This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.
Audience attitudes towards culture—including basic assumptions about what constitutes a cultural experience; the evolution in cultural spaces, programs, and events; and their implications for interaction—are radically changing. The unprecedented experience of the COVID‐19 crisis will impact what audiences want, need, and even fear in the “new normal” world. What do museums need to know to successfully navigate this new frontier? In this panel, leading practitioners and experts examine these shifts as they discuss the Culture Track: Culture and Community in a Time of Crisis study currently underway, along with emerging new practices.
Presenters: Arthur Cohen, Laplaca Cohen; Brad Baer, Bluecadet; Philip Tinari, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art; Moderator: Bahia Ramos, The Wallace Foundation
Bahia Ramos: Welcome to changing experiences cultural audiences and the post pandemic world will be beginning the session in about five minutes.
For museum professionals to gather and discuss current topics and issues while the annual meeting is being held remotely.
This year is no different in engaging and offering insights and information to support you. We wish you all the best at present, and we are here to help. Position your success in the future. Enjoy this session.
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Good morning, everyone. I’m here. Ramos director of Arts at the Wallace Foundation. Thank you for joining us for changing expectations changing experiences cultural audiences in the post pandemic world. I’d like to thank the American Alliance of Museums and Dean fellas, in particular for organizing this morning session.
Like other service organizations AAM provides a kind of connective tissue for the field. It links practitioners to useful knowledge and to each other and gives the field, a voice in public policy debates, while this is pleased to partner with a these are difficult times for our society COVID19 hit in January, with its wave of death social isolation and immense economic damage. Then last week the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the nationwide protests that followed reminded us that we have a long way to go to overcome our legacy of racism.
What John Meacham in his book the soul of America calls the twin tragedies of our nation’s founding the removal of Native American tribes and the subjugation of people of color. In these times, museums spaces where we discover our history, reflect on its meaning commune with others and encounter beauty are especially important yet the challenges to the museum’s posed by the pandemic are daunting.
These challenges were the impetus for this session because there are no silver bullets. Our hope is modest to share insights that can help you sharpen your own thinking. Our session is built around three brief presentations will begin with Arthur CO and CEO of Laplace Cohen who will report on early emerging insights from culture and community in a time of crisis, a special covert edition of culture track.
This large-scale survey is a joint effort of slower Lynette and La Plata Cohen focusing on what people and communities need from their cultural organizations and how communities can support them.
Arthur will speak until about well then hear from Brad their chief strategy officer at Blue Cadet who will share his observations on what is successful and not in digital experiences, including those that will help address key survey findings Brad will speak until 10:35, then we’ll hear from filter Nari director and CEO of the UC ca Center for Contemporary Art Beijing, who will speak about the museum’s reopening plan and insights gathered along the way. So, it will speak until 10:45 will reserve the last 15 minutes for the Q&A of our for our sessions and then promptly at 11 to keep within time limits. I’ll try to give each panelist a two-minute warning.
Looking ahead, I hope you will stay tuned for more information in the coming months from culture and community in a time of crisis. But also from reports Wallace funding from SMU data arts on the characteristics of high performing organizations from a consulting on innovative business models and scenario planning. And from helicon collaborative on leadership we hope you will join us for conversations on these studies as they emerge. And now, over to you, Arthur.
Arthur Cohen: Thank you for here. I hope everyone can hear me. And as but he was saying we’re in a singular moment that I don’t think any of us expected or hoped to be in. But as such, we’d like to just briefly share a statement before we present some of the research findings.
From the most recent special edition of culture track. So, if I may. We stand in solidarity with the black and African American community. And while all communities, especially people of color and the many other underserved populations in our sector data on which we will be presenting in the coming weeks. All these communities must be heard and counted. But today we wanted to truly show up. For black and African American communities in a profound moment of struggle against continued social injustice to do our part, we want to make visible the voices of over 13,000 self-identified black and African American people who are kind enough to share their thoughts and opinions in the study that you’re about to see.
And we want to provide all of you with a vital resource we have noted throughout this presentation where the opinions of black and African American respondents were distinct and noteworthy from the overall group and we hope all of this will be a useful tool for everyone in your efforts to make a difference at this critical time so with that said, as he mentioned, I’m going to briefly go through a lot of data in a way that I hope is still understandable.
As many of you know because so many of you were kind enough to distribute our survey to your lists. All of the data is now coming in and will be shared over the coming weeks. It has actually started to be shared this very week. So, thank you again for all of those who have participated in what became a monumental effort.
I’m just trying to advance. There we go.
This to say this takes a village was an understatement. Obviously, we want to be super grateful to all of those who have made this possible, because this is an enormous undertaking. With Wallace taking the lead supported by art bridges the Tara foundation Microsoft and many others. And we thank all of them for making this possible.
Just a background on this survey and I’m going to put all of this up right now. This is one of the largest cultural surveys that has ever been conducted the period of time of the first wave of what will be a multi wave survey. But what we’re looking at today was data that was collected between April 29 and May 19 so although that was just two weeks ago. It is a moment in time. So, any references to now or today references the period that I’m referring to in which the data was collected among the people who comprise this hundred and 25,000 people in this list. Most of which were accessed through people like you listening in today and your organization’s we had two groups of respondents the far majority from arts and cultural organizations, including a specific focus on Ilana organizations to increase, increase the representation of people of color. As well as 2000 people from North America. Speak panel who represent the general population, less traditionally associated with cultural goers. Over 13,000 people, as I mentioned, self-identified as Black or African American, and we anticipate the next wave of this study to occur in the late summer, early fall.
