. And I’m trying to bring that ethos of kind of taking a broken system, and trying to change it into something that works for you into the work that I’m doing now. So I’m very interested in kind of the change that can happen in the arts and culture space, and what I can do to help people make that happen.

Claire Bown  08:26

Brilliant. I love those words that you’re using to describe yourself. I think we should all be more pirate. And you’ve just reminded me I think the first time I became aware of you was when, way back when when the Museum Mashups were occurring. And I think that fits in with your ethos, your values, your principles. So maybe you could talk about some of the values that underpin your work or your practice.

Rachel Ropeik  08:52

Yes, absolutely. Yes, that’s that is a very good point. The Museum Mashups was a very fun and experimental time, and I think is actually a wonderful thing to point to for the values that I still try to bring to my work. So that was for anybody who is not aware. There was a period of time. God, Gosh, 10 years ago, 12 years ago, something like that, where I along with several other colleagues, Mike Murawski, Jen Oleniczak Brown, who we were we were really just in a lot of conversations about how we saw a lot of stagnation in the field around us, and especially we were all kind of working in museum education circles then. And it just felt like a moment where there wasn’t a lot of educators pushing our own practices forward. And that was what we really wanted to do. And so we had this whole the Museum Mashups was an experience that we did several iterations of in various formats where it was kind of throwing together, some educators who didn’t know each other who showed up for an event, and asking them to very quickly come up with an engaging experience with an object that they were likely not familiar with, often in museums that were not their home museum, and then to lead the other educators in that group through that experience. So it was really about kind of getting out of the usual teaching patterns. And I think that’s, that’s a great…that kind of pirate ethos is very much present in those and has always been part of what I do, I think.

Rachel Ropeik  10:37

I am very interested in sort of bringing a quality to my work, that change that doesn’t change, regardless of what the work is. And I often like that quality to be a sort of transparent, experimental, playfulness. I guess if I could describe it that way, I think I really do. The, the values that I have kind of identified for myself for 2022 are transparency, and collectivity and vulnerability. And those are not the only three values that I find important. But I do think that those are kind of key, there were I think, talking openly about the things that we’re working on has always been important to me, trying to examine things that may not be working well, or that may be feeling a little stale, and what we can do to reinvigorate them, I have always been a fan of trying out a new way of doing things, because the worst thing that happens is it doesn’t work. And you go back to doing it the old way. And that’s fine, too. And you know something more about it. So I think that that experimental feeling is something that I really try to bring. And also the sort of the pirate kind of refusal to accept a system just because someone tells me to accept the system has always been there to

Claire Bown  12:10

I love it. And I was just thinking back to how the Museum Mashups did inspire my work at the time, we brought them to the Netherlands, which is where I’ve been based for the last 15 years, brought them into some of the trainings and workshops that I was doing as well to try and get other museum educators out of established patterns and thinking outside of the box. So yes, that kind of experimentation thing, I think strongly resonates with me as well, I definitely found perhaps, during the pandemic, even a little bit before the pandemic started. That was the time when I started to really say I’m going to experiment without fear here because none of the established… or none of the rules that we kind of worked from before was still there, everything had changed. So I definitely embrace that as something that’s part of my practice as well, because of course, we can all learn from it, can’t we?

Rachel Ropeik  13:03

Yeah, and I do I feel like that’s it’s always the people like you who are kind of thinking outside the box or thinking about what might come next are the people that I find myself gravitating towards. So

Claire Bown  13:16

Yes, yes. So exciting times, keep experimenting, for sure. I’d love to focus on movement, because it’s something we have connected with in the past. And you did a masterclass for my membership earlier this year, on ways in which we might use movement in the museum with art and objects. So perhaps you could share some examples of programmes where you’ve incorporated different types of new movement and sort of how you’ve used it in the past.

