Who is at the Center of Your Event
My friend, artist and activist Wesley Sam-Bruce recently completed an installation at the New Children's Museum in San Diego called The Wonder Sound. You can see more about the project here (www.thewondersound.com). It's pretty amazing as an immersive art experience, and I would definitely encourage you to check it out if you're in San Diego anytime soon.
But I want to talk about it in this space because of the innovative ways that Wes and the New Children's Museum took to thinking about integrating participation and activity throughout the project. Far from creating a passive art-worship experience where people go and stare at objects, The Wonder Sound is designed from the ground up to be an engaging, participatory experience.
And when I say "integrated" and "from the ground up" I mean it. They did not simply tack on an education component to an installation that was already going to happen. As the museum directors say in the video "We were reminded that at the center of our experience is the playing child." This is such a crucial reminder. So from the beginning, long before the installation even took place, Wes would spend time creating art and experiences with people in different neighborhood around San Diego. You can see some of those pictures above. By the time his installation officially opened, there was a sense of community ownership around the project that centered directly on their primary audience...the playing child.
Of course, your audience is not the playing child, but there are lessons to be learned here. Too often, we focus exclusively on the programming at our events, to the neglect of the people. We expect them to conform to us, instead of the other way around.
When we free ourselves up to focus on the people, we encourage participation and creativity, two things that are dearly missing from most meetings and events. The museum director in the video again puts it so clearly when she says
"For someone to come in here and find this art and climb through it, they create their own personal relationship with the art...it's a personal relationship, that Wes has allowed us to create."
Read that quote again. There's a strong sense of ownership there. Co-creating, relational. Not client-based and consumer driven. Imagine if your meetings had that same feel.