Audiences change – we change: Making Tate more inclusive

The Museums Aotearoa conference 2017 He waka eke noa – Museums Of Inclusion asked: How do we make our institutions more inclusive – accessible to everyone? In my presentation at the conference, I spoke about how we approached this at Tate.

Tate is known for attracting large audiences and has been associated with opening up and democratising art. It has delivered an impressive array of diversity-driven initiatives and the contemporary collection, newly presented when the new Tate Modern opened in 2016, is more culturally diverse than ever before. This is consistent with Tate’s aim to be “a truly inclusive organisation with a workforce and audience as diverse as the communities we serve”. However, in common with many other cultural organisations, Tate has not seen the consistent growth in diversity it was hoping for, and we realised we needed to make fundamental changes to the way we work.

We moved to a whole new approach: From short-term successful but often unlinked diversity projects in different parts of the organisation, we started to move to a new and more integrated strategy that places diversity and inclusion at the heart of Tate’s objectives and organisational practices. At the core of this are two initiatives: a new Audience Strategy and a Diversity and Inclusion training programme for staff to recognise and combat unconscious bias.

My confernce presentation “Audiences change – we change. Making Tate more inclusive” showed how we approached this, the challenges and what we learned in the first two years of this process.

Getting visitor donations in an increasingly cashless world

National Museums Scotland experience with cashless donations

Cashless and contactless payment transactions are rapidly increasing. Some charities are already using cashless devices to get donations. Now National Museums Scotland are experimenting with a cashless donations box and have summarised their experience in a case study.

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Art by text message

How SFMOMA is opening up its art collection to a wide public

Text a word (for example a mood, colour or item) or an emoji to the gallery and you receive an image of a related artwork in response. This is the “Send Me” concept developed by the digital team at SFMOMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, that went viral with 3.7 million texts sent in a month at its peak.

A great concept that works on many levels:

  • It is a way to share more of the art collection, the majority of which is mostly in storage, given the continuously growing collections of museums.
  • Using a popular medium like txt messaging makes it simple and approachable.
  • The artworks are among your text messages, which feels more like you are communicating with a friend – a personal experience and part of everyday life.
  • Words, colours, items or emojis, anything from the literal to the more philosophical works. Using everyday words rather than specialised art historical or curatorial terms or relying on knowledge of certain artists makes it playful and approachable.
  • Wide reaching – an idea that went viral peaking at 3.7 million texts sent in a month for SFMOMA  and triggering significant press coverage.


The benefits and challenges of a participatory platform: Tate Exchange

The first year of Tate Exchange

One of the most exciting and forward looking developments about what the museum of the future can be is Tate Exchange: “A space for everyone to collaborate, test ideas and discover new perspectives on life, through art.”

Anna Cutler, Tate’s director of learning, talked about the first year of this experiment in her keynote at the Communicating the Museum 2017 conference.

Image: Tim Etchells 2015

In tune with youth culture

How Late at Tate is changing perceptions of a gallery visit for young people.

“Lates” are a popular way to activate museums and galleries and attract a younger audience. The social aspect and the different atmosphere at night are important triggers, but they can do much more than that. As part of Circuit, we did some audience research with young people attending the Late at Tate programme at Tate in 2015. The most interesting finding for me was in relation to young people developing their identity and how we can support that. Here is a link to the posts.

Circuit was a four-year national UK programme to “connect young people and galleries to spark change”, working in partnership with the youth and cultural sector across the country. Led by Tate and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, it provided opportunities for young people to steer their own learning and create cultural activity across art disciplines. The Circuit website is a wonderful repository of a lot of the learnings from the programme across the four years and across the country.


Image © Dan Weill

Nui te kōrero – the big conversation about diversity

A day exploring diversity and inclusion in the arts in NZ

I spent an inspiring day at Nui te Kōrero – the big conversation about diversity, hosted by Creative New Zealand.

Here are some of the thoughts and quotes from the various presentations, discussions and conversations that resonated most with me:

  • There is a reluctance by organisations to articulate who they serve. What does the audience need to look like in the future?
  • Organisations need to own up to who they are, what their audience and staff profile is (and linked to above – what they want it to be).
  • To change programming, but to programme work not as a diversity initiative but because it’s great work and for any audience.
  • How can we reculture commerce rather than commercialise culture?
  • Working with communities needs to be reciprocal – what does the community gain?
  • To change diversity we need to have uncomfortable conversations, get out of our comfort zone, dismantle existing structures. Embracing change.
  • To create a culture of diversity in our organisations (although I would rather call it “a culture of inclusion”).
  • But let’s not over-complicate diversity, let’s go and make it happen.
  • Diversity is personal – it is about the future we want to see.

Now I am thinking about my own practice and my clients in regards to the final question we were left with: “What will you do to advance your work in the diversity area?”



Image: © CreativeNZ