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Just a Thought…The Value of Art

This past May, JRA celebrated the opening of our latest project – the Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania. 

By Keith James, CEO Jack Rouse Associates (JRA)

While some might consider this colorful facility to be a brand attraction, at heart it’s really an art experience, a place where children and their families can spend an entire day exekeith james jra jack rouse associatesrcising their imaginations with a mind-boggling array of crayons, markers, paint and clay.

Our involvement with the development of this wonderful project has provided our team with a unique insight on how important art is not only to the Crayola brand and the tens of millions who use the company’s products around the world, but how important art is to each of us on a daily basis.

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“Art” can be defined in a variety of different ways and has different meanings and levels of importance for all of us.  For some, it could mean our children’s refrigerator drawings.  For others, it could mean a Rodin sculpture, an interpretive dance performance or a local poetry reading. There is no certainty.

What is certain, however, is that our economic “new normal” has made art education and development easy targets for those charged with balancing school and government budgets.  These “non-essential” programs are often made to prove their “value” in order to retain their funding.  Unfortunately, these battles are lost more than they are won, resulting in a slow deterioration of the public’s access to art and appreciation of its value.singapore artscience museum

There is hope, however, as those of us who are fortunate enough to plan, design, produce and operate leisure destinations and cultural facilities have the unique opportunity to not only slow this deterioration, but completely reverse it.  How?  By making a conscious effort to integrate and showcase the value of art within visitor experiences.

Cultural institutions are increasingly integrating art into their visitor experiences. This is especially prevalent in science centers, where there has been a movement to show the natural links between art and science. One recent example is the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, which features a combination of traveling exhibits, permanent galleries, activities and workshops exploring these links. Many of JRA’s recent children’s museum and science center clients are embracing the concept of “STEAM” – an evolution of the popular “STEM” initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).   “STEAM” adds art and design to the traditional STEM model, not only for educational purposes, but also artworksbecause of a growing understanding of the link between art, design and innovation and the economic value that often results from this interrelation (see Apple).

Major theme parks and resorts are also beginning to embrace the integration of art into their guest experiences.  Nowhere is this more evident than at Disney’s new Aulani Resort in Hawaii, where Disney not only incorporated traditional and contemporary Hawaiian art into their hotel and room design, but also commissioned 70 Native Hawaiian artists to create original works for the resort.  In fact, Aulani now features the world’s largest collection of Native Hawaiian art under one roof.

Individuals and private groups are also taking initiatives to infuse art into our communities.  In Cincinnati, several of our employees volunteer their time to ArtWorks, a non-profit organization that not only beautifies our city through the development of over 300 public art projects, but also provides summer apprenticeships and job training for youth to encourage art-based careers.

These are just a few examples of what is an encouraging trend.  For while our educational systems and governing bodies may not properly value the role that art plays in our personal and professional lives, it is clear that this value is being realized and celebrated by museum and attraction professionals around the world.

At Crayola Experience, our team had the opportunity to witness the magic that can be created when visitors are provided a facility within which they can explore, create and appreciate art.  As our creative industry creates the next generation of visitor experience, we have the opportunity, if not responsibility, to provide the environments where this magic can live and thrive.

Images: 1. courtesy Crayola Experience 2. ArtScience Museum. Wikipedia.org 3.  courtesy ArtWorks

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