|Nicole Miller, Managing Director|
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Thursday, June 15, 2017
- “Benefit corporation” is a legal status. Companies incorporated as benefit corporations have a legal obligation to deliver both financial and social/environmental returns to their stockholders.
- “Certified B Corporation”—often shortened to B Corp—Is a voluntary certification system available to for-profit organizations. Administered by the nonprofit B Lab, B Corp certification attests that a company is meeting certain criteria to demonstrate how it operates responsibly with regard to the environment, its workers, its customers, its community, and its governance.
|Comparison of Certified B Corporations and Benefit Corporations from B Lab|
- Completes an impact assessment that measures its effect on its community. As with LEED certification, a company has to achieve a minimum score across four segments (governance, workforce, community, environment).
- Meet the legal requirements for certification; including updating the company’s mission statement, getting board and shareholder approval and filing amended articles with the appropriate secretary of state.
- Sign the B Corp “Declaration of Interdependence” and B Corp Agreement
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
|Not all for profit businesses are in it|
"just for the money"
- The proliferation of benefit corporations—financially self-sustaining organizations documenting the good they do—Is yet one more trend that may lead the public to question why nonprofits deserve their charitable support.
- As successful benefit corporations create a growing body of for-profit business models around doing social and environment good, museums can use these examples as inspiration for developing their own mission-related earned income streams. At very least, it will help museum closely define which of their mission-based activities are immune to monetization (collections storage? academic research?) and hone their pitch on why those functions are worthy of philanthropic or government support.
- If the benefit corporate structure system and impact investing mature and intertwine as their proponents hope, they will create a massive source of capital for mission-based organizations. In that scenario, it might be attractive for a museum to become a benefit corporation, satisfying shareholders rather than members, in order to tap these funds; or to create sister organizations with benefit corporation status in order to have the best of both worlds.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
One way museums can court new audiences is to incorporate other forms of storytelling into their mix. Combining museum experiences with poetry jams, zines, dance, music and other formats can bring potential new fans into the museum while expanding the horizons of folks who already love our work. Today's guest post, by members of the Bated Breath Theatre Company based in Hartford, Connecticut, describes one such mash-up: that brings immersive theatre into the museum. And (bonus) they share data on how their collaboration with the New Britain Museum of American Art actually cross-fertilized their audiences.
|Beneath the Gavel, New Britain Museum of American Art, Photo: Will Gangi|
|Beneath the Gavel, New Britain Museum of American Art, Photo: Will Gangi|
Thursday, June 1, 2017
|Museopunks cool new logo by|
Selena Robleto, Red Velvet Creative
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
|Dr. Tedi Asher.|
Photo credit Kathy Tarantola
Before you run down the avenue of assumption, let me clarify that I have no background in art or museum studies. Sure, I liked to draw as a kid. Sure, my family is full of artists. Sure, I grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. and spent many of my childhood weekends visiting the Smithsonian as well as smaller private galleries that dot the city. But that, my friends, is where my experience with art ends.
Yet, here I find myself employed by an art museum. Let me explain….
Throughout my life I have been highly attuned to the emotional experiences of others. I always wondered why and how we experience emotions as we do. I began a formal investigation of these questions with the inception of my neuro-scientific career in 2003, when I began working in the neurobiology laboratory at my college, where I studied learning and memory in the common fruit fly.
I later went on to pursue a doctoral degree in neuroscience, during which I investigated the neurobiological underpinnings of aggressive behavior in mice. While fulfilling, fun, and illuminating, these laboratory-based experiences kept me at a distance from object of my curiosity…human emotion.
So, when I serendipitously stumbled upon an ad from an art museum looking to hire a neuroscientist I jumped at the opportunity. After all, where else, but at art museums, can one witness such breadth and depth of emotional experience?
This is why I accepted the position of Neuroscience Researcher at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, MA this past spring. PEM’s mission is to create transformative experiences. Simple enough. Or is it? It turns out to be a rather complicated business; one which Dan Monroe, PEM’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, feels is best approached by gaining insight into how the human brain processes the physical world that comprises our external reality, and in doing so, inspires the emotions that constitute our internal milieu. You can learn more on Monroe’s thoughts about this from this recent New York Times story.
