University of Arizona Museum of Art
Director of Engagement,
In order to remain relevant, cultural institutions must adapt and engage the community and do a better job of broadcasting and incorporating the voices of the public and communities they serve. To facilitate the shift from curation to co-creation we can start with one action: listening.
But before we can listen to others we first have to hear the stories we are telling ourselves…and that all comes down to frequency and mind-set, the way we approach the world. In order to create change, launch an idea, or start a movement, you first need to develop the mind-set required to champion change. This can be difficult, so it helps to have the right tools and a little support.
This session will engage delegates in a series of leadership development activities that have helped other cultural institutions acquire the creative confidence to learn and grow with their communities. Presenters will share stories and walk delegates through tools that LeadLocal has used with museums including as the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Maine State Museum, and the Center for Creative Photography, to help develop staff at all levels. Delegates will leave with a new perspective as well as a set of simple tools that they can take back to their own museums to help others dial into a new frequency that might just spark a revolution.
Carly Croman: Hi, and thank you so much for having us. Everyone can hear me okay? Yes, awesome. We just had an afternoon break and we heard so many incredible stories this morning. I would like to start by taking a moment to imagine coming together. So hear me for just one second, and everyone please close your eyes. Imagine museums that are participatory, open, accessible, incorporate diverse voices, and highlight community stories. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? How do they preserve our history while commanding us to co-creating our future together? Okay, you can open your eyes. Now it’s really great, maybe you created this incredible vision in your mind. But where do we start? How do we move into action, open up the space for creating these conversations, engagement and co-creation? Where do we find the time to even think about this stuff? You may have heard of Design Thinking. It asks you to talk to your [Unintelligible: 00:01:11] empathise, incorporate as many perspectives as possible. But … and we’re really good fans of Design Thinking, do not get me wrong, I love it, but maybe that’s not necessarily where we need to start. Before we can listen to others, we think that we must first tune into that internal conversation, the frequency that our mind is tuned to.
So this kind of listening isn’t easy. It really takes a growth mindset, you know, a mindset that asks you to see every opportunity for learning, even if that learning amounted to failure. And a growth mindset, which comes out of the research [Unintelligible: 00:01:54] asks us to see new ways to think, learn and do. So this type of perspective doesn’t start from the top down, and while leadership buy-in can really help a quicker adoption, this type of perspective asks individuals to take time to reflect and to make a choice to have a different type of mindset. So [Unintelligible: 00:02:18] as Stephanie said, we work alongside people to use tools for design making, lean methodologies and living systems theory to really take the time to adopt a growth mindset and lead from wherever we are in the organisation. And one of the things we’re really passionate about is giving people the time and space to have these conversations. So that’s what we’re going to do right now. We’re going to take mini-retreat. For the next 15 minutes, we’re going to ask you to breathe, reflect, and grow together. So it’s going to be a little different. We’re going to share a story and Gina came with me by my side, all the way from Tucson, to do just that. And then we will share tools and give you time to apply those tools, and then share a tool that you can take back and use with your team to use as a next step.
Gina Compitello-Moore: Hello, MuseumNext, we’re so excited to be here. So I’m Gina, I do Marketing and Public Relations for The Center for Creative Photography on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, and a few years ago I began to make an investment in my own leadership, in the hopes that it would not only end up benefiting me, but the organisations that I am a part of. And I can say that this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and this is going to be the story of how my own personal leadership journey really helped my organisation too.
So, The Center for Creative Photography is the premier research collection of American photographic fine art and archives, [Unintelligible: 00:04:00] create dialogue and appreciation of photography of enduring cultural influence. We were actually co-founded by Ansel Adams and we’re known for being the home of much of his work and archives as well as the work of other photographers, such as Edward Weston, W. Eugene Smith, [Unintelligible: 00:04:15], Wynn Bullock, Lola Alvarez Bravo and many more. We have a fantastic collection, we have amazing staff and just a wealth of knowledge. The problem is, we are often seen as cold and unapproachable. The giant brutalist building that you just saw really does not mirror us. So we had a real desire to be more involved in our Tucson community, and decided that one way that we can do that would be to re-establish a membership programme. The Centre had had one years ago, but it kind of languished. Staff would turn over, projects would be re-prioritised and we thought this was our moment to redo it. But you’re probably thinking, “There’s nothing revolutionary about a membership programme,” and I’m pretty sure that most of your museums have membership programmes. So what was revolutionary for us, for our museum, was the way we went about it, the process, taking time to listen to each other and to the community.
So we wanted to create a programme that was what the community wanted, not what we wanted the community to have, and about this time, we were starting the process, [Unintelligible: 00:05:23] any of the tools that I’d learned in my own leadership term could help us in this process, and one thing that was a really big factor for me and that [Kylie’s] ready to talk about was focusing inward and thinking about my own leadership frequency, because by being in touch with myself and checking my own frequency, I was better prepared to tackle leadership in the institution, in the community, and be ready for the tricky situations that are inevitably going to arise. It also helped me really keep my growth mindset, so thinking about those type of tough situations.
