After the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched an open call in February prompting institutions with the question, “how might cultural institutions use technology to connect people to the arts?”, it received a flood of innovative answers. On July 12, the Foundation announced that 12 of those ideas would be granted $50,000 each for development and early-stage testing.
The chosen institutions span a wide range of spaces––performing art venues, design studios, research groups, museums, and more—but each winner put forth an idea that could be adopted by a variety of arts organizations. For example, many projects focus on improving visitor engagement with mobile apps, interactive wall labels, and digital tools for soliciting visitor input. Others seek to make more data available through the use of business planning software, improved Wikipedia information, and an app for gathering visitor demographic data. Grant recipients range from major art institutions like the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution and Wikimedia D.C. and a project by Temple University’s Institute on Disabilitie.
For the Knight Foundation, this $600,000 project is vital for the arts. As digital technology becomes more personalized, more interactive, and more accessible, art audiences expect similarly engaging and dynamic experiences from cultural organizations. As Victoria Rogers, the Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts, puts it:
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.
Each recipient has nine months to develop and refine a prototype of its idea, before all the grant-winners convene for a demo day in April 2019.