I have been tasked with investigating how our brains are wired to appreciate art and how we can use such knowledge to inform exhibition design. What, you might be wondering, does that even mean?! Well, folks, after about a month on the job, I have some ideas to share with you.
|Brain specimen with work from the PEM collection (see|
note at end of post.)
I started with the basics: the biology of vision. Our visual system is empowered to detect brightness, color, motion, contrast…the list goes on, but you get the idea. In short, we appear to have a very powerful capacity to see. But, we must bear in mind that what we see, and how we feel about what we see, is a product of neurons in different parts of our brains talking to one another. Therefore, the way that these circuits are wired greatly impacts our visual and visuo-emotional perception.
Take, as an example, the sense of vibration or motion we experience when looking at a design composed of two colors of different hues (what we think of as color) but equal luminance (brightness). Color and luminance are processed by two different neural pathways in the brain: the "what" pathway assigns objects an identity (e.g. this is a chair) and can detect color. The "where" pathway assigns objects positions in space (e.g. the chair is next to the table), but cannot detect color, only luminance. When looking at an image where both colors have the same luminance, the "where" pathway cannot differentiate between the colors and therefore can’t assign them a position within the image, which results in the sense of motion and instability that we experience.
The idea, then, is that perhaps we can use such insight into the structure and function of our visual system to design exhibitions that generate a strong emotional response.
There are many “higher order” processes that are relevant to exhibition design: How are our attentional resources allocated in museums? When mixing media in an exhibit (e.g. auditory plus visual stimuli), which modality will most effectively impact our emotional reaction? How do we best absorb new information that will stay with us long after we have walked out the front door of the museum?
I now spend my workdays combing the scientific literature that address questions like these, which is fascinating. Better yet is bringing my findings into meetings with other PEM staff and applying the data to an exhibition, inspiring novel approaches to presenting works of art. These highly creative individuals latch onto neuroscientific findings and run with them in ways that I could never envision.
Finally, this new opportunity has allowed me to return to my childhood pursuit of comprehending the origins and dynamics of human emotion. I hope you’ll come along on this journey with us here at PEM.
To learn more about the Barr Foundation grant that funds my position and about PEM’s decision to hire a neuroscientist, see this recent front page story from the Boston Globe and this recent post on PEM’s blog, Connected.
|Visitor in PEM gallery. Photo credit Allison White.|
1) Image juxtaposed with brain specimen: Olivia Parker (American, b. 1941) The Murderer's Brain, 1996, printed 1980 Inkjet print 21 x 35 inches (53.34 x 88.9 cm) Peabody Essex Museum, Museum purchase with partial funds from Susan and Appy Chandler, 2014 2014.28.10
Thursday, May 18, 2017
The fifth grader looked up at the large map of the U.S. and distracted her class as they read snapshots of Census data. “It smells like paint in here,” she said.
That wasn’t exactly the reaction we wanted from visitors to the ¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South exhibit, but it was fitting. Levine Museum had spent a month mounting the exhibition, nearly three years developing the content and processes that informed it, and several years before that honing the concept. But even though the exhibit had been up for more than a month and had received more than a thousand visitors, it did smell like paint, because exhibit staff had still been adding touches. Installation hadn’t fallen behind. Instead, it had continued to grow thanks to our willingness to listen to community input.
Just prior to the opening of the exhibit, the team added a participatory sculpture, reconfigured spaces so they were more intimate, and adapted and revised interactives based upon community feedback.
|Courtesy Rodrigo Dorfman|
¡NUEVOlution! developed out of multiple rounds of community input in conjunction with our curatorial team and Darcie Fohrman. In order to tell a complex, changing and current history, exhibit designers, developers and staff knew they could not and should not handle the story alone nor could they accept a single approach.
In the past 25 years, the Southeast emerged as America’s fastest-growing “immigrant gateway,” with Latino population in many cities going from barely 1% to 10% or more. Such rapid change has brought both stresses and opportunities—not only for communities but for the future of cultural institutions. As AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums has pointed out, by 2040, whites will no longer be the US’s majority racial/ethnic group – but currently only about 1 in 10 core museum visitors are people of color.
