In many museums, docents share knowledge about artwork or special exhibits with museum visitors. These docents receive training or are particular experts on certain movements or styles. For Science Gallery International, the docent role is transformed in several ways. First, the role is staffed by young people—the same people who are in Science Gallery’s target audience of 15-25-year-olds. Second, the role is conversational and curious: a Science Gallery mediator asks questions of visitors, and helps visitors engage around ideas presented in the exhibit. In this second profile of Science Gallery Lab Detroit mediators from the 2018 exhibit HUSTLE, we interviewed Zaria Contejean.
When asked what advice she would give to future Science Gallery mediators, Zaria Contejean replied, “I would tell them to try and learn as much as you can about the different pieces and about how they would interact in the real world.” Zaria spent the summer after her freshman year her summer working as a mediator for Science Gallery Lab Detroit.
Zaria, now a sophomore at Michigan State University, studies genetics, is a member of two student organizations –Women of Distinction and Get it Girl — an undergraduate learning assistant for chemistry courses, and previously served as an intern for state representative Stephanie Chang. Aside from her extracurricular involvement, Zaria was also a mediator for HUSTLE, an exhibit at Science Gallery Lab Detroit, an exhibit created to capture the spirit of resilience among Detroit and its inhabitants. “The role of the mediator was to really be that open line of communication between the art and the people that come into the museum,” said Contejean. “The exhibit really sparked an interest in people that would visit.”
During her freshman year, Zaria told her chemistry professor that she had planned on staying in Detroit for the summer. In response, he sent her the application link to apply for the mediator position. After going through three rounds of interviews, Zaria was offered the position. “In this position, you learn to become a better communicator because the majority of your job involves talking to people,” said Contejean. “Whether you are communicating with the other mediators or visitors, you are communicating.”
Currently, Zaria is deciding on whether or not she will attend graduate school or medical school. She plans on taking both the GRE and MCAT. If she attends medical school, she would like to be an oncologist, however, if she attends graduate school, she would like to become a genetic counselor. Her scientific interests were not neglected during the summer of 2018. Science Gallery’s mission is to bring experiences that are connective, participative, surprising, and that blend art, science and technology to students who are 15-25, in order to inspire them to change the world. In speaking of a specific piece at HUSTLE, Contejean said, “We had this one piece that was an optical illusion and it was a strobe light that was causing the illusion,” said Contejean. “This [mediator] position allowed me to think of things on a deeper, molecular level.”
Science Gallery – Detroit’s next exhibit, DEPTH, will examine the power and complexities of water and its many roles in the physical and social world. The exhibit will take place from June 2019 until August 2019.