MOWA Celebrates One Year at its New Location
Off the Cuff with Laurie Winters and Miranda Levy
Laurie, can you share with me what you’ve been able to accomplish in your first year as executive director?
Winters: It’s been a very exciting time, and challenging. We ended our 2013 annual budget with a slight surplus. We also came out of the box with a very pioneering membership strategy—we did away with single-day admission. Everybody who comes in the door is automatically a member for an entire year. For one person, its $12, for two people, it’s $24, and for an entire family of any size, it’s $50. It’s affordable. We really wanted to come up with a way to meaningfully engage with our members and give them the opportunity to come back. And we offer all kinds of free programs in conjunction. When I started at the museum, we had 676 members. Today we have 8,500.
How has your work with the Arts Consortium informed your philosophies at MOWA?
Winters: The whole idea for no admission came out of the Arts Consortium. We had a meeting two years ago and discussed psychological characteristics of members. I kept asking myself, “How can you reconnect with members here?” We also had speakers who are experts on the brain. What was eye opening for me was they all agreed that people have 20 minutes of ability to focus. So if you’ve only got 20 minutes to have a meaningful art experience, how do you get visitors into the galleries right away? If they’re a member, they can just wave their card at the front desk and go right in.
Miranda, what does your position as director of cultural relations entail?
Levy: It’s a brand-new position and I think we’re still figuring it out, but if you look at the words, you have “culture” and you have “relationships.” What we’re really trying to do with this position is build an outreach program to bring and harbor an artistic culture here at MOWA and throughout Wisconsin.
How are you drawing in the West Bend community and beyond?
Winters: One of the ways we’ve connected with our local community is to offer quarterly discount coupons for Downtown restaurants. And I say local because we have different relationships with our regional and statewide communities. When we look at our demographics, 80% of our attendance comes from outside West Bend, 70% comes from outside Washington County, and our second largest metropolitan area we serve is the city of Milwaukee. We’re also kind of the first economic catalyst in the area and I say to people, “Look at West Bend in 3-5 years.” Our goal is to be the best small town in the state of Wisconsin.
What kinds of collaboration opportunities do you hope to create?
Levy: We want to build a mentorship program offering an opportunity for artists who have just graduated and pair them with artists who are already established in their field. We want them to stay in Wisconsin; we want them to feel they can really focus on their arts practices here rather than going to L.A. or New York.
And then we’re working on programming with a local high school and also in MPS districts to create what’s called a “phoneography” class.
Winters: It will focus on not just how to take photos with your iPhone, but how to actually take artful photos to communicate in a meaningful way.
Levy: It will also teach kids about appropriate cell phone behavior, as well as how to navigate and create your own persona on the Internet.
Any upcoming events?
Winters: I recommend that people come to our Member Celebration Day, which is also our first anniversary party, on Saturday, April 12. We’re starting that morning off with yoga, followed by activities and tours.
For more information, visit wisconsinart.org.