Tuesday, October 21, 2014
My Vision of the Worcester Art Museum-- Or HOW I WOULD FIX WAM
The Worcester Art Museum has a long history of being a world-class museum in a city that someday hopes to be world class itself, but Worcester suffers from an inferiority complex in thinking it's not as good as Boston and Boston has nothing to brag about since it's not as good as New York anyway and New York isn't all that great.
We need only look to our friends in Providence to see what you can achieve by turning a blue-collar former mill city into a thriving populace-- art and design. I often laugh at Worcester's blue collar status since we are home to Medical City, Ten Colleges and technology research, where exactly is the blue?
But I digress.
The Worcester Art Museum also struggles with attendance. Forward this to the members of the Board of Directors, the leaders of this fine establishment and anyone else who will listen. I can fix the museum with SIX steps.
1. Change the hours. Currently the museum is open Wed-Sunday 11-5 and every third Thursday until 8pm. Who exactly is coming in at 11am? Retirees? School groups? In a city known for being blue collar -- which means a working class city-- are people supposed to call in sick to plan a WAM visit?
Here we go:
Tuesdays 12N-5pm (hello school groups and retirees)
Wed-Friday 3-8pm (welcome rest of the world)
Sat & Sun 11-4pm
Note that I accomplished this, opening an extra day AND being open for the working class population of Worcester's populace without adding a SINGLE man hour to the museum's operating budget. Gained a day and made it more accessible.
2. Change the Cafe Hours-- currently it's open Wed - Saturday 1130am to 2pm (I'm not making that up). And I can also tell you a pretty closely guarded open secret-- it's losing money. Those $12 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches apparently aren't enough to keep it afloat, nor are the sometimes surly waitresses (note to Matthias-- they are nice to you, they know who you are). Except for Allie, who is outstanding-- the place is made up of people who seem like they don't want to be there.
So now the Cafe has to be open the same exact hours as the museum, and if it's not profitable in six months please see 2B.
2B. Turn the Cafe operation over to any one of the dozen or so restauranteers in Worcester who are getting it done. Armsby Abbey, The Boynton, Mezcal, you name it-- here you go, pay us a small lease for the space and make yourself a fortune while bringing people in to WAM. Run a dinner special that includes admission.
3. Restructure the Education Class offerings. Three tiers for adults;
A. Beginner courses-- come and find out what you might like to do with your free time, have some fun, make stuff. Meet friends. Coffee and pastry served at the first and last class. Last class includes a gallery showing of your work in the museum education wing.
B. Advanced Year Long Courses. 4 part year long courses which delve DEEP into the subjects they cover. You finish Illustration 1 and next semester you tackle Illustration 2, etc. At the end of the year long program you receive a certificate announcing your completion of the program. What do you want to take next year? Stop by the last night of classes which features an open house event where you can see the work of the other classes, meet the instructors, etc.
C. College Credit Courses-- you can get or finish your degree in any of our accredited course programs. Tied in with one of the ten colleges here in Worcester.
Three tiers for youth classes;
A. Fun afterschool activity type classes. Maybe you aren't all that serious about art but what the hey, it's fun!
B. More serious levels of study-- Maybe you are a little bit serious about art and you want to hone your skills.
C. Art is your life and you are planning on going to art school, then sign up for our Portfolio Preparation courses taught by Collegiate level faculty who know what art schools are looking for.
4. Co-Operate with the Community! WAM should be in attendance at stArt on the Street, it should be prominently involved with Arts Worcester, it should be partnered with The Worcester Historical Museum and all of it's endeavors.
5. The Higgins Education Wing Gallery-- a fully functioning gallery space right there in the education wing of the Museum featuring group shows of student work, both from the museum and areas schools. Solo shows by local artists and guest curated shows which bring in an energy and excitement each and every THIRD Thursday of the month. This position would be helmed by a talented intern from Clark or Worcester State who hopes some day to own and operate their own art gallery.
6. Restore the Outreach program-- we should have traveling art workshops in area schools and events bringing WAM to people who can't or don't come to the museum.
There you have it-- six steps and WAM is a world class destination again. Foot traffic is restored, and maybe, just maybe, Worcester starts to think it's as good as Providence (and maybe it would be).