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Evaluation Memo #2 Spotlight: Collaborating w/Creatives

In the second evaluation memo by Daryl Fischer and Mary Ellen Munley, they identified three areas to look at for strengthening the DAM's collaborations with the residents.   Without a doubt giving over creative authority to design and implement projects to outside partners has pushed many boundaries within the museum.  In fact by giving so much freedom to the creatives, we have been curious if providing some constraints could make projects even more successful.  Fischer and Munley outlined some specific recommendations for future collaborations:

1. Establishing parameters.

Given free rein, creatives cannot resist taking a sky’s-the-limit approach and using the whole museum as their palette. Fewer projects, conceived and executed in closer proximity to one other, could have more of an impact on visitors. (pg. 4)  In our first three short residencies, every resident used multiple galleries and delivery methods (performances, installations, office hours) during their projects.  The results were amazing - creatives were able to experiment with new ways of working and try out their ideas, but it was also exhausting.  For staff and creatives alike.  Multiple projects happening simultaneously that are deliberately designed to be flexible and iterative means lots of last minute requests, decreased communication and even less time to share with/prepare visitors for the experiences.  Many fabulous mini-projects unfolded, but sometimes to small/confused crowds.  As we look towards the last three residencies we are trying to be more intentional about capacity (mental and physical) to create more successful residencies.

2. Negotiate shared authority.

A delicate balance is needed to maximize the potential to connect with visitors and enable staff members and creatives to learn from one another...In keeping with the goal of “supporting co-creators in realizing their own vision inspired by the collections designed to enhance visitor engagement,” staff team members should share what they’ve learned about best practice in engaging visitors....There is a steep learning curve for creatives as they work with museum visitors, some for the first time...Providing expertise about schedules, instructions, and placement of people and equipment in the galleries for maximal participation is not an intrusion on the creative freedom of the artist. It is an investment in the quality of the experience for visitors.  (pg. 5)  This an area where timing has sometimes gotten the better of us.  The rapid pace of production involved in these residencies has meant that sometimes staff efforts have gone literally to the physical set-up of the projects just to make them happen, limiting the time staff has had to take a more holistic view.  It is ironic that we have swapped our knowledge of visitor behavior in favor of glue guns and hand-sewing, but in this grant the pedal has been to the metal and EVERYBODY has been pitching in to make the residencies a reality.  Now, with the first of the longer residencies underway, staff has been able to infuse their expertise in a much more deliberate way, which has been helpful to all.

3. Continue relationships with creatives.

A DAM membership would be a much-appreciated perk that would allow creatives to build on the “institutional fondness” they’ve developed during their residencies and bring friends who might support the museum. (pg.5)  This is an area that has larger resonance within the Learning & Engagement Department and the DAM as a whole.  Working with creatives has become the cornerstone of many programs we produce, but how to maintain those connections in a meaningful way has been an ongoing consideration.  These residencies will result in six new collaborations by the end of the grant.  As another example, the DAM's Untitled final Fridays program worked with 192 creatives in 2014, and over 300 the year before.  That's quite a creative posse.  One thing we are very intentional about is always leaving the door open.  Recently the Flobots came back to the DAM to share their three week "detour" of Colorado where they collected songs from communities.  They wanted a place to share their work and it was awesome that they thought of the DAM as that community platform. 

One idea we have had, as it relates to this grant, is to bring all of the creatives together at 2016 Untitled to share their work collectively - or create new pieces together.  As we've pitched the idea, some of the creatives have already expressed an interest in teaming up with the other residents to try new things.  We're game for that and we'll see what happens.

Creatives-in-Residence