Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dallas Art Museum Framework for Engaging with Art (FEA)

The Dallas Museum of Art’s Framework for Engaging with Art (FEA) is based on a study of audiences that explored the preferences and behaviours of museum visitors. The study and its findings led to fundamental changes in all aspects of the DMA’s practices and programs. This has led to a dramatic growth in audience numbers with the result that the Museum is more deeply embedded in the culture of the city.

In Ignite the Power of Art, Bonnie Pitman and Ellen Hirzy describe the audience research, the framework and the ways the Dallas Museum of Art has responded by implementing new practices, facilities, events and services.

At the centre of the FEA is a segmentation that divides audiences into four fairly even categories. These four segments can be arranged on two dimensions, Sociability and Engagement, as shown in this diagram.


  • Observers (26% of DMA audience) are somewhat tentative about art and the Museum. They prefer straightforward explanations and insights.
  • Participants (24% of DMA audience) are curious about art and comfortable in the Museum. They enjoy the learning and social aspects of their experiences in museums.
  • Independents (20% of DMA audiences) prefer viewing art on their own and developing their own interpretations. They have a strong background in art studies and are confident of their knowledge. 
  • Enthusiasts (30% of DMA audiences) are most emotionally connected to art, enjoy discussing it and have the strongest background in art studies.
This is a really good example of how a very simple segmentation can be a powerful guide for strategic planning. As Bonnie Pitman says,

With the Framework for Engaging with Art as a tool for continued learning, we are blending a renewed understanding of visitors' distinctive qualities into the culture and values of the Museum. 


It is little wonder that audience numbers rise when museums adopt a visitor-centred approach. The Dallas Museum of Art provides a very effective example where this has been applied successfully.

Posted by Gillian Savage (thank you to Gillian Ridsdale for pointing me to this project).

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