Rachel Ropeik  13:47

Yeah, so I will also put in there that alongside my museum education work, I have been a dancer my whole life. I was sort of the little girl who started ballet lessons, but then stuck with them kind of forever. And then on into adulthood, not not ballet, but you know, jazz dance and contemporary dance. So movement has always been a way that I really like. expressing myself, I think it gets me into a very different headspace than the kind of art historical museum, kind of very heady…It’s like the kind of above the neck or below the neck, governing how I’m operating and I’m very used to working in a way in spaces where the above-the-neck and brain-centric approaches are the ones that are used. So I have always really enjoyed bringing movement in specifically to try and get myself and other people below-the-neck, paying attention to other things. So I have I remember, actually in that in the kind of Museum Mashup days. One of the other experimental programmes that I participated in did not lead but was a session with Eliot Kai Kee, formerly of the Getty, who is also a great experimenter in in gallery practices, but he led us in an experiment where we were in a contemporary gallery. And the motivating prompt was the question, ‘what does this artwork ask you to do?’ And that was it. And then it was really about I think he had said he had asked us to be silent. So it was not about responding with words. And then it was just this whole group of people who were all kind of doing these movements. And it just had an energy to it in that room that I thought was so different than so many of the experiences we had loved. So that was a real jumping off point for me, in thinking about bringing movement into my teaching And at the time, I was working with school students at the Brooklyn Museum. And so bringing movement into programmes with students was very much a part of my practice, even if it was just kind of, you know, taking some deep breaths between stops, or, you know, how are we going to walk to the next stop things to kind of physically help younger folks get some of their energy out. And then as I started working with adults, when I was still working with at the Brooklyn Museum, I worked with teachers. And I started to encourage teachers to really come to my programmes as learners and adults in their own right, not necessarily only with their teacher hats on. So we did a bunch of movement activities. I did do something I remember we had an installation. That was sort of an immersive installation by the artists Swoon at the Brooklyn Museum, and I did a workshop with some teachers using that prompt from Elliott Kai Kee ‘what does this space ask you to do?’ And they were just, it was like, they were dancing through this whole immersive installation. And it was just so joyful. And they were laughing and smiling. And there was just a lightness about it that I think, really, really, I found very inspiring. And then as we were talking about it afterwards, it was such a full body kind of release in a way that just staying in that you know, conversation-based talking mode that we often do, or even you know, bringing drawing or writing activities in, but I would say like the more intellectually guided sorts of activities don’t have. So that is one thing I can point to.

Rachel Ropeik  17:47

And then there’s there’s one other example that I would give, which is maybe movement in a slightly different capacity. But I worked at the Guggenheim in New York for a number of years. And for anybody who has been there, you will know what I’m talking about. But if you haven’t, one of the hallmark experiences of visiting that museum is that it’s this building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and you walk up these spiralling ramps, and then you walk down the spiralling ramps, to see the art. So it’s sort of almost like a, like a kind of upside down beehive shape, right, so it’s open in the middle, and the ramps around the edges are a spiral. And the sense of movement is so inescapable there, I don’t think it’s something a lot of people pay attention to consciously. But because you’re not on flat ground, and you’re moving up, or you’re moving down, and you’re seeing art in this kind of physically different environment, I often tried to bring some sense of bodily awareness into my programmes there. Even if it was just paying attention to the sensation of your feet on the ground, or, you know, I did programmes for people with disabilities there. And it was also kind of people, you know, using various mobility devices, if it was people who are blind with a cane, like how did that feel kind of tapping on this different sort of surface? If it was people using a wheelchair or a walker, like how did it feel to be kind of connected to this device that was on the ground in a different way than you might be outside? So I think that’s the other element that I would say of movement, it doesn’t always need to be kind of a wild dancing sort of movement. It can also just be an awareness and attention to how your body is moving in space.

Claire Bown  19:34

Yeah, it’s so interesting thinking of it as a spectrum of different types of movement that you might engage with in the museum from perhaps more entry level activities that perhaps you know that are for those who may be feeling a little bit ill at ease, perhaps using more movement to more innovative more experimental ones at the other end of the spectrum. And you remain reminded me when you were talking of, I’ve just come back from Denmark and I was in the art museum in Aarhus, Aarhus it’s pronounced in Denmark, I was corrected. But I was in there. And actually the the building there did remind me of just that whole idea of movement because it also had these spiralling staircases throughout. And the steps were spaced at such a strange width that it made you feel as though you were dancing, as you were walking down stairs, you had to sort of move your feet and point your feet in a different way to what you would normally. So that sensation of being more aware of your body, as you’re moving around the museum, and looking at the art was really interesting as well.

Rachel Ropeik  20:48

I love that I have to try and keep that on my mental to-go list

Claire Bown  20:54

Exactly, exactly all these amazing buildings, but thinking about how those buildings may, and the space of the museum itself, may inspire thoughts for movement as well is really interesting to consider.

Claire Bown  21:08

So we’ve talked about ways we might use movement, you’ve given some great suggestions. And you’ve also talked about some of the benefits, talked about it bringing joy bringing different ways to engage with the art different ways to engage with people, and perhaps even getting people out of their comfort zone. But I want to sort of look at how we can set it up so that we can create physical comfort for everyone to enjoy some type of movement in the museum. Because obviously, I know whenever I introduce different types of activities – it may be drawing or writing or even movement – some people may be daunted by the thought of this. So how can we set it up so that everyone can participate? Happily?