So with this in mind, the Centre started by looking inward, and we did our own frequency check, and it was at this point that we realised we had to be really honest with ourselves about our role within the community and what it looked like, and I will tell you it was not necessarily pretty. It was also a great time for the staff to come together, to work on the rigid sort of silos that had existed, and staff from all the different departments in the organisation came together and they were really part of the process. They had good ideas, constructive criticism and a feel for how they could be a part of this.
So after a time looking inward, we went out into the community, and over a year we conducted a series of focus groups with different constituents, including [Unintelligible: 00:06:45]. These groups were constructed with Design Thinking in mind and a goal to make it really participatory, so we used a process called Idea Posting, where participants write their thoughts on individual Post-It notes and then you map them out together, so everyone gets a chance to share their own ideas, and no-one kind of gets talked over or feels nervous about speaking up. It gives a really great snapshot of big ideas, and gives everyone a chance to show us what they felt. I would say that it was not necessarily an easy process. Many people felt uptight with us and had stopped being involved altogether. I would say there was a focus group where I was yelled at for two hours, and keeping that growth mindset in mind was really important. We couldn’t get stuck on the ways that we had done things. We had to think more of the ways that we thought things would work. We had to listen to all these great ideas because some of them were going to work better than what we thought was working.
So over many hours and even more Post-Its – so many Post-Its – we learned that people wanted to feel part of something. They wanted the Centre to be accessible to them, and they wanted to feel special to the Centre. So our brand-new membership programme launched September 1st, and it features the results of what people asked for. Exclusive opportunities, like print viewing, lectures and visits with staff and visiting artists, first notifications about events, reserving seats and so many more things. So we’re about four weeks in and we’re already over 100 member households which, for us as an institution, is a really big step. And we just held our first members event with Kozo Miyoshi who used to be an artist in residence at the Centre, and it was really wonderful to watch these new members interacting with him on a really personal level. And then since we’re also on a college campus, we activated a student membership programme, and we just held an Open House, with a take your own photo booth, and we used our students to [Unintelligible: 00:08;52] how they could become involved with the Centre.
And one other thing that happened during this process is that staff became really [Unintelligible: 00:09:01]. Because they were a part of it, they now feel ownership over this project, they’re sharing that to their friends, and so it’s really exciting to see that it’s not just the membership programme at The Center for Creative Photography, but it’s truly the Centre’s membership programme. So, I mean, this is one project. It’s just a small step. For us, it’s the first step of very, very many and we have a really long way to go. But the tools that we’ve learned are going to help us along the way. And also here, we’re not a large staff at all. We had pretty much a zero budget for this, so it was a lean project and we built it ourselves. But [Unintelligible: 00:09:40] a lot of people from institutions even smaller than us might be wondering, “Oh, is this something I can even do?” So conveniently, we’ve brought a really cool tool to help you get started and [Kylie] is going to talk to you about it.
Carly Croman: So right, we routinely started by asking questions and listening. Frequency Check is a tool that allows you to tune into stories that you’re telling yourself, and the mindset that you are holding right now in this moment. So if you want to reach underneath your chair, you have a brown sheet of paper that’s called “Frequency Check” at the top. What we are going to do in this moment, as I said, is retrieve it, so we’re going to ask you for the next five minutes to grab a pen, take a deep breath and ask yourselves some of these hard questions. It’s not often that we give ourselves this time and the space to reflect and to really think deeply about where we’re at and if we have a mindset to move things forward. Everything starts there with that mindset, so for five entire minutes, tune into your frequency and really listen to what you’re telling yourself. We’re going to play some music so it’s not dead silent in here.
Gina Compitello-Moore: And we’ll walk around to do the questions.
Carly Croman: [Unintelligible: 00:11:14] your conversations. Something that you can take back to your team, to your colleagues and discuss. To, as Dr Johnson mentioned earlier, bring your whole self maybe into your organisation in a way that gives you a little bit of structure. And on the back side of this sheet, you have another sketch, an activity that we call Imagine. It’s a back casting activity which reminds me a lot of, you know, school math problems, with the idea of working backwards. It’s about imagining a future, maybe what your museum would look like after the revolution, and then working backwards to decide how to make this reality. How do I in my position lead from where I am, and start to take steps to create that change.
I’d also like to say that, inbetween Steps One and Two, you can do Step Three, which is Pair and Share, Group and Share, share these responses and your ideas about the future of what your museum could look like, and what your leadership areas are, what you are feeling in your position. And Step Four, is Try It! Take these tools or just assemble Idea Posting activity, and try to … and connect with us and we want to hear. Does it work? Does it not work? Is it a magnificent failure? Please share that with us. We would love feedback and to work with you and to refine things and see what works in terms of reflection and conversation, in using tools that ask people to come together around the table and share their perspective in a way that honours all the voices that are at that table, and we love to [Unintelligible: 00:13:03] and often it’s levied as … it’s a start, but before you start to listen to other people, remember to listen to yourself and that always takes practice, and that’s the beauty of it, so thank you so much for taking the time to take that step and invest in yourself and reflect a little bit this afternoon with us. And that’s what we have for you. Thank you.