2019 General Session Moderator - Scott Stulen

General Session Panelist Cover Photo copy.jpg
Moderated by Scott Stulen, Director & President of the Philbrook Museum of Art, WMA's 2019 General Session Panelists will share their approaches to institutional change, digging deep into the ways museums can ENGAGE with their communities, staff, and other museums.
The 2019 panelists include
To introduce you to the 2019 General Session moderator and four panelists, we have asked them to answer a few of our questions.
Take a look to see what Scott Stulen has to say:
ScottStulen.jpgScott Stulen
Director & President, Philbrook Museum of Art
Scott Stulen is the Director and President of Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He’s also an artist, curator, programmer and DJ. Previously he was the first Curator of Audience Experiences and Performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and Director of the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers and Project Director of mnartists.org at the Walker Art Center.
How did you get your start in museums?
I started in museums by accident. I went to grad school for studio art with the intention to make my own work and teach on the side. After graduation, I took a summer job teaching a day camp at the Rochester Art Center (MN). That summer gig lead to a full-time job in the education department giving tours, creating family programs and various other activities. Before long I was the Curator of Education, then Associate Curator. I quickly realized museums were my true calling and the platform to reach audience beyond my studio practice or the classroom.
What is your favorite thing about working in the museum field?
I believe art and culture has the power to change people’s lives. In particular, those moments where you can tell a connection has been made with a guest. The expression of awe, wonder, revelation or introspection through an experience with art. That is why we do what we do.
What do you think is the most pressing issue that museums are currently facing?
Adapting to rapidly changing audience and philanthropy behaviors. We are facing a duel front of audience’s needs, expectations and competition for attention are happening at the same time many traditional funding platforms are in decline. Museums as a whole are slow to respond to change, which adds to the challenge. For museums to survive it will take a much broader, diverse, and balanced approach than the past, but I feel it will yield healthier and more community-connected museums as a result. 
Regarding community engagement, what do you think is the most important thing to keep front and center?
The museum must serve its local audience first. In my opinion, if you are not relevant to your neighborhood, city and region, you are failing your duty in the community. That means telling the stories of the entire community, focus on inclusion and access programs, being accessible and, dare I say, fun. If you are place people want to be, it opens the door for deeper engagement to a host of experiences.
What are some tips for museum professionals working with groups from outside the museum?
Two Things. First, Listen. We don’t spend enough time listening to the needs of outside groups and truly understand how we can connect. This is hard, slow and ongoing work, but essential for success. Second, get out of your bubble and observe how audiences interact with other experiences. Get to a baseball game, concert, festival, the mall, the farmer’s market, local restaurant. There are tips to be learned in every environment that can be applied to the museum as for how information is communicated, what makes a comfortable experiences and the VITAL importance of amenities.
Do you have any recommendations for attendees as they prepare for WMA 2019?
Come with an open mind, clear your schedule so you can be in the moment and make some new connections. For me, the most important part of any conference is making new friends and future museum collaborators.
You can follow Scott Stulen on:
Twitter: @middlewest • Instagram: @scottstulen
Register to attend WMA 2019 in Boise, ID, October 4-7th.
Member Early Bird Registration Deadline is August 2nd.
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Just want to see if you are a robot.