I love a program created by The Columbus Museum of Art called Hearts for Art.  Hearts for Art is a simple program tied together with Valentine’s Day that brings

Pat Durbin Forest Walk

#heartsforart program featuring Forest Walk by Pat Durbin.

many benefits to participating museums.  Museum visitors are given hearts (see pictures) when they enter the museum.  They are asked to take a picture of their favorite work of art with the heart in the picture.  They are then asked to post that picture to their favorite social media with the hashtag #heartsforart and the hashtag of the museum they are visiting.

On the marketing side, it’s free cross-promotion.  Visitors trigger the value of 3rd party credibility and social proof by posting pictures of them having a fun and entertaining time at your museum.  The posts are also seen by people that follow your hashtag and the #heartsforart hashtag.

The greater advantage is related to the visitor experience.  One of the most valuable things we can do with our in-facility experience is make it more interactive, taking the visitor from passive to active participant.  There have been numerous studies showing a direct correlation between the interactive quality of a museum’s experience and the likelihood a visitor will transition into a long term supporter.   We have also found that the exercise creates an ice breaker causing strangers to interact as they all engage in a common activity bringing about many of the most positives attributes of group think.

The heart symbol is particularly relevant to the visitor’s emotional experience of the museum; the heart symbol triggers an important sensory experience in the caudate nucleus and ventral tegmental region of the brain.  These two reward centers are rich in dopamine causing feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.  The ventral tegmental region specifically plays a key role in translating sensory experiences into actions.  More simply stated, the dopamine rush the heart symbol triggers in these areas of the brain impact a visitor’s overall perception of your museum in ways that lend to potential long term involvement.

Programs such as Hearts for Art are a great low-cost opportunity to promote your museum and engage visitors at a higher level.  There are hundreds of programs like this already in existence, but if you cannot find one that matches your organization’s mission or subject matter, create one and ask other organizations to participate.

Article by Frank Bennett, originally published at www.WorldClassMuseum.com

Writers Note:  The link to this program on the Columbus Museum of Art website is https://www.columbusmuseum.org/blog/2020/02/11/join-museums-galleries-and-celebrate-valentines-day-with-heartsforart/.  This program was spearheaded at The National Quilt Museum by Education Director, Becky Glasby.  She is also the one that brought this program to my attention.  The picture was taken at The National Quilt Museum.  The quilt is called Forest Walk by artist Pat Durbin.   

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