Final Reflections on #MuseumCamp2014

As I have mentioned before, I am an educator and my expertise is in the field of online and blended learning and school libraries. When I originally say the “Museum Camp”  notice in my local city with the theme of “social impact assessment”, I thought it would be interesting to participate. Everyone attending had to apply and on top of that, there was a fee to attend. I felt honored to be accepted. Now, having attended Museum Camp, I have gained even more insight into the world of museums and the arts and how they enhance all of our lives. I enjoy visiting museums wherever I travel and also enjoy performing arts events. I have never been an “artist” in the sense of painting or drawing or designing things but certainly appreciate people that are.

As I have mentioned in other blogposts here,  here and here, as part of Museum Camp at the Santa Cruz MAH we were put into groups of 4 and guided to complete some type of experiment or treatment to a place in Santa Cruz, Ca. The experiment had to somehow measure social impact of the location or treatment of the location. At the conclusion of the camp, there was a time for reflection by everyone who attended. The various reflections that were shared included:

  • Small, simple adjustments to space can have big impacts (in the picture below, our group simply used colored masking tape to change a space and then observed this)
  • Thinking about how to assess an art installation or art exhibit is good to do ahead of time
  • The data collected in assessing an art installation is important to share with the community  and members of the museum community (note this mural installation in Brooklyn, NY that helped to reduce crime in the area)
  • Arts and museum programs do impact communities in a positive way especially when the museum and art programs involve the community

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My personal reflections include:

  • Museum and art professionals are passionate and intense individuals who care deeply about their respective communities (and they are lots of fun, too!)
  • Any art installation such as an exhibit in a museum, a mural on a wall, a community performance or an installation in any public space takes lots of planning ahead of time (including how it fits with the goals of the museum and the overall community). One example of this type of planning is how the Santa Cruz MAH secured a $250,000 Artsplace grant in partnership with the City of Santa Cruz to re-imagine Abbott Square.
  • Assessing the social impact of the arts is time consuming and expensive. However, when it is undertaken, it yields results that are useful for informing the museum professionals about what is working as well as informing the community about the impact the arts are having. This results in increased funding, grants, and attendance, as well as a community that better appreciates the importance of the arts.
  • Similar to education research, the best arts and museum research is done over time and the results are analyzed and compared from year to year and communicated ongoing with stakeholders.
  • The organization of the Museum Camp could not have been better. The counselors and museum camp staff were all helpful, friendly, and accommodating as each of our groups figured out what we were doing.
  • The “action research” format of Museum Camp is something that should be replicated in other fields, including education, so that those attending actually produce a product of some type. This process caused each of us to understand the social impact assessment process in a much better way than a typical classroom and lecture type of learning. The schedule and process of the event can be found here.
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