Activating the Collection
With support from Art Bridges, the El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA) borrowed, exhibited, and developed programming for three contemporary works of art: Robert Gober’s Untitled butter sculpture, Jeff Koons’ One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, and Richard Prince’s Conflict for Nurse Elsa.
Folded into the contemporary art gallery of the museum’s permanent collection from January 2018 through June 2019, the three Art Bridges loans invited visitors to draw connections with nearby works, while interpreting them through the lens of popular culture, the artists’ diverse and innovative choice of media, and their place within contemporary art history.
Why We Love This Project
Along with displaying the artwork, the museum engaged a younger demographic with innovative programming and use of technology.
Extensive use of technology is something the museum hadn’t previously had the opportunity to fully explore. With Art Bridges support, the museum was able to build and launch a microsite devoted to the exhibition’s installation, programming activities, and interactive interpretation. The microsite provided an avenue for young (new) audiences to connect with the works of art and the El Paso Museum of Art in a way that did not previously exist.
The microsite is accessible on the museum’s website and was developed to provide a deeper understanding of the loaned artworks. Launched in November 2018, the microsite provides engaging content and context about the art through a variety of lenses. A feature of the microsite is an informative video with commentary by museum staff and an Art Bridges preparator describing the special conditions required to transport and install the artwork by Koons and Gober.
Another video shares audience responses to the works and, in the case of the Koons, features insights by the University of Texas at El Paso Women’s Basketball team and young students enrolled in the El Paso Museum of Art’s Art School. These interpretations provide deeper and more personal insights about the art through the experiences of student athletes and young artists. In addition, commentary by museum docents and teaching artists’ reaction to the works leads web visitors to a “join the conversation” button that opens a pop up window inviting further responses and reactions.
An online gallery of student artwork created during Art School camps and classes is also on the microsite. Art School offers children, adults, and seniors art-making classes, camps, and workshops on art making. The Art School is the only one of its type in the region, linking the study and making of art through collaborations with senior centers, local school districts, and a juvenile detention program. Art Bridges-supported programming included guided conversations about the art of Koons, Gober, and Prince, followed by students creating their own sculptures, comic books, and paintings in response.
The main El Paso Museum of Art website reaches 25,000 monthly viewers and, since the launch, the microsite received more than 1,000 total visits (as of June 2019.)
Because of Art Bridges support, new and existing audiences were introduced to major examples of contemporary artistic expression that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to see in El Paso. The microsite in particular allowed the museum to enhance the visitor experience by providing viewers with documentation and commentary of the installation process, the online presentation of related projects & programs, and interactive interpretation through questions and reflections.
“The El Paso Museum of Art’s interactive web initiatives, generously funded by Art Bridges, have been transformative. Through videos, essays, and images, they allow visitors to virtually explore the inspiration for several key works of Contemporary Art, and also to engage with each other and museum staff about a range of topics related to art. In the 21st century – and in this moment – it is vital to innovate how we activate experiences for visitors virtually; our interactive web initiative funded by Art Bridges has been a crucial step towards this for the museum.” – Kate Green, Senior Curator at El Paso Museum of Art
Sustained Impact/Beyond Art Bridges
Phase 2 of the microsite launched in July 2019 and offers further prompts about contemporary art to visitors. This additional component incorporates an interactive question-and-answer feature, where web visitors are invited to connect with museum staff. This feature allows EPMA to continue to engage audiences in the work of the museum beyond their Art Bridges object loans and helps gather valuable data to improve museum and in-gallery experience. All questions and answers are shared on both the museum microsite and social media.
Published March 10, 2020
Page Header Image Credits
Richard Prince, Nurse Elsa, 2002
Jeff Koons, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series) , 1985