The creation of the #mfaNOW event series, which threw open the doors of the Museum of Fine Arts to guests last year for four all-night dance parties, lectures, and artistic celebrations, didn’t exactly happen overnight. It grew out of a confluence of factors, says Katie Getchell, the museum’s deputy director and chief brand officer. In a matter of months, the MFA had staged a series of exhibits that all seemed to speak to each other, encouraging interactivity and engagement among guests, she says.
The curators sensed something larger afoot. With a new director in place, they saw an opportunity to attract new audiences. They began brainstorming: What if they booked hackathons and graffiti artists, DJs spinning beats until the wee hours, and early morning family-friendly activities for kids? “It wasn’t for the sake of having a party,” Getchell says. “It was announcing this new spirit of welcome and engagement that was driven by the art in the galleries.”
The resulting events attracted more 23,000 guests over the course of four evenings. What’s more, says Getchell, 70 percent of attendees said the experiment changed their perception of the MFA significantly. It’s shifted perceptions outside of the city as well: Museum colleagues throughout the country have reached out — somewhat incredulously — with questions about how to replicate the experience.
Getchell says the #mfaNOW events won’t just be a blip. The challenge, she says, is “how do we capture what was so special and do it in a sustainable way going forward?”
The good news? We can expect more offbeat events this fall.