Win win win

by Jini Stolk

As you know, I was entranced by British ceramicist Claire Twomey’s installation at the Gardiner Museum – so much so that I joined hundreds of other enthusiasts for the Free Art Piece by Piece opportunity at the close of the show.  Who wouldn’t be willing to stand in line on a winter Sunday afternoon to receive one of the exhibition’s ghostly white statuettes? I was excited.

“The general public may take one figurine per person only, free with admission. Register in advance to gain priority line access. Gardiner Members get advance access from 12 to 1 pm.” The rules were clear and the experience was, in general, a happy one. But being me, I couldn’t help thinking about all the ways in which a lovely idea could have served an even more powerful audience engagement purpose – closing out the Gardiner’s 30th anniversary year with a bang.

Here are a few thoughts offered with affection and respect, and relevant, I hope, to other organizations and events:

  • As we began to line up on the gallery steps we were graciously welcomed by volunteers. It would have been even more wonderful if they had been able to provide fuller information about the process and timeline. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say…
  • “Gardiner Members get advance access…” – and after 45 minutes in line I would have gladly joined up to jump the queue. A well-staffed temporary membership desk could have quickly processed the 100 or more of us who I believe would have been pleased and proud to become members (well worth it at only $65 a year, $30 for students ).
  • We would have loved to receive a flyer on upcoming shows and events.
  • The long line eventually snaked through some of the Gardiner’s fascinating galleries. Wouldn’t it have been terrific if a docent had been on hand to give a brief introduction to the collection?
  • A wandering minstrel or other musical interlude would have broken up the wait in a charming way, and the Royal Conservatory is just down the street…
  • If a special discount at the Gift Shop had been offered, I bet many of us would have taken advantage – helping clear out seasonal stock and being tempted by the shop’s beautiful hand- crafted items.

I had other ideas, but this is more than enough for now – and overall I had a great and interesting time. But an event is only a starting place for an ongoing relationship, and we all want our events to be a win for the organization, a win for the attenders, and who’s the third win for? I always forget. I guess it’s for the city itself, which gets a thriving cultural institution, well loved by a strong and growing audience.

As for the little figurine, unfired bisqueware is a fragile and ephemeral thing…but my memories of a special experience are strong and lasting.

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