We’re going to talk about seven key topics today.
The perceived importance of culture now and again now means this period of time that is ended. Two weeks ago, so it is pre the current socio-political moment. But in most other respects extraordinarily applicable to where we are right now in terms of the mindset of the audience what caught audiences want from cultural organizations.
How the current health crisis has affected people what they’re currently doing what they’re currently missing and most looking forward to the degree to which they are making any plans for cultural participation at present, and what considerations must be in place to give them the assurance, they need to reenter the market.
So, in terms of the value of organizations today. Again, this is the total group of 120 5000 respondents and what we learned is that overall when we ask a very fundamental question about how important our arts and culture organizations to you now versus before the covert crisis, we see that the number against what many would have expected that there would have been a decline in fact, there has been a slight uptick that roughly four intent of the total population of respondents continue to view arts and cultural organizations important obviously, this means there’s work to do in terms of moving beyond the 50% mark. But it also means that the value of the arts for those who have considered it valuable in the past remains so today.
What do audiences want now? Well, turns out there’s a couple very fundamental things. And when we ask people to select from a very large list.
These four metrics were the ones that were most pronounced. Note how emotional they are. And note how much they really speak to people’s kind of hearts and minds. The top box helping people laugh and relax, helping them stay connected, particularly now that schools have been closed the functional role of helping educate children. And also offering distraction and escape. So, one of the conceits or one of the constructs, we apply to data like this is to say that before people are able to engage in that kind of higher more perhaps intellectual level there are fundamental emotional needs that must be addressed and that all cultural organizations must be cognizant of in making the connection to have those deeper levels of opportunity to make meaning.
What is the current impact on audiences, and this is where we got into some somewhat unexpected and rather intense findings that I’m going to share with you now for the first time?
So, in this case, we like to compare the overall population specifically to the African American and black subset, because this is some points where it’s interesting to see where these audiences align and where some divergences are what you’ll see first of all is that the sequence of the greatest areas of concern or feeling right now people feeling bored. Where you’re afraid less connected more lonely more sad or depressed. It actually mirrors the two populations in the same sequence, but to a slightly less degree in this case for the black and African American population.
But again, these are very strong numbers from a very long list to say which things are, you know, most salient TO WHAT ARE YOU FEELING THE MOST at this moment in time.
What do they want more of? And here is where the list kind of diverges. Interestingly, for the overall population. The idea that people just need to get outside reconnect. Have fun be informed laugh and have hope with the African American Black audience same subgroup, but in a different order, where the highest-ranking idea of what they want. Most is to be informed and to be informed means to have reliable information that they can believe in and trust.
And then to have fun to laugh and very importantly, the notion of having sources of hope and reasons to be hopeful is particularly relevant for this population. And we thought that was quite interesting how their lives changed today. And this is where I think some of the most noteworthy findings come in.
So, the overall population, about eight and 10 have been under a stay-at-home order, about seven and 10 for the black and African American population.
A huge difference. However, in caring for children right now with a much more significant portion of the black and African American population, four out of 10 saying that that’s what they’re doing a lot more of now out of necessity, obviously because kids are home because schools are closed.
The next or comes some really, I think noteworthy findings about income and health. About the same for both groups, saying that they have some income, but it has been reduced directly as a result of the code crisis.
But, notably, notably 11% of the general population and 15% of the black and African American population say that, as a result of the Kobe crisis. They have no income at all right now.
And then perhaps most movingly when we asked them if they had a family member, a close friend or they themselves had been ill due to covert 19 12% of the overall population. And almost one in five of the black and African American population said yes, that this disease is epidemic has affected them or someone close to them directly. And that’s something we’ve never seen before. And again, something that we feel really impacts our understanding of the burdens that people are carrying around with them and the hardships that they have confronted in these recent weeks and months.
How are they spending their time right now?
So, in this case we had a lot of convergence between these two audiences. So, these comparisons. Other unless noted for a specific audience group. Are fairly consistent across all and we put them in kind of order of what they’re doing. Most so about % of all audiences are aware of live stream performances or cultural events and % of those are actually using them. So, the first number is awareness. The next is participation and next, a very high number.
About % using online materials for kids of the general population 37% are actually using those materials versus a huge majority % of black and African American audiences who are aware of online materials, who are actually using and participating in that next prerecorded performances before the shutdown all about 34% aware and of those half of them are participating the numbers for podcasts, about a third with some differences in terms of less participation for black and African American audiences, as well as for VR or virtual tour experiences.
But these are the top boxes of all the different types of digital engagement that are available. These are the ones that people are telling us they are both aware of and participating in most. In terms of where they’re getting content from digital content foreign away. Getting information or content or experience.
That was posted or shared by the individual performer artists is the greatest source at 38% followed an equal measure by art and design museums and performing arts centers sharing content online and then next one down but zoos and aquariums.
When we ask them to start thinking about the future, knowing that it’s still
Pretty far away in terms of the things that people need to know to feel comfortable and secure in reentering a cultural space. Here’s some of the things that they shared what are they missing most in here. We’ll compare the rank order among the overall population with a black and African American population.
