Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Millennials and Museums- Oil and Water, or Potential Lifetime Love Story?

My internship supervisor sent this article about millennials and museums out this week to the marketing staff at the Freer and Sackler Galleries. I couldn’t help but laugh as I recognized my own behaviors in the story. Although I’ll profess my love of museums to anyone that listens, the price of admission, accessibility, and potential to get my (not as art loving) friends to come along for the trip all impact whether I actually make the trip.

The author notes ” emotions are not rational, and they do dictate consumer behavior”. Although potentially a challenge to market to, its worth noting that millennials as an age group will one day become strong patrons and financial supporters of the arts. Fostering emotional connections between the millennial guest and cultural institution has longterm benefits and should not be overlooked!


4 comments on “Millennials and Museums- Oil and Water, or Potential Lifetime Love Story?

  1. alexgilbertschrag
    September 4, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I think that the general question in consumerism is “what can the seller do for me?” It’s our responsibility as arts managers to sell a product of some kind, make certain connections about our product, and then perhaps exceed their expectations. After moving to DC, I’ve realized how lucky we are to have so many free museums. It’s easy to forget that it isn’t like that everywhere else. I was surprised to find in the article that NYC is so limited with free, or less than $10, admission.

    I think a huge part of the problem is the accessibility. Originally from Oregon, I lived in the capitol, Salem. To my recollection, there weren’t any accessible art museums. Instead, we had to make the drive up to Portland to be able to go into a museum or kids education center such as OMSI ( But we rarely made that trek, which resulted in me not growing up around museums.

    This summer I had the opportunity to attend a “young people’s” gathering at a small museum in Chautauqua. The museum hosted the “Now! Generation” and let us wander, drink wine, and eat appetizers as we perused the museum. It was a wonderful experience, and there were folks there who knew the background of the art. It made the experience memorable, and I would definitely go to a function like that in a museum. I think that the way we market art, especially in museums, will have to evolve to adjust to the changing in generations.

  2. hshambroom
    September 4, 2014

    I’ve noticed in recent years that arts organizations are developing programming to target a younger audience. I do think that many museums and organizations in DC recognize that a younger audience is a worthwhile thing to invest in. The Phillips Collection is one example of a museum that, I’ve recently noticed, is drawing a much younger crowd. Their Phillips After 5 events on the first Thursday of every month nearly always sell out, and every time I’ve gone the crowd has been nearly entirely young professionals in the 20-30 year old group. These events offer everything the author of the article highlights as a draw – snacks, cocktails, live music, and the opportunity to socialize with people in her age group.

    Events like these are a smart way to draw a different target audience, one that might not be willing to regularly pay to visit. As the events at the Phillips become more popular, I have noticed a shift in visitorship even on regular days at the museum. On a recent weekend day, the museum was filled with people around my age – students, young professionals, young parents with babies. In a city full of completely free museums, the Phillips is definitely doing something right to attract a crowd of millennials willing to pay to visit.

  3. zeniasimpson
    September 5, 2014

    This is such a great article because it literally hits the nail on the head. New York museums and cultural arts events everywhere are expensive. For millennials where much of our money only goes to social events that promise a memorable experiences, museums or a night at the opera generally doesn’t fit the bill. I know at the Brooklyn Museum they have something similar to Phillips After 5 on every Friday of the summer where the museum is open for cocktails and typically include trendy performers like Theophilus London. My friends were texting me every Friday night just knowing I would be interested, and they even called much after that when the Jean Paul Gautier exhibition was showing. Just like in the article, those connections formed at a younger age between the customer or guest and the museum are what actually helps retention. MoMa throws an amazing star-studded full-blown party during Armory Week and Whitney follows up with their Young Patrons Gala. While museums shouldn’t necessarily turn into clubs, it might not be such a bad idea for them to go that way a little more often. I’m more than guilty to use my NYU student ID to get into the best museums free and throw a mini temper-tantrum when the Guggenheim told me they didn’t accept it (what?!), but happily spend $200 on bottle service. It’s a sad place we’ve come to in our world.

    P.S. Never, NEVER, ever feel guilty about giving less than the suggested price at the Met. That is what true tourist and many wonderful gifts from all of the largest, most wealthiest New York families are for. With a smile say, “I would like to make a $1 donation ($5 if you’re feeling generous and $10 if you really can’t help yourself)” and go see the most incredible collection of art.

  4. hgenetos
    September 5, 2014

    Living in DC for so long has changed my perspective on engaging young professionals. For starters, since majority of the museums are free, I’ve noticed that my friends and I are more likely to pay for a museum elsewhere. I think of it as that city’s tax dollars are helping me experience a free museum so I should help their community. Additionally, in DC, museums feed into the happy hour culture we have here. There’s Phillips After 5 where you can enjoy the exhibits and have a fun night out with drinks and amazing food from local restaurants. I’m on a few other museum listservs back home and I don’t see the same push to get folks in on their way home. Also you will be amazed how many young professionals you find at a museum here not for a happy hour too. Weekends have crowds and they are not all tourists or locals playing tourists with their visitors. They are there on a date, with friends after a picnic on the Mall, or just because they care. There is one factor that is also key here, which is staying open past 5pm. Young professionals are so low on the totem pole that skipping out early isn’t an option here. If museums responded to that with more Phillips After 5 or even a late closure a few nights a month, they might see more of an uptick. Portrait Gallery is open until 7pm. I usually stroll through their before meeting friends through dinner picking a different gallery each time.

    I think little changes and marketing like Phillips After 5 or extended hours will really connect with young professionals better. The key to our generation is to give us everything all at once. If they figured out a way to combine staying open late, a bar and food with a not scary ticket price, they will capture our generation. Bonus if they have a cool atrium or rooftop.

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This entry was posted on September 3, 2014 by .
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