The Louvre, one of the world's most renowned art museums, is inviting slam poets into its gilded galleries to rap about paintings. If that seems unusual...

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PARIS — The Louvre, one of the world’s most renowned art museums, is inviting slam poets into its gilded galleries to rap about paintings. If that seems unusual, it is.

With U.S. author Toni Morrison as guest curator this month, the museum is dreaming up new ways to look at art.

The Nobel laureate has helped the Louvre conceive a series of lectures, readings, films, concerts, debates and slam poetry that will continue through Nov. 29. All center on her theme, “The Foreigner’s Home,” touching on national identity, exile and the idea of belonging.

The French slam artists come in Friday night, when the Louvre is open late, and Morrison will also visit the artists in one of the troubled Paris suburbs that was hit by riots a year ago. The riots exposed long-simmering anger about discrimination and alienation among French teenagers of immigrant origin, many of them of Muslim North African and African descent.

The “Beloved” author followed news of the riots as she was preparing the conference series. The French situation got her thinking of the African-American experience, and how teenagers in France would put their feelings of exclusion to use in art.

In the United States, blacks “created within that country a powerful culture, specifically of themselves, that was magnificently universal,” the 75-year-old author said. “What you think you know about U.S. culture … much of it, its roots are from African-Americans. We made modernity in that country.

“The point is that you can use your disadvantages,” Morrison said. “Out of disadvantages and energy comes a new thing that has never been seen before.”

Inviting Morrison to the museum was part of Louvre Director Henri Loyrette’s outreach to the United States. This year, the museum mounted an exhibit of New World painters and loaned treasures to Atlanta’s High Museum of Art for an ambitious three-year partnership.

One out of every seven Louvre visitors is American, making up the largest percentage among foreign visitors.

Loyrette, who took over at the 213-year-old institution in 2001, also has been trying to shake up France’s perceptions of the role of museums.

“A museum for me is not just a place, it’s a place for education, a place with a social role,” he said.

Morrison and the Louvre also invited other writers to take part in the series, including Michael Ondaatje and Edwige Danticat; as well as filmmaker Charles Burnett and Malian musician Toumani Diabate. Choreographer William Forsythe and video artist Peter Welz put together an installation playing in the Louvre’s galleries.

Morrison has already given her first lecture, on Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa,” which depicts the shipwreck of a boat carrying France’s new governor to Senegal in 1816. The painting was her starting point for thinking about ethnicity, colonialism, immigration, despair and hope.

On Nov. 25, she heads to a cultural center in the Paris suburb of Bobigny to spend the evening with the slam poets. They do not speak the same language, but she has translations of their verses.

“It’s an honor to be invited,” she said. “Most important for me is to hear them.”