Rachel Ropeik  21:56

Yes, and I encounter exactly the same thing and always have. And I think because of my sort of pirate self, I have always taken that as a little bit of a challenge. Like, you know, I think many, many of my beloved friends and colleagues over the years in the field has sort of said like, ‘well, if people don’t want to, they don’t have to like, I don’t want to push it on them’. And I kind of take it as ‘Ooh, people are uncomfortable, what can I do to try and make them get into it’. So I will actually say, I think transparency is a humongous help in this way. And I have always used it here as well, where you really kind of name at the beginning, like, this is something that people may not be accustomed to, this may feel out of your comfort zone, this may feel strange to you, you know, saying that out loud to a group in a museum or on Zoom, wherever you’re facilitating these days. I have always tried to do that at the start of an experience. So I think some of it is about expectation setting transparently at the beginning, so that you’re not springing something on a group, because you know, if you’re, I mean, even just thinking about sort of a standard kind of one hour tour of an exhibition in a museum, for example, you’re sort of building trust with your group along the way. And I do think it can feel a little bit like you’re betraying that trust, like it’s a bait and switch, like, ‘Oh, yes, come along with me, you’ll learn about art. Just kidding, I’m going to make you dance in public’. You know, you don’t, you don’t want that. So I think if you are going to be planning anything that may be outside of people’s comfort zones, I think letting them know at the start that that’s coming. And then of course, they’re welcome to participate as much or as little as they would like. It’s not really about a forced participation, but just letting them know that it’s there. And I usually like to do it with a little bit of a grin. Like a kind of little impish sense of playfulness that I find is often helpful where it says, you know, you know, I may say something like, ‘oh, well, we may be doing some some activities that are going to ask you to move in ways that you are not used to moving, you’re not required to, but try it and see how it feels. The worst case thing is that you don’t like it and you can stop’ You know, something like that, right? Which just kind of sets the groundwork for people.

Rachel Ropeik  24:24

The other thing that I would say is I, especially with adults, I very rarely would ever do any kind of movement activity that would ask any individual to do something in front of the group. It’s not a performance. The idea is really that it’s movement for each person to be kind of having their own internal experience of how it is moving in this space. Make them feel differently about the space or the artwork or the experience. And so in that sense, I also think it’s helpful to make it very clear that movement activities are things that you’re going to be doing as a group. And nobody will be performing, right? It’ll just be some open time to do some movement or to respond to a prompt with movement that everybody will respond to at the same time, so nobody is really going to be spotlit or on stage. And I think those two things really go a long way, that kind of transparent expectation setting, and the promise that nobody will be performing solo, I think those two things really go a long way to helping everybody feel a little more comfortable, that they’re not going to be thrown into the deep end by surprise.

Claire Bown  25:47

Yeah, I’m sure I’m sure. And I think it’s yeah, as you said, being transparent, setting those expectations, and also making people as you say, realise, that it’s a group activity, this is something we’re doing collectively that no one person is going to be put on the spot goes a long way to establishing that, that trust, that feeling of safety. And I think probably as well, it’s quite important to understand your audience as well. So do you find some groups more receptive than others? Or is that a generalisation? How can you get to know and understand your audience and see how experimental you can be?

Rachel Ropeik  26:26

It’s, well, maybe it is a generalisation. But it is one that I have also found true. So I’ve definitely had some groups that are more receptive than others. I, often when I have a group in the museum, I will start out by asking people, you know where they’ve come from, or if it’s their first time at that museum, just some kind of like, quick getting to know you questions at the beginning, even as the group is gathering. And I think even in those little moments, you can read between the lines as an educator, and get a sense of, you know, if somebody says, you know, ‘Yeah, this is my first time here, I’ve never left my hometown, and now I’m on this trip to…’, you know, fill in the blank, whatever museum you’re in, you know, that’s gonna give you a little bit of a sense of maybe, okay, so they’re, maybe they haven’t done that much travel. I mean, you obviously don’t know much about their life from that, from that one statement. But, you know, if somebody says, like, oh, no, I come here all the time, because I love how, you know, experimental, all of your programmes are, you know, then obviously, this is maybe a person who is in it for the experimentation. So I think even just a little bit of temperature-taking from your group in general ways starts to give you a sense, as the facilitator of what they may be up for.

