Last Thursday, the New York Times ran an interesting article about the Brooklyn Museum. I was struck by several things when reading the story, but one of the things that stood out was that while on the surface CMA has nothing at all in common with Brooklyn, we have a lot in common with Brooklyn.
Museums fall into roughly two very broad categories. Those that are in destination cities and draw their audience from national and international tourism, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and those whose primary audience is their local community. The second group may also draw from a regional audience.
This group, to which both CMA and Brooklyn belong, is challenged with finding ways to excite and motivate their audience in hopes that they will return. For them, the experience they provide their visitors is just as important as their collection.
Brooklyn is in the unenviable position, as Graham W. J. Beal of the Detroit Institute for the Art points out in his comments, of being right across the way from two of the most prestigious museums in the country, the Met and MOMA.
The question for them has become, “How do you position yourself in a way that differentiates you from these organizations and speaks to the community you serve?”
The reality is that there is no single way to accomplish this and people disagree on how to do it. I think it was wonderful that the article included several different perspectives on this topic, from artists, to museum directors and business leaders.
Brooklyn has one of the greatest collections in the country and is working to find ways to serve their community. CMA is constantly looking for ways to better serve our community as well. We’re thinking differently about our programming and increasingly thinking about “experiences” as something for everyone.
In years past, museums thought about experiences as they related to children. There was very little thought given to how adults experience museums. Displaying the collection was enough for adults. Now, that thought process is changing.
As Peter C. Marzio said int he article, “The Brooklyn Museum is pioneering a new path that many older encyclopedic museums will have to follow if they want to survive.”
“By looking closely at Brooklyn, by exploring the ideals and values of its citizens, the museum is opening a dialogue that is creating a sense of community ownership,” continues Marzio. “Will the museum survive following this path? I will bet that not only will it survive these difficult economic times, but it will also mutate into a new type of museum that will grow beyond anyone’s imagination.”
CMA, much like Brooklyn, is looking for ways to make our collection relevant to our community. An article in the Sunday Times talked about the recession and its effects on consumers. People have become less invested in acquiring “things” to make them happy. The focus has become experiences.
Our mission is to create great experiences with great art for everyone. It’s a statement that we try to live daily and one that I believe will serve our community well into the future.
Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
CMA Executive Director