The merging of technology and art making is not necessarily new, but creating new ways for visitors to interact with art by using technology is becoming increasingly popular. As the world adapts to emerging digital trends, such as augmented reality and mobile apps, museums and other cultural institutions have been developing innovative ways for viewers to connect and interact with exhibits and programming.
The Newport Art Museum is on the path to do just that. The museum has received an Art and Technology Prototype Fund grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a highly competitive opportunity to develop innovative ideas that connect technology and the arts. The grant has provided 12 cultural institutions with $50,000 to create and revolutionize their efforts to engage their visitors. Other grantees include the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Bass Museum, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, and the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology.
“While the importance of arts institutions in building community remains unchanged, the preferences and expectations of audiences have transformed in the age of technology. Museum-goers increasingly demand personalized, interactive and shareable experiences. These projects help pave a way forward for cultural organizations to expand and command their use of technology to connect with and inspire audiences,” said Victoria Rogers, Knight Foundation vice president for arts.
The Newport Art Museum teamed up with Work-Shop, a multidisciplinary design studio in Providence, for its Knight Foundation-funded project titled “Feedback Loop.” The project idea emerged from the notion that communication in exhibition spaces traditionally flows in one direction: from the artists, curators and exhibition designers out to the visitors.
The project team believes that the museum experience would be more engaging for visitors if they were also given a voice. The Feedback Loop group — which includes Work-Shop designers and the museum’s directors of museum education and community engagement, curator and executive director — will spend the next six months developing a series of prototypes that will be tested in the museum’s galleries.
The concept for each successive prototype will be the result of employing design thinking or human-centered design; meaning the design of the prototype will be focused around the users wants and needs, to ultimately find the most innovative, but accessible and functional design.
The final device will facilitate, record and share visitors’ reactions to the artwork on view, resulting in a more inclusive conversation, a dialogue that ideally should provide new insights to artists, curatorial teams and visitors alike.
“We’re interested in discovering ways in which we can deepen and expand the engagement our visitors have with the art on view and with each other,” Newport Art Museum Executive Director Norah Diedrich said. “A work of art means something different to everyone and the more we can highlight, understand and celebrate those differences, the closer our community becomes.”
The first Feedback Loop prototype will be installed into the museum’s galleries on Nov. 8 for the monthly Art After Dark event, and will stay up through the month of December.
"We’re hoping visitors will share their perspectives and interpretations of the artwork with us and open up a conversation around the museum’s role in the Newport community and beyond," said Nic Schumann, co-founder of the Work-Shop Design Studio.
To take part in testing this first prototype, ask the Museum Experience staff at the admissions desk for more information. Valuable input will help the Feedback Loop team develop the second prototype iteration and the museum learn more about its diverse audiences.
“At the Museum,” provided by the Newport Art Museum, appears each month in The Daily News and online at newportri.com. For more information, call 848-8200.