Rachel Ropeik  27:56

The other thing is, I will say, sometimes with groups that are, for example, I have led number of experiences for, you know, some like corporate membership type groups, and it’s like a perk of membership, but they’re not necessarily there for the kind of experimental museum education moment. And, and, you know, I may plan like, maybe if we’re going to try to do a movement-based activity with that group, it is something that’s a little bit calmer and quieter and more about like, ‘okay, we’re going to walk from this spot to the next spot, really paying attention to the sound and the feel of our bodies in this space’. you know, something that’s not really going to ask them to go outside their comfort zone. Yeah, I’m far. So I do think calibrating it, you know, as you start to read your group, calibrating it as you go is helpful and not getting too set in any one plan. And just a sense of, you know, I’m not, I think, I think the just the very word movement is sometimes scary to people because they assume that it’s going to be, you know, ‘now perform an interpretive dance about this artwork, go!’ And I think trying to find these little subtler ways of working it in is often helpful, especially when there are those groups that are maybe not quite so wild and free.

Claire Bown  29:20

Definitely. And that brings me nicely to thinking about, can you suggest any techniques or tools so that we can all incorporate more movement with our participants in the museum? So thinking about that spectrum of movement going from very easy, gentle activities to perhaps more experimental ones at the other end? Yeah. Could you suggest some ways that we could allow more movement to happen?

Rachel Ropeik  29:47

Sure. Let’s see. I think, honestly, one thing that I love talking to people about in the museum is sort of all of the elements of the experience that ar beyond sight. And I worked for many years with that, especially at the Guggenheim with a programme called The Mind’s Eye, which is the programme for people who are blind or low or have low vision. And before that, at the Brooklyn Museum, I worked on a programme that we piloted called the Sensory Tour, which was really about these multi sensory ways of experiencing the museum. So I would encourage people to think about that, and, and that movement is there. Like, if you think about the sense of touch, for example, that that doesn’t necessarily just have to be, here’s an object that I can pass around, that is made out of the same material as this sculpture, you know, that may well be helpful for learning the material or getting to know the feel of the material. But that’s not the only way that a sense of touch can come into a tour. So I also think ways to connect movement and touch in that kind of multi sensory experience are really lovely. And that could be everything from, you know, starting a stop, or a tour with a set of three silent, deep breaths, right, focusing on your body in the space, or things that are about, you know, having people position themselves in different places in relation to an object that you may be looking at, right? If it’s a, you know, large scale, sculpture or painting or, you know, if you’re not in an art museum, if it’s a skeleton of a large animal, or small animal, you know, how do you how do you play with your own physical sense of size, your physicality, as a human in space, I think all of those things, for me, that all kind of falls under the umbrella of movement, I think of movement as kind of a big, a big play pen, or play area where some of it can just be about encouraging people to be aware of their bodies in space. So however, you might do that, I think that could be your body in relation to the object, that could be your body in relation to the rest of the group, in relation to the architecture of the space. If you’re thinking about moving from, you know, one stop to another, is there a way you can use that travel time? I have often, you know, asked people, like I think I think a lot of people’s go-to is to maybe put a question in a group’s head and think about this while we walk from this place to the next place. And it’s just kind of a transition. But is there something you can do about, you know, how do we walk. Like I’ve had people walk, like, we’re going to walk very slowly and meditatively from this piece to the next. And maybe that’s leading into, you know, then we’re gonna go look at a Mark Rothko painting or a painting that really kind of invites quiet, meditative reflective experience, and I’m using that travel time to get people physically into that quiet meditative space. So I think, I guess I would say maybe, or even as you were saying, Claire, about the stairs in Aarhus Museum, you know, thinking about drawing people’s attention to the movements that perhaps they’re making anyway. And trying to work that into the experience that you’re building with them.

Claire Bown  33:19

Yeah, I love that idea. It’s thinking of it as a kind of holistic process as well, that it permeates through everything. We’re obviously literally moving whilst we’re in the museum, so why not bringing people more to more awareness about what they’re doing and how they’re doing? It is? Yeah, fascinating.

Claire Bown  33:38

And so I’d like to, yeah, carry on…

Rachel Ropeik  33:40

One thing I would add to that is, I think that the more you can think of movement, as, as you say, that kind of holistic part of the experience, the more accessible it becomes too because who knows what physical mobility realities will be represented in any group, right? So rather than planning something that requires elaborate, you know, dancing on two legs, with arms in the air, like if not everyone in your group is able to do that. But you know, everyone in your group will be moving from one spot to another. Can you work the movement in there? It’s also more universally accessible for your group that way.