And you see it’s the exact same order to different degrees getting together with friends or loved ones in their homes. This idea of connection.
And hospitality having fun relaxing feeling less stressed learning or experiencing something new, new
escaping the stress of the real-world experiencing artworks performers or performances in person. So, in this case, you’ll see again we have the same order.
But these are the ideas of when people are asked what things they have missed out on the most that they think about the most during the shutdown. These are the activities, the social, the stress relief and functional and then the perhaps aesthetic and cultural what are they most excited to do in the very first weeks when everyone can go out again.
And I know we’ve seen a lot of other reports and information that has this kind of scale of participation by art or cultural form. But we asked this question in a very particular way thinking ahead to when people are able to go out again. What are you most excited to do in the first few weeks?
And here you see not exactly the same order, but pretty close the top for the top three boxes are the same visiting a park gardener zoo. Obviously, the park gardeners who are open inexpensive places that that address concerns about density and proximity going to the movies, going to a concert or a musical performance and then to the overall population seeing a play Art Museum. History Museum science different sequence for the black and African American
Population in our study going to history museum seeing a play than an art museum and then a science museum. So, this is quite interesting because there’s a lot of factors that go into this but also a degree of pent up demand that’s influencing the order and sequence of these findings. This chart is quite interesting too because we’ve like you seen a lot of reports and say, oh, people are ready to go in three months, and they’re making plans and they’re there in the market. And this is when they’re thinking about it, too, which we say hold on, because you can’t ask them what they’re looking forward to doing most without asking them this question. Which is have you actually begun to make any plans to attend arts and cultural experiences in the future. And what you see is to the far left
The vast majority 52% not at all 16% veering towards not at all. So, between those numbers alone. You almost have 70% of the total population saying they’re not even in the market. And those who are making any plans at all go from 18% kind of middle of the road to single digits as we move towards the other end of the spectrum of those who say yes, I’m spending my time now planning on participating and cultural events in the future. So this to us is a very important finding because it just shows in terms of the available market, the number of people who are receiving information and acting upon it. Now, by making plans. That most people, even among the audience that is active, because we access these people through cultural organizations, even this active audience is currently not engaged, for the most part in making plans for the future in terms of cultural activities.
The final issue is considerations for future attendance, and I think we’ve all seen versions of this, but we wanted to be specific as possible by defining all the possible signals.
That could cause people to either feel more confident safe and secure about the idea of reentering and re participating or less. And this is what we learned that the top five considerations across all the audience we spoke to where these first increased cleaning up all surfaces in the cultural space. Next, a vaccine becoming available next reduced admissions levels with the purpose of limiting crowding, and therefore density next enforcement of a policy that requires visitors to wear pasts. I’m sorry masks and then finally announcement from government or public health official that is safe to return.
But the point we want to make about this data is this that among these top five clustered most important considerations for future participation three of the five, including the top ranking one are issues that you yourselves can control through the policies of your cultural organization. And this is significant because it speaks to the agency that you have in the overall factors that are likely to most encourage or dissuade people from participating in the future.
So, I just want to wrap this up of what we’re taking away from the highlights of these findings. First, we all know this, but how are they, how do we know this. Your audiences are hurting. They feel worried they’re very disconnected often depressed very bored and isolated and lonely.
Next, the COVID crisis is a personal crisis, a crisis, not only of health, but a mental wellbeing, with almost a third of audiences having experienced a reduction in their income. And a shocking % of Black or African American audiences telling us that they have no income at present as a result of this crisis.
Further one in eight overall audience members either have a family member or close friend or themselves have been sick because of the COVID Crisis and one in five black or African American audience members say the same thing that they have a family member close friends or themselves have been sick due to COVID 19 among the general public as we noted the importance of arts and cultural organizations have remained steady still below the % threshold, but four out of 10 members of all the people that we spoke to consider arts organizations important now and notably this numbers seem stable.
Audiences believe that you have a role to play. And what this means is
We don’t think organizations have the time or the right to take a pass and wait for things to get better because the audience expects you to be a part of the solution to the hardships, they’re currently encountering specifically. They want you to be a place that can help them laugh and relax, help them stay connected with one another, and particularly why school while schools are closed, help them educate their children note again that more than half of culturally involved in total audiences are not currently making plans to return.
Not at this moment as much as they’d like to. And as much as they can identify the things they would like to do. They are not for the most part in an active planning mode at present, three out of five again of the top considerations about what make people feel either more confident or less about returning to a cultural space are controllable by the policies, your organization can initiate and those include increased cleaning of all touch surfaces reduced admissions levels to ensure a lack or absence of density and requiring masks for all visitors.
So finally, I just want to share with you what’s happening next because there’s quite a bit. Sorry, I want to go back actually this week, those organizations that have shared their lists are able to start querying the total database which we posted online. To get not only the national results, but the results for your particular organization on number of key metrics.
We will be conducting qualitative interviews to get more depth behind these responses over the summer will be doing a performing arts version of this top line in the next week.
And we will continue with a formal report with both analysis analyzes the entire sample and has implications for interpretation and action. This is not that report. This is a top-line the full report will be issued later this month with segments specific analyses including other communities of color-specific regional subsets and generational subsets over the summer.
