Dubuque Museum of Art creating opportunities to engage community

Published: Feb. 15, 2018 at 2:16 PM CST
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An eastern Iowa art museum, founded close to 150 years ago in 1874, says it has found a strategy to keep people coming.

Those who work at the Dubuque Museum of Art say their goal is to paint a picture that will broaden their visitors' horizons.

Though they may not all hang on the walls at the same time, the museum is home to more than 2,000 works of art.

When there are that many pieces, the goal becomes rotating different pieces and exhibits that get a strong reaction from the people who see them.

Those who work there every day say their goal as organizers is to create a place that tells two stories: where we have gone, and where we are headed.

"I think really a museum is a place where we both remember our past and where we came from and preserve the things that tell that story, but we also look to the future," said David Schmitz, Executive Director of the Dubuque Museum of Art. "We bring in exhibits that help people to do both of those things. To just gain an appreciation for where they've been and to get a sense of where we might be going both as a city and a country, learning through the arts in that way."

While they may get more foot traffic on the weekends, the museum has been organizing some ways to help people of all ages find ways to engage in what is on display.

At the museum, their main goal is to create repeat visitors.

To them, their ideal visitor would be someone who visits three or four times a year.

So aside from rotating what's on display, they have to think outside the traditional framework.

Those who work with the museum say it is all an effort to come up with different reasons, or points of entry, that would give people a reason to come, but also come back.

"Maybe you want to come down to our first Friday series, have a drink and some appetizers and meet your friends here," Schmitz said. "Or maybe you have a family with kids and your entry point is to come down and to do something hands-on with them. So I think really what we're looking at to get as many people as possible into the building are just many, many different points of entry that fit your schedule and your lifestyle."

Schmitz said the past weekend when they had the snow sculpting event "Art in the Park" outside in Washington Park, they had hundreds of people flow in to admire what was on display and, maybe be a little more creative.

Schmitz believes those at the museum are not just in the business of showing off artwork, but also socializing. His initiative as Executive Director is to create quality displays, but also create a community center.

Some of the highlights coming up would be their K-8 Student Art Exhibition beginning on March 22, Biennial All-Schools High School Student Art Exhibit on May 3, and their Arts Trek Schools Tours for second grade students in all Dubuque Community Schools, every Tuesday and Thursday from February 27-April 19 (excluding the week of Spring Break).