Claire Bown  34:16

Absolutely. And I was going to ask if you could take it one step further. So can we can we think of movement as a tool for ourselves as museum educators? How can we use it to perhaps become more present or reflective or aware of our surroundings?

Rachel Ropeik  34:34

That, I feel like that, is a journey that I’m on in my life right now. I think that feels very inkeeping to me with kind of the spirit of the moment, now at the, let’s see, coming toward the end of 2022, where physicality and the way we have embodied our existences and space in the last several years has been really fraught. For so many people, you know, living through COVID and waves of lockdowns and different people getting sick and sharing space and social distancing. And I think we’ve we’ve all kind of been asked to at least have an increased awareness of our bodies and our bodies moving in space in the last few years. So I, I am trying really, really, kind of concretely to bring that into my work and to, again, to go back to the transparency thing, to sort of acknowledge some of that together, where, you know, I am trying to pay attention to ‘how am I feeling?’ Like, you know, what, I really do need to pause and pull my water bottle out of my bag and take a sip of water in the middle of this tour. And there was a time when I wouldn’t even do something like that, right, that kind of physicality, where I just would have thought, you know, ‘I’m in service to this experience, and I need to make it as smooth as possible’. And I would get into this very kind of performative state. And that’s, I like that state, I did community theatre as a kid. So I liked the performing part. But it was really draining on my energy. And I would find myself at the end of a tour, like completely wiped out. So I think one thing that I would, that I’m doing for myself that I would encourage anybody to do, is even to think of and again, thinking of movement as a big category, thinking of how your body is doing and staying in touch with that, and not kind of putting that to the side until the experience is over. Do you need some water? Do you need to, you know, take a rest and sit down? Do you need to have a few minutes where you’re not talking, and maybe you want to ask your group to do some silent looking for a minute or two, when you first arrive at a new object. You know, things were where your own physical well being can come into play. And if that feels to anybody, like it may be disrupting an experience, I would also encourage anybody to think that if you are feeling that way, there’s a fair chance that someone in your group is also feeling that way. If you are feeling that there’s been a lot of talking, and, you know, go go go, probably someone in your group is also feeling that, and would also probably appreciate a few moments of silent looking, right, we all learn and think in such different ways that giving people different physical ways to respond…It’s not just for you. Also so I guess, if that is also something where you know, you want to ask people to, you know, stretch their arms in the middle of a tour, you know, you get to a new stop, and you want to take a deep breath all together, and focus in. I think there are some ways where, even if you’ve got a kind of reluctant group or a group of adults who may not be expecting to do movement, for example, even just some of these things about kind of focusing energy in and getting a little bit of the physical relaxation, coming, you can ask a group to do that. And it’s as much a benefit for you, as it will be for them.

Claire Bown  38:13

Wonderful. And so often, we don’t even think about ourselves. It’s though, as you say, we’re so absorbed in the moment in what we’re doing in service of the group, with the group, that we quite often don’t think about ourselves until after the experience has finished and I know, in times in the past when you’re doing a particularly long programme afterwards, feeling so drained and needing time to recover before you could work again that. Yeah, just taking that time to pause and think about how you feel is really important. Yeah, for sure.

Rachel Ropeik  38:47

And I will say there was, there was a lovely way of freezing this idea that I have to attribute to Emily and Amelia Nagoski who wrote the book ‘Burnout’, which I’m sure at this point many people have probably read or heard of, but they talk about it as, and this is especially true of women or people who have been socialised as women in the West, that instead of being a human being, women are kind of encouraged to be ‘human givers’. And I feel like there’s so much overlap in the education space that educators are often also encouraged to, you know, it’s more about what you can give to your audience and give, give, give and not so much thinking about what you need to just be grounded yourself.

Claire Bown  39:31

Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. Would you also like to share any other books that you would recommend to our listeners or created a good connection there, from what you said… So what books, I know you’re a voracious reader, you’re a great writer as well, what books have been inspirational for you?

