Museum 2.0 Blog by Nina Simon, May 8, 2013 - Like a lot of organizations, my museum struggles with two conflicting goals:
But ultimately, that's still targeting. It's still grouping. And while it may be effective when it comes to marketing, it's limiting if your mission is to reach and engage with a wide range of people. It can lead to parallel programming: bike night for hipsters, bee night for hippies, family night for kiddies. And rarely the twain shall meet.
At the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, we're approaching this challenge through a different lens: social bridging. One of our core programming goals is to build social capital by forging unexpected connections between diverse collaborators and audience members. We intentionally develop events and exhibitions that matchmake unlikely partners--opera and ukelele, Cindy Sherman and amateur photographers, welding and knitting. Our goal in doing this work is to bring people together across difference and build a more cohesive community.
We have been explicitly focusing on social bridging for more than a year now. What started as a series of experiments and happy accidents is now embedded in how we develop and evaluate projects. We've seen surprising and powerful results--visitors from different backgrounds getting to know each other, homeless people and museum volunteers working together, artists from different worlds building new collaborative projects. Visitors now spontaneously volunteer that "meeting new people" and "being part of a bigger community" are two of the things they love most about the museum experience.
This has led to a surprising outcome: we are now de-targeting many programs. This isn't just a philosophical shift--it's also being driven by visitors' behavior. "Family Art Workshops" suffer from anemic participation whereas multi-generational festivals are overrun with families. Single-speaker lectures languish while lightning talks featuring teen photographers, phD anthropologists, and professional dancers are packed. Programs that emphasize bringing diverse people together are more popular than those that serve intact groups. Why fight it? Read more
Canopy Arts Desk
Tammy Hampel (Isaacson)
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