ACA Week: Kathleen Tinworth on the Need to Communicate with Creativity and Innovation

I’m Kathleen Tinworth and I co-chair the recently re-named Arts, Culture, and Audiences TIG of AEA with Don Glass, who began this week’s AEA365 series. I lead the Audience Insights department at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and also consult via my alter ego, ExposeYourMuseum.

Lessons Learned

  • Don started this week with a truism about evaluation in arts and cultural settings: “outcomes and outputs…are sometimes inventive, innovative, and unpredictable.”
  • Jessica Sickler provided a great anecdote of exactly that, writing about interviewing while a child tied a stuffed snake around her legs!
  • The work lends itself to creative tools, instruments, and measures—for example, the timing and tracking method outlined in Amy Grack-Nelson’s post.
  •  That said, there are often real challenges associated with defining audience outcomes, gathering data in ever-moving, highly social environments, and promoting the value of evaluation to arts and culture organizations and stakeholders, as Joe Heimlich underscored.
  • “Performing arts organizations,” Jennifer Novak-Leonard reminded us “are in the business of transforming individuals through arts experiences, but evaluation is rarely on their radars and box office receipts and the number of ‘butts in seats’ are used as proxies of how their art impacts and transforms individual people.”

To combat the challenges above you might assume that arts, culture, and audience evaluators have mastered creativity and innovation when it comes to reporting, presenting, and dissemination– ensuring our communication is as vivid and inspiring as the environments in which we work. Here’s a secret: we haven’t. (Just asked Stephanie Evergreen, who critiqued more museum evaluations than any person should ever have to for her PhD dissertation.) As an evaluator in this sector, and as an AEA TIG co-chair and board member of the Visitor Studies Association, prioritizing good, clean, accessible evaluation communication tops my “OMG that’s gotta change NOW” list.

Rad Resources

Thanks for joining us this week and come visit ACA sometime soon.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arts, Culture, and Audiences (ACA) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluator.

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