For my audience, I researched youth of low socioeconomic backgrounds. This audience isn’t specific with ethnicity but does focus on a particular economic factor and an age group ranging from early elementary to seniors in high schools. I chose to focus on this group for a few reasons. First, I have personal experience coming from a low socioeconomic background and secondly, the museum world is consistently working on adding diversity to both its visitors and employees.
Why this audience?
Museums are persistently looking and working towards bringing more bodies into their institutions and for good reasons. Museums are filled with wonder, culture, and inspiration. But what if you couldn’t go because you couldn’t afford it? It could be because the cost to get it is too expensive or even if it is a free museum, the cost of transportation maybe too much.
A report by the National Center for Children in Poverty in 2013, discovered that 44% of the nation’s children live in low-income households. The report goes on to explain how the children of these low-income families complicatedly relate to race and ethnicity, and are mainly made up of African-Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics/Latinos . Supporting this report, the Center for the Future of Museums released an article describing the demographic changes coming in the future for museums, had mentioned that not only is income and race/ethnicity related but education often is as well. In their article they have an American community survey that shows individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher from the White population has 29%, the Black population has 18.3%, and the Hispanic/Latino have the one of the lowest with only 12.7% . Students who do not attend college or who drop out quickly are predominantly persons from low-income families, living in underdeveloped areas within major cities or in sparsely populated rural areas, and who have attended ineffective elementary and secondary schools .
What do museums have to do with this?
According to the National Endowment of the Arts 1997 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, 70% of people with a graduate degree report visiting an art museum or art gallery in the past year. The rate of visitation decreases as education level decreases . If museums want to continue their efforts in making a more accessible and comfortable environment, then their public programs and community involvement needs to meet the needs of low-income communities. This includes:
- Increasing relevancy in what the younger generations show interests to
- Creating tools to use for college or the workforce
- exploring personal interests
- Freedom to experiment (not having right or wrong answers)
- Being able to be involved in producing something
- Asking for their input
What are museums doing about this?
There are multiple institutions that are great examples of make museums more accessible. Many museums are expanding their distance learning programs which bring some of the fun to schools around the country that aren’t close enough to visit. Museums for All is a cooperative initiative to offer a signature access program that encourages families of all backgrounds to visit museums. One benefit they have is offering significantly reduced fees from free to $3.00 to individual and families with an EBT card. Another great example is free after-school programs geared toward teenagers like the ArtLab at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Teens have the space to socialize with their peers, learn to use digital media, and participate in workshops to develop professional-level skills.