As well as these query herbal tools to compare your data to the key splits.
And finally moving into a wave to survey with a deeper dive into such issues has technology and audience on site dynamics, which we think will be a very interesting and challenging topic and we anticipate that to occur sometime in August or September. So, with that, I’m going to go back to our team and we’ll continue with the discussion. Thank you.
Bahia Ramos: Thank you, Brad.
Arthur Cohen: Cool.
Brad Baer: Just making sure everyone can hear me all right. Wonderful. Well thanks for that Arthur. I mean, it’s really compelling work and I appreciate you for taking on this Herculean task so looking forward to seeing what comes next. So, like many of you, I really do miss the opportunities that institutions provide for inspiration and spontaneity and connection and
I think, well, there’s a lot of things to feel rightfully pessimistic about right now, which are, they’re just outlined, I do believe that museums and human beings are resilient, and I trust that you all are going to come back can lead the change that we really need. So that said, today I’m going to talk a little bit about some observations regarding technology and museums and in many ways.
The pandemics actually expedited several trends and things that we are actually seeing things like thinking about cultural organizations beyond physical spaces and content being made more accessible and inclusive.
And even people’s hesitation to touch touch screens or put VR goggles on before COVID and our hope is that the bright spot amongst all of this is that it’s actually going to propel us to think of the pandemic as to what Arundhati Roy refers to as an opportunity or as a portal moving forward.
So, while there’s many areas where this presentation could have gone. I’m going to spend the next eight or nine minutes focusing on four areas when considering how technology can help you prepare an act for the coronavirus future that includes developing a comprehensive digital strategy designing healthier spaces using alternative inputs. And finally, extending the experience and I do want to note to our there’s kind of main point that comfort is really key. And all this and can’t be ignored. You know, for looking at educating and entertaining people if they’re not feeling comfortable or included that’s never going to happen. So, while some of what I’ll be showing today might look a little futuristic we need to remember that this needs to be an opt in scenario or opt out scenario so that people don’t feel forced into doing something. They’re not comfortable with and that goes for both onsite and off-site offerings.
We also realize that after staring at screens like this for several months’ technologies, not always going to be the answer. So, I would encourage everyone to think about low tech and DIY solutions example, you’re seeing in the bottom right is from us Sephora store and by simply choosing which basket. You want to use your indicating whether or not you want people to interact with you.
And again, this is just an example of a really quick, simple prototype before using any sort of technology that can be really powerful really help you evaluate in real time.
So, jumping into developing a comprehensive digital strategy, and what that means, you know, digital strategies often get a bad rap as being costly, or maybe not tactical enough and the truth is that a really strong multi-channel approach is going to be really critical in line your organization’s to be flexible and resilient moving forward.
So, jumping into that it’s important to deliver a complimentary online experience that builds on any gallery activations and doesn’t just reiterate it I think we’ve seen time and again where museums are trying to create duplicate copies of whatever they have what happens on site. And to be quite honest, that really just doesn’t work. And the reason is that fundamentally and in person experience and our road experience are not the same submission be treated as such.
Next, we want to turn to long form stories and thinking about how we can highlight objects using augmented reality in ways that are much more approachable and accessible. And to be honest, a little bit more fun.
And this can happen with exploration or games or audio and all these are ways of taking stories that are sometimes really heavier difficult and making them a little bit more approachable.
Last, speaking of Scott sound and audio, we should think about creating parallel audio experiences for written in visual content. So, ensuring your experiences equally accessible to everyone audio is a great way of offering another way. That’s not purely digital, excuse me, purely visual. So again, this content that we’re creating that can be accessed online can also be used on social media on pot on podcast or blog posts.
When we think about designing healthy spaces, no Philips going to talk a little bit more about this in a second. But there’s some very obvious practical concerns like how to space out crowds and how to clean surfaces between need to be very cognizant of one of the things that we need to do right up front is to be more granular and dynamic about our crowd management. And while this largely has to do with physical space. We actually think that this is an opportunity, as opposed to a problem. If people are queuing up, it’s time to give them great content and great insights, while they’re actually hopefully paying attention, instead of distracted running around from one spot to the next. And this can range from what we’re seeing in the upper left here. This is a single person Gallery in Japan, that’s meant to be very kind of personal and singular simultaneously, we’re seeing things like Disney, which is designing apps that are meant to respond based on queuing time so for instance, if you’re waiting five minutes, you get five minutes’ worth of content. If you are waiting for 20 minutes you get 20 minutes’ worth of content. And they’re actually allowing people to alter and adjust their physical environment and things that are happening in the queue lines along the way.
It’s also worth considering more kind of classic queuing mechanisms. So that could be orientation videos that are spaced out to be six-foot radius.
Or thinking about little individual experiences that can allow someone to concentrate before going into a larger space. And again, preventing those traffic jams that might happen. More kind of digitally focused. There are opportunities to integrate centers, they can automatically restrict access to a space when occupancy limits are reached so these can even optimize the visitor path. So, you can imagine busy times a day, or if there’s large clusters that people you can encourage folks to go a different direction instead of going into a room, they might have otherwise gone into
And if done correctly as you’re seeing right here, this doesn’t have to feel like a forced mechanism, it can actually feel quite magical and spontaneous, spontaneous and fun.
