Thursday, October 6, 2011

Small Museum Challenges

SMA received a request looking to see if other small museums are facing similar challenges. While they're a college art gallery, many of these issues may resonate with a larger swath of museums. Does it sound familiar to you? Have you faced -and perhaps overcome- some of the concerns listed below? Share your thoughts in the comments and/or on the SMA Facebook page.
"Our gallery does not have space for artist demonstrations or workshops, as well as no clean-up facilities other than a bathroom that is shared with the rest of the student center in which we are located.   This community is largely blue-collar and agricultural, and money and resources are lacking.   While we are part of a university, the university has its roots as a vocational and technical college, and it is still difficult to demonstrate that fine arts (and even liberal arts) are valuable.   The university offers a graphic design program (housed in the business college), and an art history minor. There is no fine arts major or minor offered!
I am curious if other museums have faced similar challenges.   Does the above description of my community resonate with anyone?   If so, what educational/outreach programs have been successful for you?   What has brought people to your gallery or museum?"

1 comment:

  1. I work for a small inner city history museum. We have a small collection. We also have limited space for workshops. Let me address your concerns with some creative suggestions:

    1) Space - Try outdoors. We hold many our family programs outside when the weather permits. Collaborations. Lay the groundwork for partnernships with libraries, community centers, schools, and....malls. Take your programming to those locations so you can reach more people. And, yes, malls. I am sure some have empty store fronts. Why not turn those into space for programs?

    2) Funding - Turn to some of the larger corporations in your area for grants. State humanities councils may also have funding for you. Know any major donors to your university? Ask the development office if you can approach them for funding.

    3) Program themes - Find themes in your collection that have mass appeal. Also, have themes around holidays.

    4) Audience - Try programs for families, programs where parents, grandparents, and children can participate together. So, one program theme can appeal to different levels of participants. You will find that parents and grandparents love to contribute. Then, everyone winds up learning from one another.

    5) Outreach - Train volunteers to take your programs into schools.

    6) Teacher development - Create a program for teachers on how they can use your collection to enhance their curricula.