By Institute for Learning Innovation & the Walker Art Center
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Summary: In July 2003, the Walker Art Center (Walker) was awarded a 3-year grant from the Bush Foundation to support artistic and educational programming designed to broaden, deepen, and diversify audience engagement with contemporary art. This report describes results from a summative evaluation of visitors’ engagement with five interpretive experiences newly installed within the Walker’s permanent collection.
In July 2003, the Walker Art Center (Walker) was awarded a 3-year grant from the Bush Foundation to support artistic and educational programming designed to broaden, deepen, and diversify audience engagement with contemporary art. Entitled More than a Museum: Audience Engagement in the 21st Century, the project focused on the development of three programmatic strands intended to more deeply engage the Walker’s current audiences; these strands included: 1) enhancing the Artist in Residence programs to expand people’s opportunities to participate in artists’ work; 2) developing new community-based programs to foster civic engagement; and, 3) creating new interpretive experiences that provide broader and deeper access to the permanent collection.
Summative Evaluation of Interpretive Experiences
The Institute for Learning Innovation (Institute), an Annapolis, MD-based, non-profit learning research and development organization, provided summative evaluation services in support of the More than a Museum project. Specifically, the Institute was contracted to evaluate five interpretive experiences newly installed within the Walker’s permanent collection:
- Arcade (Dolphin), an interactive space designed to create an immersive experience for visitors; the inaugural installation is a work called Dolphin II, an animated virtual dolphin with artificial intelligence capability that allows visitors to ask questions or make comments that then add to the dolphin’s knowledge bank;
- Dialog Table, an interactive space designed to facilitate social interaction amongst visitors, as well as to provide contextual information on 17 works in the permanent collection; using gesture software, the table allows visitors to “grab” works of art that they want to focus on further;
- Art on Call, an interactive audio information system that allows visitors to access Walker resources through their cell phone, both while they are onsite and later once they are offsite;
- Look Closer Cards, in-gallery print materials that focus on a select work of art, providing in-depth information about the artist and the work itself;
- Labels, including both introductory panels as well as extended, didactic labels in the galleries, designed to provide contextual information on the artist, works of art, and overall themes within the gallery.
Summative evaluation of these interpretive experiences sought to answer two overarching questions:
1) What is the extent and nature of visitors’ engagement with newly installed interpretive experiences in the permanent collection? Specifically, how do these experiences encourage social interaction and conversation?
2) What do visitors’ take away from their experience with newly installed interpretive spaces/materials? Specifically, how do visitors’ experiences with these interactives contribute to their understandings of contemporary art?
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