Third, we need to think about ways to avoid or less than cues and it’ll be critical to think about using notifications or QR codes allow people to schedule their visits. This is something you might have seen that theme parks with fast passes. But you can envision and very simply adding your name to a list and then receiving a push notification that says, hey, it’s your time is ready to go experience a work of art in a very kind of small group or individual manner. And one of our criticisms. I’ve been to many museums that are quite popular and it being super busy, which is fun.
But it makes it hard to concentrate and really understand what the artist is talking about. So, we think that this is a powerful tool that will make the experience better for everyone, you know, pre covert and postcode jumping to the next area it’s concerning alternate inputs and while interaction clearly isn’t going away. We have to think about how people might control digital experiences.
To be honest, for more than a decade we’ve relied on touch screens, which are now ubiquitous and everywhere. And we need to think about the fact that interaction doesn’t have to mean touch. So, we’ve been growing and refining alternative inputs and I’ll share a few of those today. One of them, as you’ve probably noticed is that it’s clear that we believe that personal devices are gonna play a really important role moving forward. And there’s a lot of opportunities to use personal devices in a really powerful way so you can connect directly to these devices using QR codes. As I previously mentioned, Geo fencing SMS and web socket connections example we’re showing here is actually using Apple’s airdrop feature. So, one of the biggest burdens about visitors using mobile apps previously as they didn’t know about it or didn’t get on board. You can imagine a scenario where you get dropped information on your phone and you have the option of whether or not to accept it. Get on boarded or just ignore it completely. The other thing we’re thinking a little bit about is, what does the technology zero touch technology look like. And while you probably can’t see. What’s going on exactly in the upper right-hand corner. This is allowing someone to write with a pen and then it’s turning it into vocal tones. So, you can actually hear what’s being written.
These things are really compelling, and this is just one example. And then there’s all kinds of other things that we can consider about doing with gaze tracking or body gestures, which has gotten much better. And one of the things that we’ve been considering is if something becomes mainstream like having to do temperature readings.
Is there a way to do this in a way that’s fun and not totally scary? So, you can imagine if there is some sort of facial recognition thing happening in the bottom right.
Is there a way that we can overlay different artistic styles and teach visitors about what they’re going to see instead of having being really kind of scary?
And then for those of you that have already invested in touch technology. It’s going to be really important to think about how you can adjust or edit that.
That might mean considering anti-microbial surfaces RF ID or even disposable stylist is and while I’m not the most kind of amazing high-tech thing ever a disposable stylist. It’s a couple pennies and can be recycled. And that might be what’s needed to continue to use your touchscreen and help your visitors feel comfortable I’m to the point about copper. Copper killing coronavirus. This isn’t totally scientifically confirmed yet. But one of the things that we’ve been testing is actually is it possibility to have overlays or layers or different materiality that can make it less likely that something someone is going to catch coronavirus by touching and then the last area want to talk about is extending the experience and the societal response to COVID19 has really pushed many interactions online and may result in renewed interest in innovation in different ways that really extend the public experience. And there are a few ways to bring these public experiences to a person’s private space.
Most of you should be paired previously with a digital strategy that I mentioned. But the real concern is that we don’t want to create great content and great information that no one knows about. So, some of the ways that we can do this and take it to people is thinking about creating new virtual spaces and AR and VR continues to be really promising. As you can see from the bottom image since the pandemic has occurred. Actually, the wait times and stocking kind of times have lasted much longer. And then on back order for things like the Oculus headset. Things like LIDAR sensors are now being built into Apple touchscreens and tablets. So, this allows people to three C 360 scanner states basis. And I should note that while this technology is really exciting. It’s still very expensive. Our hope is that it becomes more mainstream and organizations like apple or anything to push it and make it a little bit more mainstream but it’s definitely a burden and getting all users to access this kind of spaces.
Second, it’s going to be important to place your content where people already are the example in the bottom right is actually Minecraft. A lot of universities are recreating their spaces in Minecraft. So the question is, should museums be doing the same thing. Alternatively, if we’re thinking about ways of taking art outside of spaces and that could happen at bus shelters or using augmented reality or just different ways of putting it in newspapers response where people are arguing and then lastly, applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to collections can really help visitors as well as curators you know, this helps researchers that helps conservators and it’s always been a scary term.
But it’s definitely here and considering fact that museums have spent several years, if not decades digitizing their collection. This really finds a way to make that collection, much more manageable and you can take your collections use machine learning or artificial intelligence as we’ve done here.
And it can become a Slack channel, it can become an Instagram photo variety of other things, and with the fact that many collections are already too big to be shown or even housed on site. The possibilities of an online or virtual venue are really limitless.
So, to end today. I just want to sort of put this out there and you know as a digital agency. We’ve always explored different methods for integrating digital storytelling. But what we’re going to really be looking at in the future, is how do we capture some of these magical events that are associated with public spaces and take them online and take them digitally. So, I’ll turn it over to fill up right there and happy to answer some questions.
Philip Tinari: Thanks. It’s great to be here. Joining from Beijing where it’s 11:37pm and it’s wonderful to reconnect with so many colleagues, especially back in America where my heart is this incredibly difficult period plays out my role here today is to talk a little bit from my perspective as director of a place called UCC a Center for Contemporary Art, which is
An institution at the heart of Beijing 798 art district with one other location by the sea big I have 300 kilometers from Beijing and another plant open in Shanghai later this year.
