National Arts Marketing Project Conference - Preconference

Providence, RI was brisk and bright this afternoon as I collected my registration materials for the Americans for the Arts NAMP Conference. I did not attend today's Pre-Conference sessions, but did have an opportunity to get involved in one of the Dine Arounds. There were a few topics to choose from, and I signed up to grab dinner and hear Tegy Thomas' perspective on using technology to inspire and involve creative minorities in the work that we as arts organizations are doing.

The nine of us attending this particular dinner quickly discovered that our particular restaurant was not very conducive to an informal talk from a single person--the result being that I don't have anything to share on that particular topic. Among our immediate table-mates, however, we were able to have some pretty thought-provoking and exciting debates and discussions about the usage of technologies in building audiences, interpreting art, experiencing art, driving organizations to new missions, and much more (including Canadian sports and "The Well").

At one point the hypothesis was posed that technology contributes to younger generations' view of the world as comprised of disposable things. The modern world, it seems, lacks a permanence that the world pre-virtual reality once had. Because technology advances so rapidly, what was once new quickly becomes obsolete (I just experienced that this month with a terrifically ill-timed iMac purchase, but that's another story). Thus, the generations of children and young adults who have come to expect the "relevant" to be fleeting and fickle, may find it difficult to relate to the unchanging reliability of a museum's permanent collection.

This is the thought I leave you with this evening: if we push to integrate technology into the museum experience, are we sending the message that art can no longer endure in and of itself, but must be processed with contemporary mediums that can be relied upon to change as technology advances? (Is this just another way of, for example, setting a Shakespeare play in late-twentieth-century California to "highlight the universality of the work" or "make it relevant"?)