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What I Learned from the Stark Museum

April 11, 2013

Last week, I traveled to Beaumont with Jessica Harden, the DMA’s Director of Exhibition Design, to present at the Texas Association of Museums Annual Conference.  Together, we presented on the topic of Building an Interactive Art Exhibition with two colleagues from the Stark Museum of Art: Allison Evans, Registrar, and Elena Ivanova, Chief Educator.

Hands-on spaces and interactive art exhibitions have been on the rise in art museums. In 2008, we launched the Center for Creative Connections (C3), a permanent space dedicated to providing interactive learning experiences for visitors of all ages. Our portion of the presentation addressed the changing nature of the C3.  Over the years, the space has evolved and transformed, bringing in new works of art and offering a variety of experiences. The Stark’s portion of the presentation spoke to their experience of developing a temporary interactive exhibition called Explore Art: Materials and Methods Revealed. From July-September 2012, this exhibition enabled visitors to “discover the techniques and tools artists use and have the opportunity to create their own art in hands-on areas.”

When gauging the success of these types of exhibitions, art museum educators are hoping visitors will slow down, spend time looking, and have a meaningful experience with works of art. On average, visitors to the Stark spent thirty minutes in the exhibition. 57% of visitors stopped and looked at works of art for a significant amount of time and 48% of visitors were able to mention a specific work of art that they remembered from the exhibition.

Being a smaller institution, the Stark cannot dedicate a permanent space like C3 within their museum. However, they have been able to implement some of these interactive aspects into their new exhibitions. Take a look at some of the recent interactives they have integrated below.

Many museums look to us at the DMA as an example of how to achieve this type of exhibition. We are fortunate to have supportive staff and donors who believe in the mission of C3, and enable us to continually offer these types of experiences to our visitors. What I learned from the Stark Museum was that small institutions are also prime places for similar initiatives, on a smaller scale.

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

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