As, as an institution, that’s not been through this process of reopening which is a process that many institutions around the world are going to be experiencing in the coming days, weeks, and months. And I think, you know, we all know that the pandemic began here in China. What people sometimes don’t realize is that it actually happened, or onset coincided with the Chinese New Year holiday when the country was essentially shutting down already as it does every year at that time. So, for us, we didn’t experience the sudden pause of action. THAT PEOPLE LIKE THE DIRECTOR OF THE VNA have written about of having to suddenly close the DCM one day and leave not to come back for an indefinite period, but rather we went into our kind of standard annual pause and then just simply prolong them for longer prolonged our moment to come back in the process also having to postpone huge number of programs that were lined up for this year.
So, you know, I think we can talk about this in a set of phases, and I think they connect very nicely with what Brad just shared maybe more specific examples, then it’s kind of more theoretical framework as he discussed, but they are roughly chronological so I wanted to just share a moment in the sort of the depths of the shutdown. This was on February 29, so we closed on January 19 for the Chinese New Year. And then we reopen exactly four months later on. On May 20
So, through this period we experienced a number of different phases and the first was, as we came back to work, which happened, sort of in mid and late February. We started to think, immediately about how to continue to engage with our public even without what, not knowing when we would ever be able to to meet them face to face again. This was a period when if you’d come to 798 you actually would have seen our main front door with a giant almost bicycle lock.
On the outside and you essentially wouldn’t have even been able to enter this gallery district compound unless you were considering essential personnel. So, we took immediately to our online channels, of course, the channels. I mean, we are present on the international so on the international networks, but our core following is on networks that are used much more in China, but we tried immediately to do some things we might not have done otherwise. And I’m just going to highlight one example, which was this concert that we planned on February 29 on a channel called quite show are also listening was quite many people know Tick tock, which of course is a Chinese brand it’s going in and China quite show is kind of the sort of lower brow version of knowing and a lot of people actually surprised to see a place like you say, which stands for kind of international sensibility, a contemporary art.
On a channel that’s often associated with viral videos from third to sixth third tier cities around China. Presenting a concert of essentially all my guard improvisational music but aligned with an exhibition that was actually on view. When we had to go into shut down and that featured a special performance from Richie Sakamoto from New York where he featured as you can see on the right, a symbol that was made in Mohan inscribed as such and sort of ended his performance by with an inspirational message to the several hundred thousand fans who tuned in for this and I think it was really special about this moment, and why it was so cathartic sort of the depths of, you know, having being actually stuck at home was actually that even though it was online and it featured you know nine musicians performing from their home studios it unfolded at a single time. So, you had the shared temporality of everyone being online watching this thing unfold in in a along a single Timeline and interacting as such. So, it’s just one example that I think stands for a number of other kinds of initiatives that we embarked on during that period to keep our community alive and well, another was a series that we rolled out initially for our patrons and higher level members but
That we extend it to others as well just these kind of virtual studio visits, where we would go to visit different artists or engage with people like the architect designed our renovations and to these, you know, webinars, similar to what we’re doing now, just as a way to kind of continue to announce our presence and I think sparked a lot of new interest in an artist. Sup, many of whom we had shown in the past, some of whom we will be showing better so, so one thing that happened was that we realized we would need to change our programming at all. But both of our venues. However, you know, the originally scheduled spring show at this. This is UCC a dune which is a really beautiful work of architecture buried under a sand dune by the by the boy I see in a town called they die, which is the sort of seaside town like goes with Beijing.
There’s a lot of uncertainty around when reopening could happen and our, our goal was to be up and functioning again as soon as possible. So, this was a show called resistance of the sleepers. It’s a group show of 10 artists kind of taking a curated by our CIO, one of our carriers taking off from Jonathan carries book both years ago 24/7 about kind of round the clock temporality as you know, I’m one iteration of like capitalism.
And we ended up installing this show in mid-April understanding that the team including some of our exhibitions staff and some of the artists who went to bed. I have which is outside of Beijing might be subject to 14 days quarantine when they came back to Beijing. Fortunately, they weren’t because things had already loosened by then.
We also did the opening we, so we had, we had a team and artists. They’re installing the show. And then we opened the exhibition, with no one physically present. So, we did an opening over zoom with media. A pre filmed video and sort of curatorial Roundtable. We were fortunate because the area where this is located. It’s in a essentially a plan vacation community.
Was able to reopen just about 10 days later. And so, once that happened, you know, we were able to walk and visitors again according to the range of crosses that I’ll talk about for a moment now. So, the next initiative we launched, we did in late April 25 through May 3 or so. I mean we just called it MTC CA. So, you know, having been closed for a few months. At that point we were eager to just find a way to test all of our protocols for emitting visitors under these new circumstances, you know, including of course mandatory mask wearing temperature checks at the entrance and registration of Visitor Information. There’s another line of protection at the entrance to the larger compound where we’re located, which involves having to show one’s health kit code which is generated by a government app that tracks your data for the last 14 days to sort of tell where you’ve been and whether that includes high risk areas. So, we’re, we’re, of course, we know subject to the regulations of the place where we find ourselves. And yet we also are trying to be humane are as polite and as generous as possible in kind of enacting these regulations which were inspected on a very regular basis. So, this empty UCC was essentially a social media campaign and when it’s a show about nothing if it wasn’t a show, it was a it was a it was just a chance to welcome people back into the empty space to give people a chance to see our signature great hall where we had, you know, have our largest exhibitions in 1800 square meter column free factory chamber without an exhibition. But more importantly, it was tense for our visitor experience and security teams to really think about and practice what it was like to, to bring people back.
