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Mission Possible: Cleveland Museum of Art taking interactive art to next level

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a world-class collection of art, spanning thousands of years. It can be intimidating and become a barrier for the public.

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Museum of Art set out to change how the public connects to art a decade ago, with great success.

“We're always thinking about what are the audience's needs, what can we do? How can we make art relevant to all?” said Cleveland Museum of art Chief Digital Information Officer, Jane Alexander.

These are the questions the digital team at the museum ask every day. And a decade ago, in 2013, when ArtLens was launched. The 40-foot inactive wall was a hit with patrons.

“Our goal is to give people the tool sets to look closer, dive deeper and feel comfortable in the galleries,” stated Alexander.

The museum attendance jumped and visitors enjoyed a deeper understanding of the art.

“What we found through the research is that people who spent 5 minutes in art lens spend 30 to 60 minutes longer in our galleries,” said Todd Mesek, the Marketing Officer for the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Today, the ArtLens Gallery has four parts. A gameplay-based studio to introduce people to the collection. An exhibition space that mixes masterworks and tech, along with the interactive wall, art you find and create is saved to your phone through an app. The modern space is keeping up with those raised on technology.

“Digital natives do not use interfaces, they just start touching and moving,” said Alexander. “If it's designed well, their brain gets it and then off they go.”

Eye tracking, facial reignition and artificial intelligence enhance the experience. The museum’s digital team continues to push the envelope and is already teasing an ArtLens 3.0.

“How do we take A.I. to a new level that it really is about creating and then engaging in new ways?” said Alexander.

These innovations put the Cleveland Museum of Art on the map. Software code developed here, is available and in use by other museums, like the Smithsonian.

“We're about sharing it with the world. We want other museums to take it to a new level,” said Alexander.

“Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain” ranks as one of the museum’s most successful exhibits. Through a blend of art, tech, and design it told the complex story of stone fragments to the complete restoration of a sculpture. While immersive video and HoloLens tech was used, the story is what visitors remembered. 

“What that told us was that people like to leave learning something but experiencing it,” said Alexander. “Making it seamless, making it really magical, but not talking about this hardware or software that's cool.”

Fulfilling the museum’s mission – to remove barriers, create new experiences and engage the public through art.

“Especially the people in Northeast Ohio, are welcomed into this space that feel that it's a place for them and that they are able to have those transformative experiences,” said Mesek.

And don’t worry if you are not tech-savvy. Museum staff in the ArtLens Gallery spaces can help you enjoy the full experience and get the most out of your visit. The ArtLens Gallery is free to the public.  

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