By: Research Team @ Slover Linett

March 27, 2023

Image: A recent Teens Take Action! event at the de Young, one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, organized by the museum’s Teen Advisory Board in connection with the exhibition “Contemporary Muslim Fashions.” Photo: Agency Moanalani Jeffrey.

We always love sharing our excitement with you about the sheer breadth of our research projects at any given moment. And one reason we’re excited is that, despite that variety, there’s a fundamental consistency: the goal of using social research to amplify marginalized voices, support inclusion, and inform change.

One recent biggie for us: submitting the report that concludes our ten-year collaboration with the Irvine Foundation and 15 of its arts grantee-partners around California. What we learned from and with those cultural innovators about organizational change, community engagement and co-creation, and how to measure progress  toward representation has already informed so much else we do, and will stay with us for a long time.

We’re putting the finishing touches on a new report for you and anyone working to decolonize the field of classical music: findings from our research centering Americans of color, commissioned by Seattle’s Classical KING and in partnership with New York Public Radio’s WQXR, Philadelphia’s WRTI, Oklahoma City’s KUCO, and five wonderful advisors. Stay tuned for that release in the coming weeks (image below is a sneak peak).

Our national workplace-equity study of art museums with Museums Moving Forward is also ramping up: we’re beginning to analyze the data, which will be delivered to participating museums in April and May. And Jen Benoit-Bryan will share early insights from the research at the AAM annual meeting in Denver, on a panel with MMF founder Mia Locks and program officers from the Ford and Mellon foundations, which are supporting the work.

On the public history front, we’re heading into the third phase of our current research sequence with the Chicago History Museum to help develop Broadening Narratives. The project has focused on community and non-visitor voices and involved “experience sampling” visits, all to grapple with questions about how to tell the city’s and country’s stories in new and more inclusive ways.

We’re exploring similar questions about representation and relevance in visual art, in projects with the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis and the Frist Art Museum in Nashville (photo below). By conducting research with residents around those communities and exploring at multiple dimensions of diversity and difference — race and ethnicity, age, and locally rooted vs. new arrivals — we hope to help both institutions understand, engage and serve a broader community.

Photo: A dancer from the Nashville Ballet performing at the Frist Art Museum during Frist Arts Fest, February 2023.

As we recently enthused on Twitter, we’re also proud to be working with Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (the duo of the de Young and Legion of Honor),  a national leader in the commitment to making museums actively antiracist institutions. We’re halfway through a year-long survey effort to learn, among other things, how specific exhibitions — like the current Kehinde Wiley showwrenching and beautiful — shape visitors’ experiences and their relationship to the museum.

If you watched the recent Oscars, you saw a terrific segment about another museum we’re working with: the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. After a qualitative inquiry to understand the perceived role of the museum, we’re now developing surveys to learn how people connect with this unique museum and its equity-focused approach to movie history.

And we’re delighted to be extending our work with other longtime and recent clients, including Seattle Theatre Group, the MCA Chicago, the Boston-based Barr Foundation, and the Morton Arboretum, among others.

We’re grateful to be in all of this with leaders and organizations that work with courage, acknowledge shortcomings, call each other in (not out), and care deeply about their communities.

Thank you! And if you have questions, comments, or suggestions, we’d love to hear them.

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