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Making art street smart in Fort Worth

In Texas, JON UNDERWOOD hears how America’s best small museum is trying to become even better. And it starts with the youth.

When you mention the word ‘museum’ to anyone under 25, you often get a look of pained indifference. 


But in Fort Worth, which has more than a dozen top-class museums, they are working hard to actively involve and entice the local ‘yoof’ through the doors.



Jessica Brandrup is the Head of Marketing at the Kimbell Art Museum, known as ‘America's best small museum’. Among its permanent collection is Michelangelo's first painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony, believed to have been painted when he was 12 or 13.


As we sit in the gallery and watch the afternoon crowd study the exhibits, Jessica explains how they are trying to get the young ‘uns to put down their iphones and enjoy art. Social media is the obvious starting point, delivering information about relevant events at the museum. 


Another is Kimbell Fest. A couple of years ago they founded the event, where up and coming Texas bands would play on the lawn and families could enjoy art-making activities. It clearly struck a chord.


“Recently we’ve been trying to create more intimate and meaningful experiences, where we can create friendships with our visitors,” she told me.


This has involved setting up a Social Club, where singer-songwriters perform and chefs provide street food. 


A Teen Council has also been established to develop specific programs to encourage this age group to use the museum. And the annual ‘Red Party’ aimed at those aged 25 to 35 has become the hottest ticket in town.


“These young adults are our ambassadors and they teach us,” she said. 


“The world is changing so fast and what they are interested in and how they are receiving, collecting and using information is unique to them, so having them onboard is really nice.”


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Written by: Jon Underwood
Published: 30 April 2019

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