Museum research finds students’ art appeal


    By Michael Laverty

    The BYU Museum of Art is using research to discover how to appeal to students” attitudes toward art.

    In January, Herman Du Toit, manager of audience education and development, and Josh Probert, a graduate public administration student, started a 12-month project to “make its (the MOA”s) exhibition practices more educationally meaningful,” Du Toit said.

    “The study will facilitate the educational aims of the MOA and will ultimately contribute significantly to student learning through the museum experience,” said du Toit.

    A research grant from the College of Fine Arts and Communication funded the mentored study with its series of focus groups and interviews that seek to identify the learning dimensions of the visual arts.

    Holly Grierson, 21, a senior from Murray, majoring in art history, and participant in the research, said there is always a need for this information.

    “With this research we can better know the university audience and know what they like and don”t like,” she said. “We can then plan future exhibitions around the results and cater to the needs and wants of students.”

    Du Toit said the main focus of the research is on the students.

    “Most importantly, the museum is interested in knowing how its audiences learn from the exhibitions they attend,” he said.

    Students agree.

    “I think it is a great idea to learn how to improve things,” said Eric Lynn, 22, a junior from Coro de Caza, Calif., majoring in international relations. “The museum does a great job, but there is always room for improvement.”

    Du Toit said the first focus group in February yielded an incredible amount of information on viewers” predisposed opinions of art.

    “We want to know what it is that viewers bring to the artwork that allows them to see it in a particular way,” he said. “We show people art and record immediately their feelings and responses. We then map their responses so as to find what it is that motivates their esthetic criteria.”

    Du Toit said the information provided by this study might alter museum policy, including what new exhibits are installed.

    “Ultimately the study will be published and will contribute to how learning takes place in a museum,” he said. “This study will provide the basis for a comprehensive reception theory for the visual arts.”

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