I’ve been asked by Elon to write three blog posts, seemingly an easy task, but it has actually proven to be far more difficult than I imagined. I suppose the most relevant topic for me to share with you is my life’s passion and work: museums. I’m calling this: “Museums: Who cares and why you should.”
I graduated from Elon in 2001 with a degree in painting and graphic design. After working a couple of meaningless jobs I decided that I must find a way to make a living in the arts and decided to obtain a graduate degree in museum studies from Harvard, where I focused on finding solutions to one of the most persistent problems museums face: attracting young people like us. Currently, I live in San Francisco and work as the marketing manager for the Oakland Museum of California, which tells the story of California through art, history, and natural sciences.
Based on my research, the majority of you probably don’t care about museums, or museums are not that important to you. I understand why, but I will try and convince you why museums should matter to you. However, if you think that statement does not apply to you, then I pose this question: When was the last time you visited a museum in your own town for fun, and not only because you took a visiting guest there? Probably not recently, right? And it’s probably unlikely that any of your friends are members of local museums or cultural centers.
Well it’s not your fault; it’s the museum communities’. You actually DO care about museums, but they’re just not doing a good job of serving your needs and interests, which is something I’m trying to help fix. For instance, if I asked whether you’d be willing to live in a town or city without museums, you would most likely say “no!” Especially if you have child, museums and other cultural centers have already become a part of your periphery vision, which is great.
Recently, museums have begun to augment their identities, because they’ve realized that they’re alienating a huge portion of their potential membership bases. They’re trying to find ways to become hipper, more relevant, and to appeal to younger, more contemporary audiences like YOU.
Today, most museums host amazing concerts, movie series, book talks, do-it-yourself activities, in addition to the traditional programs like exhibitions, lectures, tours and so on. Many museums have launched programs for young people where they host late-evening parties, whereby the museum stays longer much later than usually to accommodate the schedules of young professionals. So instead of visiting your local art or history museum at 3 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, you’re there at 9, 10, or 11 p.m. on a Thursday, socializing with your friends AND checking out the latest exhibit. I’ve gone to many of these parties, and I’ve always have had a great time. I’ve seen amazing performances with Shaolin Monks and other famous musicians, danced to popular DJ’s, and have made my own masterpieces that I could take home.
Museums are not just for young children and their grandparents (love grandparents!). I propose that visiting a museum become the social norm and that doing so becomes cool. So go out now and visit your local museum!