By: Michelle Ernst, PhD

April 11, 2019

This summer, Cory Garfin and I had the pleasure of conducting qualitative research at a NYC museum. We observed and interviewed its visitors and found that many of the people we met were either professional artists or were connected to art as an educator, museum employee, or in some other way. While it is not surprising that artists would visit art museums in disproportionate numbers, we felt that this museum may be attracting artists at an unusually high rate, and we wondered if that was really the case. And if so, why are artists so inclined to visit this museum in particular?

In the fall, we followed this qualitative work with a quantitative survey and found that, indeed, artists are visiting the institution in higher percentages than we’ve seen elsewhere. Probing more deeply, we found that artists were particularly likely to experience the museum as a place of inspiration.

This begs the question of what makes a cultural institution particularly likely to serve as a source of artistic inspiration? We think this specific museum’s tranquil, oasis-like atmosphere, coupled with its content connected to spiritual themes, creates a space conducive to self-reflection, mindfulness, and creative thinking.

Know of other museums and cultural organizations that artists find useful and inspiring? I’d love to chat! 


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