Mark Nunes, a professor at SPSU, said the university has been affiliated with the museum for about two years but this summer, he and fellow professor James Werner collaborated on ways to better reach out to people 35 and younger.
“We wanted to figure out how can we make it more meaningful to that generation,” Nunes said.
He and Werner decided to involve students in two of their classes, Nunes’ Media Theory and Practice course and Werner’s Media Arts History class.
“Embracing of new media practices is becoming necessary for art museums and galleries,” Werner said. “There is a lot of discussion out there about galleries and museums these days still practicing the same type of presentation of artwork that they did in the 20th century.”
In their research, they said they noticed people in their 20s and 30s have a desire to have more participatory experiences in the gallery, so that they have a voice in what’s being shown.
“They are interested in engaging the museum in a way that allows them to choose what it is that they like, make statements about artworks, instead of this old, archival, ivory tower that museums and galleries have been, where they go and bow down to the 1 percent of artwork that they deem as being the best work that’s out there,” Werner said.
With the help of about 30 students, Nunes said they came up with several ideas but narrowed it down to two as a way to help the museum draw in the new generation of attendees.
“We wanted to develop something that would live on someone’s smartphone and be a vital part of how someone will experience their time in the High and also make connections with others,” he said.
Werner said students conducted two test projects, “Choices and Voices” and “the GPS Project.”
“The Trover website is an app that allowed the students to conduct the Choices and Voices project,” Werner said. “It gives people a venue to take photographs of what they consider viable works of art out in the public and post them to a place that would be associated to the High.”
People can take photos of a piece and tag “HighWithoutWalls” and it would show up on the student’s Trover page.
The second project involved GPS data mapping.
Werner said it allows people to see themselves walking through the museum and choosing pieces they do or do not like.
“The underlying idea is that people could use the device to track themselves on a map of the High on their device around the museum and be able to see a trail of their and everybody else’s path,” he said. “People at home would be able to see the tracks of people moving around in the gallery.”
The projects were showcased at the museum Nov. 10.
“It shows that the students are really forward-thinking in this subject and that they are able to utilize the information that they are learning in their classes in real-work projects and really take ownership of what new media can do and what it can be in the arts and something that could transition into their professional career,” he said.
The night of the event, they took the top 20 images from Choices and Voices that had received the most likes or dislikes and projected them onto a wall, next to a replica of the GPS program.
Almost 1,000 images have been uploaded from people all over the world, including from Russia and Uzbekistan.
Casey Graebner, one of Werner’s students, helped coordinate the projects.
“It was challenging. We wanted to find something that connected with people our age in the 20s and 30s, to find their interest in artwork and what kind of voice they had, see if they wanted to make a choice between the different pieces at the High,” he said. “It was really important to us to make that connection.”
The 31-year-old from Acworth said he’s thrilled with how the projects turned out.
“It’s really exciting that we can work with the High in that kind of manner,” he said. “And this is a fantastic opportunity that we can strive to do even more, hopefully, in the future with them.”
Graebner is on track to graduate with a degree in new media arts this spring.
The students are to meet again with representatives from the High this week to talk about the success of the test runs and how to make them “come to life,” Werner said.
“They are embracing both projects, and we’re very excited about it,” he said.
Nunes said that over the next 12 months they’ll continue developing standalone applications for their projects and see what grant opportunities are available to finance the ventures.