Museum Trend: Providing Spaces for Active Creativity

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Art museums are bastions of the greats.  The works they feature are considered timeless pieces that speak to and inspire everyone.  Yet many visitors are disengaged at art museums: wandering galleries as they seek out popular masterpieces to snap a photo and say that they’ve seen it.  Even when visitors leave inspired, they may not have a space in which their creative juices can flow.

Why can’t museums be sites of inspiration and active creativity?

Desi Gonzalez, of the Andy Warhol Museum, recently explored this question in her paper, “Museum making: Creating with emerging technologies in art museums,” presented at the Museums and the Web conference in 2015. 

Gonzalez looked at the emerging trend of “museum making” — initiatives that invite audiences to creatively produce within museum spaces.  Active creativity within museums is an interesting trend, combining the roots of art museum practice with the hacker and maker movements to produce museum experiences that engage audiences and can increase institutional relevance.  We’ve summarized her paper below, finding that when museums encourage new forms of creative production, the results are beneficial for the makers… and the museum.

Museum Trend: Providing Spaces for Active Creativity title slide

Museum making are initiatives that allow everyone from casual visitors to professional artists and technologists to take the reigns of creative production through experimentation with new technologies

These initiatives include hackathons, maker spaces, and laboratories for the merging of technology and art

But what does it mean for an art museum to encourage new forms of creative production, when that kind of production is not represented in the museum's galleries or collections?

Art museums began as sites of creative production - where art was displayed and created

But during the twentieth century, museums transitioned from sites of creation to bastions of "high art"

Art became an act of consumption - something exclusive and specific, to be celebrated and contemplated - while art-making became an activity for children

In the 1990s the rise of visitor-centered learning and the visitor experience brought art museums back to their roots

Today, museums are being reinvigorated as sites for art making...and are drawing on another historical lineage: Hackers and Makers

Hackers are modern-day artists: "creative, inventive, and industrious, but also unruly and dedicated first and foremost to his or her beliefs"

Makers began as a subculture of do-it-yourselfers, but the term has come to apply to anyone wanting to create

These movements include virtually all disciplines to encourage innovation, blurring the distinctions between art, media, and technology

This movement expands what a museum can be for, making it a site of...

Community-building, where people come together to create and draw upon varied experiences and expertise

Open-ended exploration of concepts and ideas, fostering new methods of growing the economy and boosting innovation

Inspiration, with explorations that foster critical thinking and design skills

and Co-Creation, enabling audiences to enrich collections with user-generated content

By encouraging new forms of creative productin, museums become centers of dialogue and creation, championing the creative practices they are founded upon while embracing progress, futurity, and relevance

Credits slide

Download the PDF version of these slides.

Museum making: Creating with emerging technologies in art museums” is a paper by Desi Gonzalez, Manager of Digital Engagement for The Andy Warhol Museum and a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, originally published on the Museums and Web website.

Find out about our consulting work with museums, or send us an email to find out more about how we can help your institution with audience development.

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