Picking up where we left off with our Four Peaks Spotlight Series, we’re featuring guests from upcoming Four Peaks episodes. Four Peaks is a current affairs program created in partnership with the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media (UW MCDM) program and UWTV. Host Hanson Hosein recently spoke with Seattle Art Museum (SAM) Deputy Director for Education and Public Programs Sandra Jackson-Dumont about the evolution of urban renewal and creativity. We had the opportunity to ask Sandra a few additional questions about the role of museums in the community and how SAM is engaging people in art through programs like SAM ReMix. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: How do you reach new audiences for SAM and get them excited about art?

A: We employ a host of strategies to get new and existing audiences excited about art. I think connecting art to real life issues and moments that resonate with people is one of the most compelling ways to inspire engagement and participation in art. It’s not that different from anything else. When something moves someone on the surface or in deep, rich, fun or challenging ways, they tend to talk about that experience making them intentional or, in some cases, unintentional ambassadors for art.

Q: In tough economic times, why is it important to invest in community engagement programs for the museum?

A: Museums make people think. They are the custodians of culture. When I think about the Arab Spring, one of the most profound pictures I have in my mind is that of hundreds of people with their arms linked around the library/museum. It was as if they were saying: “This is our legacy and we must protect it.” When I think about community engagement programs in museums, I think about that image. Museums and the objects in their custody provide space to think for people who are nothing alike and those who have everything in common. This is no small feat. A thoughtful community is a considered and invested community. During tough economic times, museums are some of the most important spaces to invest in.

Q: What is your vision for the future of museum public programs?

A: I want a trip to a museum to be common place for everyone.  I think the future of museum public programs sets the museum up to be a platform for the dynamic exchange of ideas. I also think museums can be democratic locations of learning through play for people of all ages. The future of museums’ public programs has artists and the public at the center.

Q: In today’s world of modern marketing communications, how would you define “effective engagement?”

A: Creating moments or exchanges, irrespective of platform or place, where people feel they have to be there! Something that causes people to say, “you missed it.”

Check out Sandra’s Four Peaks episode on Northwest Cable News (Comcast, Channel 2) airing May 18-19. Previous shows stream on uwtv.org/series/four-peaks/.

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