Rachel Ropeik  39:47

So thank you for that. I have been a lifelong voracious reader. I am on Goodreads if people want to go and see how eclectic and voracious that is. Let’s see. So, I guess I have a couple that I might think of as being relevant for folks in the kind of education space and especially around this kind of movement and embodied-ness. One is an and I have to say this kind of like, became my bible is Priya Parker’s book The Art of gathering Which came out before the pandemic, so, but she, she’s also I mean, she’s all over the place. And she had a podcast during the pandemic. And she’s doing, you know, all sorts of talks, you can find her on YouTube talking about virtual things and Pandemic-related things. But I feel like what she talked about in The Art of Gathering became a real a real touch point for me in the work that I was doing in museums. Where it was really thinking about how can I make a museum programme, anexperience where I am iniviting people in and I am making them feel like they are comfortable to perhaps step out of their comfort zones. And then they are being kind of thanked and bid farewell at the end like in this in this way that she’s not talking specifically about a museum tour. But I started joking with people at the time that I referred to her as PSPP which was ‘patron saint Priya Parker’, because I was referring to her wisdom so frequently. So if you if you are working in museums, or just start gathering people, anywhere, and you haven’t read The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, I would highly recommend. Let’s see, I would also say there is literally a book called Be More Pirate.

Claire Bown  41:42

Yes, there is!

Rachel Ropeik  41:43

…which I love and have next to me right now at my desk, which is by Sam Conniff and…or I don’t know if I’m saying his name correctly, sorry. But he wrote this book about what we can learn from pirates, and you know, like, sea raiders in the 17th and 18th Century, what we can learn from them to bring into our contemporary lives. And it contains a lot of these ideas that I have been talking about about, you know, not wanting to accept a system, just because someone tells me to and kind of creating democratic alternatives to authoritarian norms. So Be More Pirate, I would also say, and then maybe maybe the third in that trio. This is actually this is a funny little trio of books to think about. It’s very telling of me, The Art of Gathering, Be More Pirate, and the third I would say is Wintering like Katherine May   Which I, like, I don’t remember ever having a time when I read a book at the moment in my life when I needed that book more. So she has a new book coming out, which I’m very excited to read about…

Claire Bown  43:02

Oh she does. Yes, it’s about wonder, isn’t it? Yeah.

Rachel Ropeik  43:06

Yeah, I’m very excited for that. But Wintering is a book that I think is well, in keeping with what we’ve been talking about today about, you know, movement and embodiment, where she’s really kind of encouraging people to look at how their cycles in nature and you know, animals and plants, and all of these creatures need times to be quiet, and fallow and hibernate, and that humans need that too. And we’ve gotten ourselves into a point in society where we very rarely kind of give ourselves permission or feel like we’re entitled or able to rest, and to not kind of force ourselves to go, go go. And she really talks about the kind of vital, essential quality of having some of those downtimes, so that you can recharge and even as you were saying, Claire, it’s like the you know, you teach a long programme, and you need the recharge time before you can work again. This is sort of that, writ large. So yeah, a book I found incredibly inspirational.

Claire Bown  44:10

It’s wonderful. It’s, yeah, something I’ve shared in my newsletter, before I think there’s an adapted audio version, as well that was broadcast for free on Radio Four, BBC Radio four. So I can also share a link to that, I’ll share links to all of the books in the show notes as well. Some wonderful suggestions there. Thank you. So how can listeners find out more about you, reach out to you, become more pirate? Perhaps you could share some links so that people can connect?

Rachel Ropeik  44:38

Yes, you can find me…I mean, my website is probably the best hub, which is just It’s R O P E I K, it defies the grammar rules about i, before e… So, I have been keeping up to date and it has, you can poke around there and find all kinds of my eclectic pirate things. I’m also on social media. I’m @theartropeik Most active on Instagram, I have been tapering off Twitter, I’m still around Twitter, but it was making me sad. So I’ve pulled back from Twitter, and LinkedIn, I’m on LinkedIn also. So you can find me as if there’s anything ‘the art ropeik’, it’s probably me. And I will be offering at some point, I don’t have a date that I can share yet, but I’m going to be doing a free Creative Mornings field trip coming this Fall, that is going to be a kind of combination of art and piracy.

Claire Bown  45:42

That sounds perfect!

Rachel Ropeik  45:44

Yes, if any of these things are of interest. Creative Mornings is a lovely organisation that has during the pandemic been offering a bunch of virtual field trips that are free that anybody can sign up for. And I will eventually have a date to share, but I haven’t quite scheduled it yet. So that’s coming in at some point in Fall of 2022.

Claire Bown  46:07

Okay, we’ll watch this space with interest. Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll share all the links to the books and to your website and your socials as well. Thanks, just leaves me to say thank you so much for chatting with me today. We could have talked for much, much longer. It’s been a joy talking to you. Thanks, Rachel.

Rachel Ropeik  46:26

All right, back at you, Claire. Thank you so much. This is lovely.

Claire Bown  46:30

Cheers. Bye.