Four contemporary art galleries in the North bring in new family visitors with innovative approach
Evaluation shows new approach, funded by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, brings in 123,000 visitors but lessons are also learnt
Four contemporary art galleries in the North of England have successfully brought in thousands of ‘under represented’ new visitors by commissioning special exhibitions aimed at a family audience and using an innovative communication approach, their new evaluation shows.
The Gymnasium Gallery in Berwick, Central Art Gallery in Ashton-under-Lyne, Towneley Hall in Burnley and the DLI Museum and Art Gallery in Durham worked together to create the Generation Tour which visited the galleries between September 2014 and September 2016.
The Tour used a research-based approach to audience development and commissioned artists to develop four brand new hands-on contemporary art exhibitions designed to appeal to families.
Lucy Jenkins, Art Curator for Durham County Council, said “This has been a very successful project with rich learning along the way that we can build on. We hope others in the culture sector can also gain something from our discoveries.”
“We embarked on this project because family audiences were under represented in our venues. This was a missed opportunity, not only in terms of visitor numbers but because contemporary art can enrich the lives of families and encourage a lifelong appreciation and interest.”
“We were delighted that the Generation Tour was so successful. More than 123,000 came to see the exhibitions. Nearly 1,500 filled out questionnaires that showed 83% were visiting as families and the average approval score was 8.7 out of 10.”
“We were especially pleased to see that 14% of those visiting had never set foot in an art exhibition before – getting visitors to try a completely new cultural genre is not an easy thing to do.”
To achieve these results, family focus groups were used and previous research applied to find out what the barriers were to families visiting and what they wanted from a visit. The clearest message was that contemporary art galleries were perceived as ‘hands off’ places where curious, noisy children would not be welcome. Many found the terminology used in marketing off-putting too – even the use of the word ‘art’ was a turn off for many.
The Generation Tour responded to this with exhibitions that were very much hands on, colourful marketing literature that was instantly recognisable as ‘for families’ and training for staff to ensure a warm welcome for this audience.
For all their mainstream appeal, the exhibitions didn’t compromise on artistic quality. Generation AIR by Spacecadets created ambient, breathing inflatables inspired by the human body; Generation NOISE by Owl Project offered huge wooden interactive sound machines; The Tree, The Caterpillar and The Butterfly by Aether and Hemera invited families to bring a nature garden to life using Xbox Kinect technology and Musical Chairs by Hellicar and Lewis offered the chance to compose a changing soundscape by joining hands with other humans. They successfully brought in many families but not everything went to plan.
“We learnt there was a tricky balance between showing families that contemporary art galleries could be hands on but also getting the message across that it was not exactly the same environment as a playground.” said Lucy Jenkins. ” When you’re encouraging people to interact with artworks you need to make sure they are really robust otherwise things can stop working and it causes stress for front of house staff”.
“We’re now looking at our next steps and would like to commission new exhibitions. Funding permitting, these will use interpretation, exhibit robustness and staff training to help families interact with exhibitions in a way that’s both enjoyable for them and sustainable for the art offer.”
“With this learning we’re confident we can deepen the engagement for families further still and continue to play our part in turning around the perception that contemporary art galleries are not for families.”
Within an increasingly diverse society how might UK museums grow attendance and engagement?
How do we move beyond talk to action in increasing diversity, inclusion and equity to start to make real and lasting change in the museums sector?
Diversifying Museum Visitors is a ground breaking project designed to help museums increase the diversity of their visitors.
The key focus of the project will be on providing tools and guidance to help museums make long-term change. The sector has been talking about diversity for so long. Diversifying Museum Visitors provides a great opportunity to address and breakdown barriers. To help people take a first step and then the next, to make a meaningful, lasting, real change.
• What are the factors for success?
• What practical steps can museums take to improve visitor diversity?
• What do we need to change and influence both internally and externally?
The literature and practice review (underway at the moment) is highlighting that there is a complex interplay of factors which affect diversity and inclusion within museums. The project team will therefore consider all of the protected characteristics, but will place a particular emphasis on socio-economics as a key, cross-cutting influence on engagement.
The project steering group is led by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) together with the Museums Association and four other organisations who are funding the project – Arts Council England, the Museums Archives and Libraries Division of the Welsh Government, Museums Galleries Scotland and National Museums Northern Ireland.
AIM has appointed a trio of consultants – Julie Aldridge, Mel Larsen and Pam Jarvis – to lead on this project and they are now looking for people across the UK museums sector to get involved.
