This article is a continuation of Kayleigh Bryant’s two-part series on museums and diversity. Part 1 is available here.
Like any successful industry, to stay afloat we, as museums, have to hook ‘em young. Museums need to take action to develop audiences by targeting young people. If we can attract visitors at a young age, and get them to engage with our content, it will be easier to maintain their loyalty through adulthood. Given our missions of serving wide audiences, this goal transcends fiscal concerns and speaks to the core of what we aim to do as museum professionals.
So the question becomes, “If art is taken away at an early age how can we attract a young minority audience?”
Answer: Partnerships with schools. Museums and schools are a natural match. As museum professionals we need to fight for access to schools – and I mean don’t take “no” for an answer.
Building partnerships can be a long and arduous process. But it begins with relationships. Museum directors: your goal should be to become BFFs with the school superintendent in your district. Museum educators: your job is to make lasting relationships with teachers and parents.
Across the country new bylaws are enforcing that an artist must be included in any city/county building and planning project or committee. Input from the arts is essential at all levels of community.
For the museum/school dynamic, we should have a museum staff member in the PTA, school board hearings, and any major school planning committee – because museums provide a vital service to the community, and especially to young underprivileged students in minority schools.
Field trips to museums are a necessity. Students deserve the opportunity to explore the unique cultural experiences only offered by museums. For many minority students school-based field trips to the museum constitute their only exposure to the arts and culture.
We all understand that the diversity issues of museums are complex. But I’m suggesting that these issues are a problem of the whole community. Instead of looking backwards, it’s time to take a different approach to work towards shifting the spectrum of diversity in museums.
Kayleigh Bryant is the Plinth contributor for the Mid-Atlantic Region and the Operations Manager for the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora.