Working Session: The Multiple Audiences of Campus-Based Art Museums — What Do We Need to Know?

Museum sculpture

November 2, 2010 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy Studies
1155 E. 60th St.
Room 224

The Cultural Policy Center departed from its usual workshop format this week in favor of a public conversation with Tom Shapiro and Peter Linett.

Tom Shapiro is a strategist and planner for cultural institutions, whose recent work involves art museum initiatives at Case Western Reserve University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Iowa and planning projects with institutions such as the Phoenix Art Museum and the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Peter Linett is a research affiliate of the Cultural Policy Center and co-leads an audience research firm serving museums, arts organizations, and educational institutions. His current clients include the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, the Seattle Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Join us for a working lunch to help frame an upcoming research study of the audiences served by campus-based art museums. Recent efforts to strengthen college and university art museums have focused on their value to their host institutions and to the academic needs of those communities. This was and remains an important and strategic emphasis. But the full audience ecology of campus art museums is more complex: it includes both “town” and “gown” visitors, members, supporters, and other constituencies, whose varying needs, perceptions, motivations, and expectations are difficult to sort out, much less to accommodate with the limited budgets and lean staffing typical of campus museums. The researchers believe that those multiple audiences, with their potentially competing “pulls” on the museum, have not been studied in a comparative, rigorous program of social research. They have proposed assembling a small group of leading campus-based art museums around the U.S. to serve as sites for a mixed-method audience study. These partner museums will join the researchers in interpreting the findings and developing practical strategies that can help them and other campus-based art museums operate more successfully in their complex environments. This lunch will be an opportunity for the research team to gain broader initial input from Chicago-area stakeholders in the university art museum community about the most important research questions to address in the study.

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