Help us to make a difference by informing the creation of a suite of tools and guidance that works well for a broad mix of museums (of different types, size, geographical locations etc.)
Deadline for expressions of interest is 5pm, Friday 5th May 2017
Wellcome Collection, London
Wednesday 29th March
£55.00 – £195.00
From the Museums Association:
How will our rapidly changing society affect the relationship that museums have with audiences in the future? Chaired by Tonya Nelson, head of UCL Museums and Collections, the event will look at the influence that demographic, technological and other trends will have on the needs of audiences, including families, young people, older visitors and those with disabilities. Speakers will discuss how museums can deepen their engagement with the public and have a greater impact on their lives.
Tonya Nelson, head of UCL Museums and Collections
– Jane Falkingham, director of the ESRC Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton, will shed light on future demographic trends.
– Anne Torreggiani, CEO, The Audience Agency, will talk about the audiences of the future.
– Maggie Appleton, chief executive, Royal Airforce Museum and board member of the Museums Association, will explore how museums can strike new relationships with audiences.
– Sebastian Crutch, neuropsychologist, UCL Dementia Research Centre
– Miranda Ballin, ArtWorks, Artistic Director at Valleys Kids
– Sam Tatlow, talent coordinator for talent agency Think Bigger
– Becki Morris, a specialist in inclusion and representation of disabled people in museums and collections assistant at Warwickshire Heritage and Culture
– Laura Phillips, head of learning and participation, British Museum, and member of the Age Friendly Museums Network
– Mark Miller, Circuit programme leader and convenor of young people’s programmes, Tate Britain and Tate Modern
– Clare Haywood, family programme producer, National Maritime Museums
– James Peto, head of public programmes, Wellcome Collection
Registration will start at 0930 and the event will finish at 1700.
After the event the Museums Association is holding one of the launches for its new Museums Change Lives publication. All delegates are welcome to attend. This new publication is being launched at events throughout the UK in 2017. Museums Change Lives is the MA’s flagship campaign to enhance the positive social impact that museums can deliver working with their communities. The new publication features case studies from a range of museums demonstrating the difference they are making and advocates the value of museums to society.
Full timetable will be available in due course
If you require an invoice please download and complete a booking form to send with a purchase order number.
Follow this event on Twitter: #MAMuseumsFuture
The AMA is recruiting for participants to take part in Audience Diversity Academy 2.0 – the innovative online programme which supports professionals working in arts, culture and heritage organisations across England, to help diversify audiences.
Fellows of the programme develop and conduct experiments with real audiences, identifying challenges and testing new ways of working. We use the word diversity in its broadest sense and are looking to recruit Fellows aiming to engage audiences of different ages, sexualities, genders, ethnicities and socio economic backgrounds.
The programme offers you the support of an international expert Mentor with one- to-one sessions, access to tailored online training to develop your skills, and the opportunity to take part in Action Learning Sets to learn from your peers.
If you want to build new relationships with diverse audiences and are committed to seeing audiences better reflect society you should apply for a place on the programme. You’re likely to have marketing, education, outreach, audience development or engagement in your job title.
The simple application form and further information can be found on the AMA website. The deadline for applications is 12pm on Friday 17 March.
“No one can afford to ignore diversity issues nowadays but many cultural organisations still struggle to think through and apply new practices. This programme will give many organisations the on-going, in-depth support they need to try new approaches, get great results and embed the learning into their organisation.”
Thursday 10th November
The Bluecoat, Liverpool
10:00 – 15:30
This is the second of two related workshops in strand two of our Knowing Your Audiences programme looking at,Consultation and Engagement.
This session will focus on new audiences and co-creation. Delegates will gain an overview of the kinds of health and wellbeing programmes being delivered in museums. As well as understanding of how these relationships contribute to their organisations sustainability and resilience as well as its moral purpose. They will be given the opportunity to collaborate to create a Network to support Audience Development in the North West.
For more information contact Kaye Hardyman – firstname.lastname@example.org
To book a place visit our eventbrite page.
Helping you address audiences and use insight as part of a Funding Application
The Audience Agency is continuing to offer free one-on-one NPO advice sessions or ‘surgeries’ to help cultural organisations tackle specific areas of their National Portfolio Organisation application.
Organisations who took part in our surgeries to support their Catalyst Evolve fundraising applications were collectively awarded over £1.4 million.
Like these, the new surgeries will again help you use the data and insight from Audience Finder as well as drawing on our team’s extensive knowledge and expertise in audience development and making funding applications.
You can choose from a range of subjects particularly useful in Arts Council England NPO applications.
