Museums are trying to show the public that they are not only about education but fun as well. To get this message across and reach a broader demographic, many curators and directors have adopted promotional programs designed to bring in new and loyal visitors.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art welcomes about 105,000 on-site visitors, but it reaches an additional 140,000 people with its off-site outreach programs. The museum takes art to the communities and hosts lectures and workshops at off-campus locations.
“We also provide consulting services for communities who are trying to start art museums,” explained Executive Director Charles Shepard. “We work with communities for months and sometimes more than a year for free, teaching them how to get grants and helping them to develop their business plans. We serve more than 25 counties in Indiana and will travel to communities that are within a two-to-three-hour driving radius.”
At the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jackonsville, Fla., Director of Education Susan Gallo refers back to the museum’s mission statement when the museum takes on a new promotion campaign.
“Our mission statement is to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens and education. By keeping our focus on the mission we develop exhibitions and programs that appeal to a broad spectrum of visitors.”
Stephen Gleissner at the Wichita Museusm of Art believes that promotion is the best friend for museum exhibits as well.
“You want to have exhibits that will appeal to a broad range of people, and then you must work to bring in these guests that might not have visited a museum before. It’s a great opportunity to show the community how great the museum is, but if you do not have good promotion, the work is lost. We want people to appreciate art and learn about art and how enjoyable it is, but the first step to accomplishing that is getting them here, and promotion and getting the word out does the job.”
Gleissner uses social media and traditional media to promote the museum and exhibitions. The museum participates in e-mail and direct mail campaigns to reach potential visitors.
As Musuem Director for The New Orleans Museum of Art, Susan M. Taylor focuses on highlighting the permanent collections and letting visitors and potential visitors know that while the museum hosts traveling blockbuster exhibitions, it also is home to wonderful permanent exhibitions.
“With 40,000 works of art representing over 4,000 years of art history, there’s something here for every interest and new things to see every time they come,” said Taylor. “I encourage people to visit NOMA and – most importantly – visit often. NOMA is a public institution and in that spirit, I want the New Orleans community to feel a sense of pride and ownership in this collection. We are here to enhance and enrich the quality of life. We want our visitors to become familiar with the important collections and experience the arts that have been inspired by New Orleans as well.”
At the Rockford Museum of Art in Rockford, Ill., Executive Director Linda Dennis, believes also that promotion is essential to attracting new vistiors. Dennis and museum staff utilize Facebook and social media to talk about new and permanent exhibitions at the museum. Also important to get people in the door is word-of-mouth advertising as well as traditional advertising. The museum also secures sponsors who then extend invitations for exhibitions to employees, which brings in people who might not have thought about seeing an exhibition.