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Experience Is Everything

Audience at the Toby

Audience at The Toby

We have a lot to offer at the IMA: permanent galleries, Lilly House, 152 acres of gardens and grounds, exhibitions, public programs, web projects, and community outreach. After a while, it’s easy to take for granted all of the ways that the museum serves its mission. Every week I write ads, print pieces, Facebook updates, and blogs that focus on the opportunities for visitors at the IMA, but I often don’t take advantage of them myself.

Just 30 seconds from where I sit, I have an amazingly impressive collection of the world’s art, and I rarely take the time to see it. I’m not sure if it’s my hectic schedule or laziness, but it’s shameful to me how little time I spend in the galleries or at the IMA’s public programs. As a marketer, I spend my day encouraging others to experience the IMA, but I wouldn’t be doing my job well unless I do it myself. Therefore, I have recently decided to attend two public programs each month and spend at least 30 minutes in the galleries each week. It’s still not enough, but it’s a start.

As part of my personal mission to experience the museum, a week ago Sunday, I attended an event at The Toby. On November 1, the IMA hosted the string quartet Osso, the singer-songwriter DM Stith as well as Sufjan Stevens and his film, The BQE. The eclectic event entertained a sold-out crowd of 600. As I sat in the balcony of the theater next to a 16-year-old hipster in buffalo check plaid, skinny jeans and black framed glasses, my heart swelled. He and his fellow high school friends were completely engaged in the experience. They were giddy with delight. (In a cool, hipster sort of way, of course.)

DM Stith on stage at the Toby

DM Stith on stage at The Toby

I loved the event, because Osso was the most bad@ss string quartet that I’ve ever seen perform. I loved the event, because DM Stith has a hauntingly gorgeous voice. I loved the event because The BQE was a devastatingly beautiful film. But, most of all, I loved the event because everyone else loved the event.

As a marketer, I often focus on the cause. “What will make a person attend the Museum?” But not often enough do I focus on the effect. “What happens when a person attends the Museum?” Attending public programs, walking through the galleries, and experiencing the IMA as a visitor are all critical to doing my job well. By taking time to enjoy the mission of what I do, I am better able to serve it.

So, with all that said, I have a challenge to my colleagues in the field – not just marketers, but registrars, curators, designers, IT specialists, and accountants. EXPERIENCE YOUR MUSEUM. Don’t take for granted that you work at an amazing place. Be amazed by the place at which you work.

It’s hard, I know. We have all have priorities that pull us away, but I implore you to take the time. For just a little while each week, stop working and start experiencing. I guarantee you, it’s worth it – and I’m not just saying that because I work in marketing.

Filed under: Marketing, Musings

8 Responses to “Experience Is Everything”

  • avatar
    Lindsey Says:

    Inspiring! Great post Meg.

  • avatar
    Linda Says:

    Well said! The same thoughts could be applied about one’s city.

  • avatar
    Georgia Krantz Says:

    Inspiring post, Meg! And so completely dead on. As a member of the Guggenheim staff responsible for training adult educators to teach adults about the art in the galleries, I am happily obliged to spend a lot of time in the galleries observing, learning about and experiencing the exhibitions. But aside from the “study,” I also find it important – indeed necessary – to spend time in the galleries observing how visitors are observing, discussing and interacting with the art. Thus I am better able to tailor my own teaching approaches (and, by extension, the teaching approaches of my educators) to the actual experiences being had by visitors. I find “observing observers” to be a critically important piece of my own effectiveness as a teacher.

  • avatar
    Ed Says:

    Great post Meg! I usually wander up to the Asian gallery or out into the gardens when I need a break, but I should branch out more.

    Also, Linda has a great point. I participated in the Spirit & Place festival’s Spirited Chase event over the weekend and saw some amazing places around Indy that I have never seen before.

  • avatar
    Carren Says:

    This is a great post. Thank you for sharing your insights. I think it’s a common conundrum that when presented with opportunities, many of us fail to take advantage of them precisely because we get caught up in our work (great though it is). This post is reminder to widen our horizons and tear ourselves away from our comfort zones.

  • avatar

    if only we could market-ize the way people “feel” after visiting the museum…then the effect because the CAUSE that makes them come to the museum…

    i’m envisioning a print piece that portrays “sad/normal/blank/plain ?” people walking into a museum and “happy/individualistic/colorful/exciting ?” people walking out of it.

    Maybe like the “all free” campaign ima has now, a campaign about what you’ll *feel* here:
    “Happiness here” with an arrow pointing to the museum.
    “Connected” in big words over a picture of the museum or of an event
    “Community” with a picture of a lecture crowd, ie.
    “Family”, “Friends”, etc, you get the idea.

    Did i just go off on a tangent?…

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