Surgeries last for about 90 minutes, and offer an opportunity to discuss challenges specific to your organisation. By the end you should have some new ideas, suggestions and resources that will make your application stronger.
Surgeries are available to anyone about to make an arts funding application. You don’t have to be funded currently, or even part of a constituted organisation.
Find out more and apply at the Audience Agency website.
A quick overview
How do we digitally engage young audiences? If arts and heritage organisations are to connect with children and young people as a core audience group it is imperative that our digital content and the way we use digital tools and channels are relevant to their needs. If you are interested in better understanding strategic and practical ways to digitally engage children and young people, this could be the project for you. We are looking to work with 25 to 30 arts and heritage organisations over 7 months starting in November 2016, to help them better reach and engage children and young people online.
For more information please visit the website
Sign up here – Deadline is 31st October 2016
The Audience Agency are currently working with Pontefract Castle to design a new family activity pack, and they are on the hunt for examples of great practice in within the North West to help them with their development.
Family activity packs are the backpacks given to visitors to support self-guided gallery visits.
Pontefract Castle are particularly interested in exploring how other organisations have developed family packs that connect with health & wellbeing agendas, as well as supporting learning and engagement with collections.
If your organisation has done any work in this area, and you are happy to share some of your experiences and learning, they would love to hear from you.
Specifically we would like to know:
- What are you aiming to do with the family activity packs?
- What materials are included in the packs?
- Have you completed any evaluation work for your packs?
From NWFed website:
The Audience Agency is a not for profit organisation set up to work with and serve the cultural sector with a team of experienced arts and culture specialists who provide a wide variety of consultancy and research services to organisations across the UK. The Audience Agency’s latest offering comes in the form of Audience Finder, a tool which allows organisations to collect and analyse audience data in a standardised format while building a clearer picture of audiences locally and nationally.
Available to all cultural organisations free of charge (with optional extra paid add ons) Audience Finder provides national audience insight for all sizes of organisations enabling everyone to benefit from a national perspective when writing their strategic and tactical plans. Most importantly Audience Finder helps organisations understand not only who their audiences are, but who they could be and through the cultural segmentation tool, Audience Spectrum, all organisations can analyse the inclination of people’s attendance in their catchment areas.
Audience Finder is the most powerful audience data and development tool and its free services provide more insight into audience behaviour than has ever been previously available. For organisations interested in finding out more, they can simply sign into the dashboard and start to input their visitor information and rest assured that all submitted data is anonymised for reporting. The information that Audience Finder collects will help build a national audience picture, sharing this national picture and each organisations place in it.
The Audience Agency will be running a number of National Insight Events later this year with the North West event taking place in Manchester on 10 September after which the Audience Agency’s regional team will continue to provide ongoing support for all users.
Developed and managed by The Audience Agency for and with the cultural sector, and funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Audience Finder takes the complications surrounding data and segmentation away and ensures all organisations get the help they need for the audiences they need to deliver.
For further information contact the North West office team – 0161 234 2955
To book on the North West National Insight Event workshop use the link below:
Or to sign up for Audience Finder follow the link below:
Understanding who your visitors are and learning from their visitor experience is key to growing and retaining your visitor base in the future. The Audience Agency offers services to help you; identify who are your visitors and non-visitors, understand where your potential lies to increase visitors and draw together effective audience development plans to reach them.
Over the past two years the Agency has been running a national project called Audience Finder which has embraced all artforms across England. Through participating venues we now have collected over 100k visitor surveys and crunched millions of box office transactions so that we have the biggest ever dataset of cultural attenders which has informed the creation of the Audience Spectrum segmentation tool.
In a nutshell this means that we now know an awful lot more about cultural consumers in your area and we’d like to support and encourage your organisation to use this intelligence.
We can offer unique benchmarking for your organisation – reflecting on your potential visitors and giving you insights about levels of engagement on a local, regional and national scale.
Thanks to support from the Arts Council of England we have developed a free resource with lots of insights to dip into – simply register and create your user account at www.audiencefinder.org
In addition the Audience Agency research services can produce bespoke profile reports using your existing visitor data – for instance; mailing lists, Gift Aid donors, membership subscribers or workshop attendees can all be excellent sources of data which we can analyse using Audience Spectrum and Mosaic 6 segmentation models. If you like to visualise your visitor profiles we can also produce maps showing where they live by area, local authority or drivetime from your museum.
To find out more and to discuss your research needs please contact Margot Walker by email email@example.com or DD 07921915350