Twelve projects designed to harness the power of technology to engage people with the arts will receive $600,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The projects will receive $50,000 each to uncover new, potentially-replicable strategies for cultural organizations to adapt to and thrive in the digital era. Several of the projects are led by cultural organizations, while other winning ideas stemmed from technology-focused organizations including: Wikimedia, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia; Alley Interactive, a digital consultancy; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Art, Science & Technology.
Knight Foundation launched the open call for ideas in February 2018, through the Knight Prototype Fund, which supports the quick development and testing of early-stage, innovative ideas.
Many of the prototypes aim to better engage in-person visitors through mobile apps or interactive labels that accompany art pieces; others focus on attracting remote audiences through virtual reality and conversational interfaces like Amazon Alexa. Some of the projects will give institutions improved data on their audiences and business practices, including business planning software and an app for staff to gather visitors’ demographic data.
“While the importance of arts institutions in building community remains unchanged, the preferences and expectations of audiences have transformed in the age of technology. Museum-goers increasingly demand personalized, interactive and shareable experiences,” said Victoria Rogers, Knight Foundation vice president for arts. “These projects help pave a way forward for cultural organizations to expand and command their use of technology to connect with and inspire audiences.”
The winning projects have nine months to create or refine a prototype of their idea. Project leaders will convene throughout the process to learn innovation techniques and test ideas. They will then gather in April 2019 for a demo day to share their discoveries and prototypes.
“There is no textbook detailing how the cultural sector should adapt to keep pace with—and benefit from—rapidly evolving technology innovations. These experiments will help fill this knowledge gap and provide lessons learned for connecting people to the arts through technology,” said Chris Barr, director of arts and technology at Knight Foundation.
Funding for these projects is part of Knight Foundation’s arts and technology initiative, which aims to help arts institutions better meet changing audience expectations and use digital tools to help people better experience and delight in the arts. Knight, which promotes informed and engaged communities, has helped institutions from newsrooms to libraries adapt and thrive in the digital age. This initiative expands the foundation’s use of its digital expertise to help arts institutions build stronger, more vibrant communities.