Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Kennicott: How To Visit A Museum

I always feel ignorant when stepping out of a museum, knowing a little about the artists and their art works before the visit and totally being not able to recall the description and images of the art pieces after the visit. The author of the article considers my situation as common, which is a big relief, and also gives some useful advice to make museum visit more educational.

The advice seems to be beneficial in the future, two of which are “seek silence” and “engage memory”. I have been disturbed all the time when I visit a museum, and it becomes more unbearable when that happens in the art museums. There are interactive installations in art museum which supposed to involve more audience participation, however, it sometimes excites meaningless self-expression, and has no value to the rest audience, only causing noise. As for “engage memory”, I used to think nurture happens in a natural way, which means we should immerse ourself in the art atmosphere of art museum, and we will reach arts automatically. Though I step out museum confused, I still believe it. Stunningly, the author says we should study hard before, during and after the visit, which leads me to think I’m accustomed to treat arts at will.

There  must be bunch of unqualified audience like me, and they might not even be aware of it. I think the art manager should cultivate the audience to be qualified instead of just trying to ingratiate them to make them feel better. After all, “if you feel better about yourself when you leave a museum, you’re probably doing it all wrong”.


About yaoge2016

Yaoge Wang is an emerging arts administrator dedicated to arts, culture, and nonprofit sector. With Accounting and Arts Management backgrounds and a special mix of “right brain/left brain” balance, she brings strong analytical skills and judgment as well as creativity to complex problems. She has extensive professional experience in the U.S. and China. She hopes to apply this international perspective to make the arts more visible to the public.

3 comments on “Kennicott: How To Visit A Museum

  1. hgenetos
    October 3, 2014

    One of the parts of Kennicott’s article that stuck with me is the association with price and a time meter. I’ve said this elsewhere that living in DC with its free museums has made me more willing to pay for art elsewhere as I’ve saved that money living where I do. It is also because I live where there is free are that I use museums like the Portrait Gallery is a stop over. Say I get out of work at 530, but I’m not meeting my friends for dinner until 7. Rather than spend money shopping, drinking alone at a bar, sticking around work, I go there. I pick a different gallery or a special exhibit and I do that. Yes, I have that timer of 7pm plans in the background, but I have an excellent appetizer in art. Plus picking a special exhibit or a single gallery limits it. Plus if I’m still ahead on time, I breeze by the new acquisitions at the entrance rather than attempt a new gallery and feel rushed.

    His last line about leaving feeling good is wrong just irks me. You can leave a museum having a positive experience. I do not see how an exhibit of landscapes could make anyone feel terrible about himself. An exploration into themes of purgatory, damnation or hell in art would leave me feeling worse about myself and my decisions in life. I feel like it goes against everything we have read in marketing about positive experiences. Yes it would be a meaningful, lasting impression if we felt worse about ourselves, but wouldn’t you rather a more positive impression?

    • yaoge2016
      October 3, 2014

      The last sentence seems to be arbitrary judgement, however, I’d like to interpret it in another way. I think the author views the process of appreciating arts be introspective, and accordingly be not easy or happy.

      As for the marketing materials about positive experiences, in my point of view, there is a little difference between performing arts and visual arts. The performing arts center might focus on creating memorable and positive experience, while museums may intended to arouse different reactions besides the positive one.

      Really appreciate your comments!

  2. gaochang619
    October 3, 2014

    Thank you for your posting because I thought I might give it a try next time I visit a museum. It is kind of upset when I spend a day in an awesome museum or a gallery and I can remember the amazing pieces and the feelings that hit me, however, I know nothing about the context of the good memory. Such a curious baby, huh? It would be successful in education aspect for a museum/gallery if its audience is curious enough, carrying some questions and knowledge to visit, and leaving to search further context about the content. That would be nice.

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