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Campus Art Museums in the 21st Century: A Conversation

Authored in conjunction with Peter Linett and The University of Chicago Cultural Policy Center Distributed via the AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums and the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries

Like other kinds of cultural organizations in these early years of the twenty-first century, art museums on college and university campuses are facing the challenges both of adapting to and influencing a new and still-shifting cultural landscape. Longstanding assumptions about the roles, aims, activities, and audiences of cultural institutions are being reconsidered, even as audience interests, expectations, and behaviors are rapidly evolving.

Measuring success: Why Museums Can’t Fail

Failure is not an option if you can’t define success

Even before the 2008 credit and business meltdown, in the ten years from 1998 to 2007 at least 10% of the companies on the Forbes 150 list have closed, been acquired or otherwise faded away. This includes notable giants such as Bankers Trust, Compaq, DEC, and Enron (ignore more recent casualties of Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Bear Sterns, etc.). We know this is normal business activity and are always only slightly surprised, but not shocked, when any given company collapses, is merged, or is pared down and sold for scrap.

There is an alternative to closure or selling off collections: Sharing

Published in The Art Newspaper April 2009

The near-death experiences of Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, among other more recent tales of woe, provide graphic evidence of the financial stresses bearing down on museums. These events highlight the need for solutions that are healthier than closing down, selling a collection, or being subsumed by a larger enterprise. Fortunately, better options exist. The one I recommend has the advantage of employing assets that museums already have in place. All that is required is embracing that quintessential childhood behaviour: sharing.

Oppenheimer and museums; a review of Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens

Published in Curator – The Museum Journal July 2010

In this unsettling world, to whom should museums look for a much-needed does of optimism? Believe it or not, I suggest we look to Frank Oppenheimer, one of the handful of men responsible for building the only atom bombs ever used in war. Curiously, a man who helped develop weapons of mass destruction also contributed a rubric for building an exemplary museum. (The rubric is summarized in this article.)

TEDx Midwest: A few thoughts

Guest Blogger – Slover Linett Strategies November 2010

“Our colleague and collaborator Tom Shapiro, a partner at Cultural Strategy Partners, was one of the lucky few (okay, lucky 350) who attended Chicago’s homegrown TED a few weeks ago. The conference took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on October 14 and 15. I asked Tom to share a few thoughts about the gathering with our readers. Here’s Tom’s take.” – Peter Linett

I found TEDx Midwest immensely enjoyable and often engrossing. It was fascinating to witness both the “TED-ness” of the event—a communal, anticipatory giddiness of being privy to something “important”—and the speaker’s talks themselves. While listening in the darkened theater, I observed three themes, not about the content, but about the conference as a whole.

Letter to the Arts Editor January 11, 2009

To The Editor:

Re “Whose Rules Are These Anyway?”
by Jori Finkel [Dec. 28, 2009]:
Ms. Finkel asks the right question but stops short of answering why museums should be restricted in how they use proceeds from art sales. The argument in favor of using proceeds for general operating purposes is: The museum needs money, and art sales generate money.