“But is it art?”: Validating Visitor Viewpoints and the Making of “A Piece of Work” Podcast

Lightning Talk
Sara Bodinson, The Museum of Modern Art, USA

A bicycle wheel attached to a stool; a giant canvas splattered with paint; dozens of soup cans…for many museum visitors, works like these prompt a ton of questions. The Museum of Modern Art regularly conducts qualitative research about what visitors want to know about the art they encounter in our galleries and tailors its interpretive resources to address these topics and questions. Despite that, recent analysis of visitors’ online reviews of MoMA revealed that many still have poor experiences at the Museum as they struggle to engage with modern and contemporary art—often eager to dismiss it. Armed with this candid visitor feedback, the Education Department seized the opportunity to take a more creative and irreverent approach to developing interpretive content, while aiming to expand the range of voices and perspectives included.

This talk will focus on the case study of A Piece of Work, a podcast co-produced by MoMA and WNYC Studios and hosted by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson in lively conversation with curators, artists, and friends. The talk will address key moments and challenges in the process of developing the podcast including:
– Using qualitative visitor research and analysis of visitors’ online reviews of MoMA as a point of departure for content development
– Identifying the podcast an appropriate format for discussion and debate, aimed at off site listeners
– The pros and cons of producing an in-house audio pilot
– Establishing goals for the series and topics for each episode
– Selecting a co-production partner, a compelling host, and a variety of guests to create an irreverent, non-institutional tone and maximize reach while maintaining substance
– Planning launch and promotional efforts to achieve maximum reach and impact
– Download analytics and response
– How museums can apply what we learned about voice, tone, format, and collaboration to inform future content development for our audiences in the galleries and online.

"Audio that moves you: experiments with location-aware storytelling in the SFMOMA app." MW17: MW 2017. Published January 31, 2017. Consulted December 29, 2017.

Jackie Armstrong, “Frustrated? Confused? Have More Questions than Answers? Great!” Published October 5, 2012. Inside/Out Blog, The Museum of Modern Art. https://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2012/10/05/frustrated-confused-have-more-questions-than-answers-great/

Lynn Spiegel. TV By Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television. University of Chicago Press. 2009.