On October 24th at the Marine’s Memorial Club, I attended the Beyond Dynamic Adaptability conference. The goal according to Kary Schulman (Grants for the Arts) and Tere Romo (The San Francisco Foundation): “Technology is changing the way people engage with culture and the changing demographics of California are rewriting all the rules when it comes to building an audience. A revolution is happening across the arts sector as the walls between professional and amateur, audience and artist, curator and spectator start to crumble.”
The first panel of the day included: Ben Cameron (Doris Duke Charitable Foundation), Dante Di Loreto (Glee Executive Producer), Josephine Ramirez (The James Irvine Foundation), and Nina Simon (Author of Museum 2.0 and Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History).
The panel’s discussion went into great depth about how the line between professional artist and amateur has been blurred. Also, innovation has to be multiple layers and not just one giant leap. There can be huge resistance to any change by the people in an organization. As a result, resources need to be committed to make change happen. This advice can help guide artists: If you want to be successful, you have to invest in yourself. Why would anyone want to invest in you if you don’t invest in yourself?
Nina Simon (Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History) discussed letting go and “…not being the dictator in the room…” to get opportunities. She stressed that by asking the audience on how to enhance an exhibit, an organization will truly know their needs and interests. For example, art exhibits today need to be interactive with both the artist and viewer by utilizing the entire space. Ms. Simon also tries to connect art with the viewer by creating a dialogue that translates the meaning behind an exhibit.
However, Simon made the comment: “I don’t really care about artists.” She was referring to how the audience (donors) are her top priority. I understand that money is a necessary evil to keep the museum’s doors open. But, why call it an art museum? Maybe “entertainment centers”? Ms. Simon has done an amazing job increasing traffic at Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. But, I believe it’s the museum’s job to guide viewers and artists on the new ways to experience art. Also, hopefully we still need “artists” to create “art.”
Why does every art exhibit have to have a gimmick to engage viewers? Does Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa now need flashing lights and an interactive video game in order to generate money for the Louvre Museum? Can art museums escape “Nascar” endorsements and Las Vegas style entertainment to stay open?
Bottom line, exhibitions now need to connect audiences by engagement. This is just as important or from what the “experts” are saying more important than the art itself. Like it or not, it’s the new reality…