In this series, we feature interviews with our favorite museum professionals who we think are really moving and shaking the museum world. We recently interviewed Adera Causey, Head of Education at the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga Tennessee. She not only managed to make us insanely jealous with the view from her window, but also impressed us with the unique and incredible corporate outreach program she spearheaded at her museum.
MH: As the head of education at the Hunter Museum, you spearheaded a unique corporate outreach program, can you tell us a little bit about why you started the program? AC: Really my job is to engage new audiences with the museum and that includes all audiences – especially adult and young adult audiences (unlike many museums, much of our education focuses on adults both with and without families). And since, for this audience, much of their time is spent at work, part of this program is derived from the notion that reaching people while at work could be a great way to engage new audiences.
Further with the state of philanthropy and donor needs changing, we were also finding ways not to just go to a corporate group asking for a gift but to offer a service for which they would pay a fee/donation.
While we do this extensively through our rental program (you saw a view from my office window, you can only guess what the view is from our lobby so from corporate parties to weddings, we can really bring people in just renting out our space) this was another approach and one that could also more deeply engage the participants with the collection and our mission.MH: Along those lines, what would a “typical” program look like? AC: To provide a service, we wanted it to be tailored so the answer is, there is no typical. Approaching a client means starting with that client’s needs. Does the client need just a one-day program to build company morale? Do they need an extensive multi-week/month program held for a shorter time one or two times a week to intervene on bigger issues (corporate communication, unrolling a strategic plan, crises management, improving sales numbers, change management, intergenerational change)? Or do they simply need a simple “educational” program that really might be more edutainment (a check box on corporate education but really also a chance to get the staff out of the office and experience something new)? We find out what they need, we design and price accordingly which could involve something simple and more or less canned and pre-priced or could be much more complex and could involve sub contracting and developing MOUs with corporate coaches who would work with us in portions of the series based on the company’s larger goals. MH: . What has been the greatest challenge in implementing this sort of corporate outreach? Have you experienced any kind of resistance, either with the participants or with the companies? AC: To some degree, it is corporate buy-in and belief that we can offer the level of training that they seek. Honestly, it usually takes one decision maker who believes in it to make it work. And without that buy-in, is nearly impossible to secure. But with time and experience and with positive buzz, corporate leaders begin to trust.
MH: What are the advantages of being where you are and what are the challenges? AC: Being in a smaller business community allows us to get the word out faster and easier than might be possible in a larger, more diversified, city.MH: How do you specifically use art to reach this kind of audience? AC: The art is embedded in the gallery exercises. The art needs to be central and woven throughout the sessions to make it a part of the experience, the practice and the intervention. If it is just a nice afterthought then it isn’t the keeper and staying power and then we just go back to being a location rather than an educational model. But conversely, the art can’t be a part of all of it so we have to respect that some parts are better off without an art intervention and/or need to take place behind closed doors (if more confidential/sensitive in nature). Working with corporate coaches who believe in the mission and you can trust as well as with business leaders who will honestly tell you what portions are better staying nuts and bolts is the best way to ensure a healthy balance that works for everyone.
Thank you to Adera Causey at the Hunter Museum of American Art for taking the time to talk with Michelle Yee. Let’s just say Chattanooga has one more person eager to visit soon! Is your museum interested in creating a corporate team building program? Email us at mailto:[email protected] We’d love to help you get that off the ground!