Meanwhile, because our art exhibitions were completely overturn we were in the position of needing to curate a new show an order with which three open in mid-March we received word that painting gallery weekend, which would have happened. Which would have happened in mid-March before Basel Hong Kong with instead happen in late May. And so, we had to essentially seven weeks to put together exhibition and we decided that we would amount to 26 artist International Group show examining the pandemic from five different lines of inquiry, including health, including me every day, including globalization and anti-globalization.
Fake news and the relation between humans and animals. So, of course, none of the international artists physically came to Beijing. But it was interesting to use these digital technologies that have become so commonplace are not necessarily to put the exhibition online, but to install the physical exhibition without the same levels of travel. And physical presence that we’ve all become so accustomed to. And it was felt urgent and relevant and
Necessary to make an exhibition talked about this global situation that we’ve all been consumed by it was of course also not necessarily the easiest decision, politically, so this this exhibition faced quite a lot of scrutiny, as we continue to put it together. We hadn’t accounted for the fact that our opening date would coincide with the opening of China’s legislative session, which is also one of the most sensitive political days on the calendar each year because that they wasn’t announced until much later in any case.
If you come to Beijing. Now, which unfortunately you can’t because the borders closed, and Trump is just announced the Chinese carries can’t buy the United States. You will be greeted by a robot, who will take your temperature and you will be asked to put your mask on and to stay away from your fellow visitors to, you know, pay for your ticket using contact lists phone scanning technology, but other than these intrusive but ultimately surmountable obstacles you will have a chance to engage with work of important artists.
And along a line of inquiry that hopefully brings new investigations and new inspirations out of this this global translate that we’re all so intensely faced with at the moment.
As a very final note, you know, we’ve been really happy to be able to extend Free Membership to all of the medical personnel, you know, there was a huge movement of people who went from Beijing to on to really serve on the front lines of this of this outbreak before it’s symptoms and causes and things, whereas as well understood as they now are so we’ve been we’ve been
Really happy to engage with this group. Who you know, I think even more than many others are looking for cultural experiences to help process what they’ve just been through?
And we’ve also just decided to take a line of total generosity, so
You know, extending memberships, for example, for longer, even in the period that we were closed something that’s been really well received. Certainly, also against the background of reduced incumbents and increased uncertainty. So I still believe in the museum as as a physical space where people and works of art can congregate in search of deeper truth and I’m hopeful that, you know, even with all of these restrictions that we face that that will be able to continue to provide that kind of a space in a way that is relevant and compelling for people as they make sense of the larger questions in their lives. Thank you.
Bahia Ramos: Thank you, panelists.
I’ve been monitoring the Q&A and I just have a few questions primarily for Brad, but a lot of questions have come up around kind of the issue of privacy and also the lack of access to technology and personal devices in within audiences and hat and what strategies you might have for addressing the privacy concerns of visitors or the lack of access to personal devices for folks.
Brad Baer: Yeah, those are two very good questions, and they definitely track well before COVID is being an issue. A lot of our research shows that people come to museum with their own devices. But again, if you don’t have your own device that can feel like a reason not to come to a museum and to feel unwanted and included so you know what we typically suggest is that it’s valid valuable for an organization to have devices that can be used by folks there might be concerned of actually spreading the virus. But as someone else pointed out in the chat. You know if cleaned effectively. That doesn’t seem to be a main way that coronavirus is being transmitted. So that’s one way of opening it up to folks.
The privacy issue is something that everyone’s still wrangling with, and each museum is sort of handling that on a case by case basis. What we typically suggest is being very open about what’s being tracked and what’s not being tracked what’s being used and not using again having it be something that’s an opt in scenario or an opt out scenario. For far too long organizations have not been clear about that. And that’s what Google gets criticized for sometimes people don’t know what’s happening. We found that if folks know what’s happening in regard to privacy, they’re more than willing to participate or opt out if they’re not comfortable
Bahia Ramos: Philip. I’m wondering if you can speak to, you know, the issue of social distancing suggests that fewer people will be attending or actually be physically able to be in the space at once. But what are, what are the some of the financial consequences of fewer patrons. And how can people begin to think about how to address those or how they might address them.
Philip Tinari: Yeah, so I mean on this level. We’ve actually been quite fortunate in that are you know we’re, of course, restricted to
3030 plus percent of our normal capacity, but given the kind of architecture of the building and of the exhibition that gives us an upper limit of people in the building at any given time, which is honestly, with the exception of a blockbuster exhibition or an extremely busy weekend day, you know, not a threshold, we, we normally reach and, and, frankly, we’ve been really delighted and surprised at the visitor numbers over the it’s now been just exactly two weeks at the exhibition that’s been open it’s you know it’s of course not at the level of the kinds of summer blockbusters, we sometimes do but it’s actually quite strong and i think it’s a it’s a combination of, you know, a relevant topic and just also people being ready to get out of the house and sort of looking to engage with society. There’s this term and no I won’t go there right now. It’s, um, it’s been, yes. I think there’s a certain amount of kind of like performative makeup consumption of cultural experiences in the wake of all of this, which hopefully we can all look forward to.
