During a recent gallery tour, a student from China commented that he had been to many temples but never to a “real art museum”. The comment stuck with me because I was excited to welcome someone to the gallery that had never seen an art exhibit before. What a privilege! His remark lingered with me because of the association that he had made between a temple and museum. At first, I thought he was referring to the great art works found in temples. However, I think that he was making a deeper connection: our tour was a time to observe, contemplate and reflect. He had been in the gallery for about 30 minutes and his experience was that a museum is quiet, and slow-paced. On our tour there was no possibility of giving a wrong answer, so no pressure. As museum professionals, we should pay more attention to this point of view. For us, the museum is a workplace, but for other it is often a site for rest and meditation – a real value in our hectic culture.
Visitor engagement is one of the hot topics in the museum world right now. Educational and marketing staffs work hand in hand trying to find ways to remain relevant to visitors and become a vital part of their community. However, if we are able to create an atmosphere where visitors can unwind through quiet observation, the appeal of museums will broaden and easily become valued by a wider range of people.
People seek out activities to engage in as mean to dis-engage from the hectic pace of daily life, all with the intention of feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. That is not a new concept however, presenting a museum as an outlet or escape is an entirely new way for visitors to engage with your collection and exhibitions! Providing information for a self-guided tour which encourages visitors to notice subtleties of color and to find associations in the art work that they personally find enjoyable is just one idea.
LUAGS’ present exhibit, ‘Is It Art’, is an experience that will remove you from the outside world for as long you need to get away. Hennie Ann Isdahl’s The Inner Room (2010) is a wonderful piece to contemplate. Or get lost when you ‘step’ into another man’s shoes when you see Maldonado’s Tall Tales Told by The Tongue of a Shoe (2003). The experience of ruminating on what art is to you and what it means to you will be an engrossing get-away.
LUAG is now hosting the ‘What Is Art?: Look. Talk. Engage.’ tour each Thursday at 1:30pm in the Main Gallery located in the Zoellner Arts Center. By engaging our visitors in conversations about art, we will also create a time where people can take an enjoyable mid-day break to unwind. Please join us on Thursdays, starting October 17th,to let your mind connect with art and disconnect from email.