The Boca Raton Museum of Art re-opened on June 3, adapting day-by-day, as the crisis unfolded. Throughout this time, we kept the entire Museum staff employed, most working remotely from home. What was clear, almost immediately, was that the identity, and certainly the economic model of who we were as an institution, had to change. With social distancing, came the realization that our usual bag of tricks was useless, at least for the immediate future.
The health crisis, the uncertain economic climate, and extreme social and political tensions all clearly indicate the need for a new model for the Museum -- and probably for our industry and the arts sector as well. Furthermore, we branded the Museum as a place of repose – a safe way to come out and regain normalcy.
However, it appears that exhibitions and events will not be enough anymore to be successful or relevant while people remain uncertain about venturing out or joining groups. If they don’t come, do they count? Our planning has shifted emphasis to consider how people experience the Museum, and we are seeking new ways to present compelling experiences beyond traditional attendance.
I am keenly aware that we must literally and figuratively open our walls and reach out further to fully link us to the community and beyond, and redefine how we serve diverse audiences.
As a symbolic gesture, we actually tore out the walls when creating our new Wolgin Education Center, which opened in June. What happens in the Museum is now available to those outside. You can see (and sometimes hear) art and activities taking place inside, while you are still outside in Mizner Park. Conversely, from the inside, you can locate yourself within our civic landscape.
We changed the Museum’s hours (we are now open from 11 to 7) to better align ourselves with our retail and restaurant neighbors in Mizner Park, thus encouraging crossover use by visitors for the betterment of all businesses.
We realized we had an unprecedented opportunity to re-commit to our mission but also an inescapable challenge of presenting new attentiveness to our entire community – to meet them where they were.
In redefining ourselves, we reevaluated all programs and redefined our audiences. Like most institutions we diversified our experience by developing virtual programs and a more robust website. Thus far the Museum has created over 140 virtual programs that have impacted almost 200,000 users; and press coverage on our digital programs has reached over one billion media impressions worldwide, including the Wall Street Journal, TIME, CBS News, Al Jazeera, and the New York Times. Our marketing and PR efforts are funded largely through our TDC grant, and it is critical that we continue to invest – perhaps more now than ever – in keeping our institutions, our artists, and our community front and center.
The Museum must engage contemporary society and its issues OR be irrelevant and perhaps no longer valuable. To this end, one new initiative, primarily outwardly directed, is our commitment to serve the local artist better. We have created the Artists Alliance to engage Palm Beach County artists, both professional and aspiring, with monthly facilitated peer critiques; professional development coaching; studio visits by curators, educators, and collectors; quarterly skills workshops taught by nationally recognized leaders in the field; and the opportunity to exhibit and sell works of art in a signature annual juried exhibition.
In support of this service, we seek opportunities for camaraderie in the creative community and between our peers, and look forward to collaborating with similarly driven groups such as the Cultural Council and the universities to strengthen this place for artists – together we can nurture a positive, infectious celebration of the arts.
One of the ways we are widening the horizon of the Museum is through our focus on art in public places. We started with a complete renovation of the environs around the Museum. Our promenade along Federal Highway and our, soon to be inaugurated, re-envisioned sculpture garden and entryway will provide new encounters with art in the open air, just the opposite of the secluded events we are all becoming too used to. I am sure we are all ready for moving away from our computer screens. (Perhaps you are already?)