The “so what?” of my presentation today is that the Smithsonian American Art Museum have been able to attract more local visitors by connecting with local artists and going beyond traditional interpretation of our collection. This was one of the major goals for this series as the Smithsonian is often thought of as a tourist attraction, rather than a local institution.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area is home to over 5.5 million residents and is one of the top ten most populous metropolitan areas in the country. The area experienced large growth between the 2000 and 2010 Census, with Washington, D.C. proper seeing the largest growth in people in their 20s and 30s. The city attracts millions of tourists each year. In 2009, approximately 16 million domestic and international visitors traveled to Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian Institution (SI) museums and National Zoological Park are some of the top Washington, D.C. destinations. More than 30 million people visited the various SI complexes in 2010.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum shares a building with the National Portrait Gallery in downtown DC. Our collection actually dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, but we have been in this building since 1968. Currently, we get around 1 million visitors to this building every year. A study by the SI Office of Policy and Analysis (OP&A) found that a third of the museum visitors lived locally. They also found that the average age of the museum visitor was 45. This was the fifth visitor study that OP&A conducted, and results remain fairly consistent since the first study in the winter of 2007.
In 2001, the Henry Luce Foundation gave the museum $10 million to establish the Luce Center, the first visible art storage and study center in Washington DC. $7 million of that was a grant for development of the Center and $3 million was to set up an endowment for ongoing support of staff and programs. The Center opened on July 1, 2006, along with the newly renovated museum building. It displays more than 3,300 works from the permanent collection in 64 glass cases and 56 pneumatic drawers.
We run a variety of ongoing public programs in the Luce Center. These include: A weekly sketching workshop Scavenger hunts Art + Coffee tours
In 2010, the American Art Museum invited local craft artists with works on view in the Luce Foundation Center to talk about their pieces and processes during our ongoing tour program, Art+Coffee, after noticing many visitors asked questions about how the objects were made. Through these talks, the museum saw an opportunity to develop ways to engage the city’s artists and residents. The Luce Center decided to grow the Art+Coffee program with the goal of engaging local artists, attracting new audiences, increasing accessibility of the museum’s collection.
An informal partnership was created with Flashpoint Gallery, a nonprofit art gallery located near the museum. The series invites local artists, whose work is not represented in the museum’s collections, to share their work with visitors and to connect it to pieces on view in the Luce Center. Participating artists, like Judy Byron, generally share the talks with their friends on social media outlets, like Facebook, or through email blasts. Some of the talks have been picked up by local newspapers with little formal marketing, like what you see in the right. Show video clip?
The museum also started an acoustic concert series, Luce Unplugged . Local musicians perform in the Luce Center after an art talk on a piece chosen by the performing artist. This program has generated more buzz than the artist talk series, attracting on average 100 to 130 visitors. The top left picture shows when a performer went rogue and put up unauthorized posters around the city advertising his performance. Show video clip?
We were interested in finding out whether or not this program was actually attracting local visitors and why. We did an exploratory study during three Luce Unplugged performances in May, June, and July. We distributed a survey I created along with my Luce Center colleagues. The survey showed: Luce Unplugged is attracting more local visitors (96%) Luce Unplugged is increasing the museum’s visibility amongst local visitors Luce Unplugged is attracting more visitors specifically to the Luce Foundation Center
We also found that Luce Unplugged attracts more 18-to-35-year-olds and the majority of this survey group is commonly referred to as millennials in the United States. Born between 1980 and 2000, the Pew Research Center describes this generation as “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.”
In the same Pew Research study, they found that young adults listed their use of technology, along with music and pop culture, as the main characteristics that set them apart from other generations. Music is a large part of their lives, evident by the fact that 74 percent of adults younger than 34 own portable music devices. It is not surprising then that many people listed the music as one of the reasons they came to the program. Most of the performers have also been of this generation, advertising their performances on Facebook, and attracting their peers to their performance. Looking at the interests of young adults could also explain why more people have attended Luce Unplugged , and why it has been featured on more third party websites, than the artist talk series, which was created with the same goals. While the artist talk series has yet to attract as many visitors, it nevertheless is engaging the city’s artists as evidenced by email blasts, enthusiastic Facebook posts, and future collaborations with the museum.
Serving Locally Grown
SERVING LOCALLY GROWN: THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM’S EXPERIMENT WITH GOING LOCAL K. Tierney Sneeringer, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Overview <ul><li>Major Findings </li></ul><ul><li>Washington, D.C. </li></ul><ul><li>Smithsonian American Art Museum and Luce Foundation Center </li></ul><ul><li>“ Going Local” at the Museum </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul>
<ul><li>Connecting with local artists </li></ul><ul><li>Going beyond your collection </li></ul>Museums in a touristy city aren’t just for tourists.
Major Findings <ul><li>Programs featuring local presenters are attracting more local visitors </li></ul><ul><li>Young adults are more likely to attend the music program </li></ul><ul><li>People are hearing about the programs by word of mouth and social media outlets </li></ul>
Major Findings <ul><li>Programs featuring local presenters are attracting more local visitors </li></ul><ul><li>Young adults, visitors ages 18 to 30, are more likely to attend the music program </li></ul><ul><li>People are hearing about the programs by word of mouth and social media outlets </li></ul>
<ul><li>Connecting with local artists </li></ul><ul><li>Going beyond your collection </li></ul>