Each of these factors and the larger questions they raised compelled the Museum to take a critical look at what was driving change in Charlotte. In 2010, we had mounted the exhibit Changing Places which looked at demographic change in the Southeast, but subsequently recognized that the key lever in Charlotte was the impact of Latinos on the region.
In 2012, Levine Museum of the New South launched the LATINO NEW SOUTH Project. As a first step in the five-year initiative, Levine Museum invited the Atlanta History Center and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to join in a “learning network” to explore the Latino experience in the southeastern U.S. Because Latino immigration is transforming the entire South, including our three cities, it made sense to have partners in several parts of the South to understand the historical change. We believed that museums could play a vital role in the work, and that sharing information between institutions would help each of our organizations find effective strategies to truly engage Latino partners.
In Cornell University professor Michael Jones-Correa’s 2011 study "All Immigration is Local," he observed that efforts are underway in almost every city to address immigrant integration, – full and meaningful participation in community life – but there is little trading of information between cities.
Our curiosity, and willingness to share in the learning process led us to successfully apply for a MetLife-funded Innovation Lab for Museums grant, administered by CFM, which completely shaped how the NUEVOlution! exhibit came together. Guided by EmcArts, the Lab called for “half-baked” ideas and we went in with questions, not answers. Questions informed the project, questions informed the sessions, and questions informed questions. We asked about what we didn’t know. Using what we learned, we decided to create an exhibit, and we approached the exhibition process the same way. The entire creation was to be a process—intentionally self-reflective around the ideas that emerged.
We developed ¡NUEVOlution! using feedback loops and rapid prototyping. Community feedback informed story selection and interactive development --even the logo and exhibit title were crowd sourced. Daring to learn something new, apply it, try it out on key stakeholders and then listen to what they had to say. Really listen. We did not just say “thanks for your input” and continue on down the original path, but were willing to stop and take in what we heard and try to make it real. For example community input directed us to make the exhibit more experiential than originally conceived. Another key component was flattening the traditional hierarchical structure of exhibit development. In the development of content and design elements, all feedback was considered and weighed equally. Topics were explored and developed with sustained community groups and their feedback was incorporated at every stage of exhibit creation; all staff were asked to weigh in and give their feedback - either in group settings, or via email or direct communications with the exhibit team. Throughout the process, we checked for resonance with our audience, and did not just depend upon a topic’s relevance or top down direction. This meant that the exhibit had relevance, community buy-in and the audience awareness of the project was building from each of the feedback sessions. We had created community ambassadors for the project.
Using this model resulted in several “big ideas” that successively changed the exhibit’s focus and required the redesign of sections and content before arriving at the final version of the exhibit. One of our early visions for the exhibit, “New South Revolutions” put the Latino impact in the context of a new wave of influencers following the sharecroppers, mill owners and boomtown builders in the preceding decades. There were three different versions of this exhibit vision with one being highly youth-focused. Another “big idea” for this exhibit centered on the concept of home and creating a sense of home. Each time we tested and tried out what the exhibit could be –its stories, its activities—we realized something more. The story was more than just a chronological shift, and yes, it was about home, but was bigger. We needed to think about identity and place-making.
A few months before the exhibit opened, a final feedback session revealed that many people wanted to make sure there was more nuance to the stories told in the exhibit. It was important that immigration was a part of the collection of stories, but it was not THE story, they wanted to ensure that the stories shown were not just stories of struggle but also of successes. They also desired a focus on language, race, and ethnicity. Because of this session, the Museum added sections “Leading in the Mainstream” and “Origins” and new interactives.
|Courtesy Rodrigo Dorfman|
To create an exhibit like ¡NUEVOlution!, museum staff had to put aside our egos and cultivate a real willingness to listen and engage differently. The process required us to develop a tolerance for ambiguity, the messiness of authentic collaboration, openness to failure and the need to recreate based upon feedback. But the final product—wet paint and all—was immensely better due to this iterative approach to exhibit development.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Thursday, May 4, 2017
|Tui Te Hau|
m in your organization. Co-working takes more than just providing the space and you can increase your chances of success and save yourself big headaches with a little forward planning.