Museums get social with beer gardens, music and games
By SARIKA JAGTIANI
Jul. 15, 2017
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Quietly contemplating a masterwork while perched on a bench in a museum isn't, for some, considered an Instagram-worthy endeavor.
But friends on social media will have some serious FOMO when they see that besides the opportunity for quiet reflection there was a beer garden, biking and a band setting a live soundtrack for the event.
Very Snapchat friendly.
Adapting to a world with millennials — a larger and more diverse group than the baby boomers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — means adapting to what they're looking for. And it's not likely the same thing as long-time arts patrons.
That's one of the catalysts for the addition of after-hours programming for museums in recent years.
"People who are younger, they work during the day. They can't really come to the museum on a Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m.," said Jessica Eisenbrey, marketing manager for Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington.
Go to a bar and you have a good idea of what to expect. Not as much at a pop-up happy hour.
Hagley Museum & Library, on the Brandywine in Wilmington, focuses on the history of American industry and its impact on the world. It's fitting as the 235 acres are where E.I. du Pont founded his gunpowder works in 1802.
To re-introduce the site to young professionals and families they've tweaked programming to include screenings of pop culture classics like "Mean Girls" and "The Matrix" over the winter. Summer brought the return of their popular Bike & Hike programs on Wednesdays, where guests pay $2 to explore part of the grounds usually closed to foot traffic.
Nights can draw about 500 guests who stroll the grounds, play cornhole and, on a night where Dogfish Head beers are featured, end the night with a brew.
"They want an inexpensive way to get outside and enjoy the scenery and enjoy time with their friends and family," Eisenbrey said.
Cost is another factor museums have considered and, in some cases, cut.
The Delaware Art Museum has for years had free admission on Sundays, but more recently introduced free admission from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. They kicked off their summer happy hours — a first — last week and will run them from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays throughout the summer.
But it's not a first for their social programming.
Over the past few years they've hosted date nights with art projects, retro sketch nights and yoga classes have returned. Their first summer music festival brought about 1,500 people to the museum in June, according to Jessica Jenkins, manager of marketing and public relations.
"People now see us as a place where they can have some fun, and they can have some social life here," she said.
Adding social programming is about introducing something new — not taking away more traditional ways to experience the sites, according to Jean Cucuzzella McCuskey, senior manager of adult and community programs at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library.
Having more diverse programs to fit different wants and needs instead of a one-event-fits-all model is the goal, she said.
Because long-time supporters are necessary. But so are millennials.
"Millennials are our future do-gooders," McCuskey said. "They're one of the first generations who have grown up with social media and sustainability.
"That's a big deal for places like us."
Winterthur's nearly 90,000 objects of American decorative arts are displayed in Henry Francis du Pont's 175-room house, set on a 1,000-acre preserve. That includes its 60-acre garden.
The site has long offered everything from in-depth educational programming to family days in the Enchanted Woods, but in 2015 it debuted something different: A beer garden.
The happy hour spot was open select weekends and drew crowds, but they stayed mostly at the visitor center, where the garden was located.
Since then they've rejiggered the concept and are hosting after-hours and beer garden nights on select Fridays. Instead of brews and food on the terrace, there's a beer garden as well as tram rides, live music, short lectures by experts and the galleries are open.
Visitors can discover the property in their own way, McCuskey said.
"People don't have to come and sit through an hour-long lecture if that's not their cup of tea."
Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com