For museum connoisseurs, COVID restrictions have created an almost ideal scenario in which to experience works of art.
Gone are the throngs of people and the hum of white noise echoing throughout the halls; limited attendance lending itself to a more intimate and peaceful environment in which to engage with masterpieces.
While the current climate has some art lovers waxing poetic about the idyllic conditions, the reality is, for the institutions they love so dearly to survive means unveiling new strategies for driving charitable income to ensure their doors remain open.
This topic was recently highlighted in an article in the American Alliance of Museums, which addressed how charitable income “can help bridge the gap between what the public is willing to pay to enjoy what the museum provides and what it costs to operate the museum.”
That gap has widened with most museums operating at limited capacity or still unable to reopen. As we approach a time when vaccines are becoming more readily available, there is hope that these institutions will still be there. But they need a lot of help. A year of limited income has led to many tough decisions and conversations. There have been layoffs and furloughs. Even the Met is considering deaccessioning some of its art.
Getting Creative in Times of Need
Despite the numerous challenges, there has also been a lot of creativity. Organizations have not stopped trying to connect with people. They have developed online education platforms, unveiled DIY exhibits, and created interactive programs to engage from a distance. Online exhibitions and classes took the place of tickets and galas. Institutions pivoted, and now virtual content will be available to audiences who might not be able to visit even after we return to “normal".
Such creativity has also helped spur charitable donations, as major donors have taken notice and jumped in to stem the bleeding within the art sector. The continued need for relief funding remains high, as museums across the country continue to operate with significantly decreased budgets. Exploring new ways to engage visitors and donors alike via digital means offers a new lifeline and potential areas for growth.
Virtual events aren’t going anywhere either, at least not in the short term. New York-based event designer David Stark said it best on why virtual events will continue to offer value in philanthropic efforts when pivoted to be seen as mission-focused endeavors:
“Our first and most important job is to engage guests in the mission of the organization. We are cementing that bond. We are strengthening it. And we are recruiting new followers. It is our job as artists and as leaders to bring each organization’s story to life in ways that are unique to them. ... We use the platforms of experiences of all kinds—whether virtual, hybrid, or in-person—to tell stories and engage on a very deep level. This year, more than ever, that basis has been clarified and reinforced again and again.”
Implementing Science Behind Art
To ensure the longevity of their institutions, many in the art sector have come to recognize the value of science. Leveraging innovative technology and data to improve visitor experience and expand the donor pyramid have become must-have solutions in the wake of COVID-19 to better prepare organizations for the future.
Armed with such tools, organizations are able to improve experiences, simultaneously personalize and scale their communications, and impact their organizations where it matters most.
This expanded engagement helps to create a community near and far. One with the potential to be more committed to the mission and livelihood of arts institutions as they continue to navigate through the current storm and pivot safely toward the future.