Audiences and activities: Rethinking museum space

Posted by Ian on Apr 19, 2009 in blog | No Comments

The recession has hit many sectors hard. The effect on arts and culture institutions have been particularly acute. Even before the full impact of the recession, museums and galleries were already under significant difficulties financially. The bail out of LA’s MOCA, the closure of the Rose Museum at Brandeis University, and the liquidation of 18 archaeological research staff at the University of Pennsylvania Museum all point towards broad-based problems in relation to the position of museum and gallery institutions within contemporary society.
In an effort to address waning visitor numbers and to rearticulate the relevance of museum spaces to contemporary society, many institutions have begun to rethink the traditional solemn view of how one should conduct themselves in relation to art and artefacts. Where once it was social convention to walk through galleries and stand, observe and appreciate art, some institutions are beginning to allow for more dynamic and active ways of engaging with art spaces.
Museums such as the Ackland Art Museum or the Baltimore Museum of Art have instituted yoga programmes, inviting visitors to attend meditation classes within the exhibition halls of the museum. Some yogis have branded this as a new movement of ‘art yoga‘, and for Education and Outreach Officers of museums, it is the first step in opening up dogmatic understandings of how the public should best interact with art to different possibilities.
Another strategy has been deployed at UCLA’s Hammer Museum where they run bike-centric evenings which allow patrons to cycle into the museum courtyard with valet parking for the bikes, outdoor film screenings and other events.
Amidst all of these new initiatives, the Brooklyn Museum deserves a special mention. Their First Saturday programme has been running for a few years. The first Saturday evening of every month features a late opening of the museum with live music ranging from concern orchestras to cutting edge DJs. Patrons can buy wine, dance and view art until 10pm.
Further reading – Carol Vogel’s article from the NY Times (12/3/09)
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