Bahia Ramos: I have another question for Brad about the use of AI in kind of accents accessing collections and how folks might think about the advancement of technology to help do that.
Brad Baer: Yeah, it’s some, you know, it’s still a case-by-case basis, because every organization has their content in their collection in different place. What we’ve been doing is really just having preliminary discussions with folks to see what they’re looking to accomplish and how artificial intelligence can actually let them do things that might have otherwise been really challenging we spend a lot of time working with the Henry Ford museum and working directly with their curators to help sort of teach the AI mechanism, the kind of things that are of interest, whether that’s be the technique or era or provenance or subject matter and it’s been really cool because as we’ve done that, it sort of made their collection system much better and their app that much better. And then we take that back to the curators prevent that present them with the information and then they help us teach it again. So, it’s this back-and-forth sort of scenario. Um, but, again, it’s really just about how you want to use it. What you want to get out of it, just using it as a technique or a tactic really isn’t enough as to serve some sort of means at the end.
Bahia Ramos: Yeah, it’s a question also about human behavior. So, Arthur thinking about people’s considerations for reentering the museum. Are they thinking about their compliance around that issue or like the pressure to comply in terms of social distance, are they doing this on their own accord, or do you think folks will have to be reminded, and then fill up? Are you seeing that there is some traction around human behavior to comply to these new conditions of how we socialize within space?
Arthur Cohen: Whoever asked that question. I just want to thank them because I believe this is kind of the key area of inquiry that we’re going to have to probe deeper into in the next wave, which is there are many factors which I think organizations will learn and can be controlled or anticipated, but the X Factor the unknown factor in all this is how people will behave in these spaces, not only vis-a-vis, the cultural context. But most importantly, with one another and different people at this moment in time, have different perceptions and attitudes and behaviors as it relates to such issues as
Hygiene health and safety standards around others. And that’s the area that I think we are all least certain about as we re-enter into an environment where different people with different perspectives on these issues come in contact with one another.
So, it also causes, and this is an issue that I think is completely uncharted territory. It puts the Cultural Organization in a new role as an enforcer of rules and standards for behavior between audience members and that is a role that we will all have to learn to navigate together and creates the greatest degree of uncertainty in terms of how we proceed into the future.
I are effective is of course slightly different, you know, being
Arthur Cohen: In a non…
Philip Tinari: Democratic context where a higher level of let’s say a wider range of behaviors are mandatory. So, you know, sure, if you’re not wearing a mask our guard will tell you, you should be, but you probably are wearing a mask, because everyone else will be looking at you if you weren’t so that it kind of it’s I feel you know, of course conflicted about it on some levels, but on another level like being in a place where behaviors are more closely regimented and restrictions are more closely enforced paradoxically opens up a kind of space inside the museum because it takes away some of that uncertainty and you know, keeps us from having to be in the position that Arthur just talked about of enforcing value judgments that might not be widely shared.
Bahia Ramos: So, do you have to measure your spaces, or do you find that people kind of adhere to just kind of have it in an instinct around what that’s basis.
Philip Tinari: Yeah, I think, at our place, but also just more broadly here.
The distancing piece of things is, is more instinctual. And I think that’s because you know mask wearing was ubiquitous so early on. I think it also comes out of the experience of SARS in 2003 and just out of. And I don’t think it’s uniquely Chinese and I think you see it. Another he stays in context as well, just that. Yeah, I mean, you think about how long it took the US to even admit that wearing masks was a good idea. I mean certain you know presences and I think that goes some way to explain that the French.
Bahia Ramos: Arthur if folks aren’t even thinking about what their cultural experience like reentering a cultural space. Do you know what kind of medium, they’re inviting first into their lives where they might be turning to first to experience some kind of some kind of communication with culture.
Arthur Cohen: Yeah, I mean I think that what’s been interesting in terms of us re shifting our kind of medium of choice to technological channels.
Is that it forms communities around it. So, one of the things that I think is very interesting to note at this moment is not only the individual experience that people are having and consuming online media. But how they are then socializing that experience and forming shared communities of interest.
Which will have some ongoing behavior that we’re not sure about just yet, but I think it’s one of the things we really want to track you know there’s a fundamental question about, you know, choice of medium and the role of technology now.
Whether there’ll be this long tail that beyond the point at which it is a necessity to use the kind of technology we’re using today. How will the reliance upon it currently impact future behavior when we get to make that choice and will there be perhaps a greater appetite for parallel digital experiences, along with analog cultural experiences that collectively comprise what is culture in the future. You know, it’s a big question. But it’s interesting one to ponder.
Bahia Ramos: Thank you so much. We are session has come to a close. Unfortunately, but thank you all for your questions. I’d like to thank my panelists Brad Arthur Phil for their insights and expertise today and thank you all for joining us. The link to the session will be sent out to everyone who’s registered along with slides from our presenters. Thanks very much. Have a good day. Bye.