In conversation with Corinne Estrada
If you want the best view for how the museum and arts world has changed over the past twenty years, you can’t do better than a conversation with Corinne Estrada. With more than 25 years of work with museums and arts groups of all sizes, spread across multiple continents, Corinne has a rare global view, informed by her depth and breadth of engagement. In 2000, she initiated the Communicating the Arts conference (formerly known as Communicating the Museum) , helping to bring together senior leaders to share experiences, visions, and learnings. We had the chance this week to ask her a few questions.
You’ve been at this for nearly two decades. Can you give us a little insight into the reason for beginning this conference 19 years ago?
The main reason was to provide a platform for Tate Modern to present their best practices about branding before their opening. They wanted to be viewed as the model of the 21st century.
We suggested a gathering at the Louvre to meet with their peers. They came with other cultural leaders from London, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery. It was an immediate success. We hosted 15 around one table in March 2000. The following year we were at 100 attendees.
This has been an amazing insider’s view of life in the cultural institution world. What have been the biggest changes in the past twenty years for the industry, both positive and negative?
We started to talk about branding in the year 2000, moved to audiences’ experiences in the early 2010s and then shifted to social engagement around 2015. The negative side is that it has become more and more difficult for museum professionals to remain sustainable and attract audiences with diminishing budgets.
Running a conference of this calibre must be a remarkable challenge. How do you balance covering topics that people are constantly concerned with, while providing new and different information each conference?
We invite professionals from all over the world to fuel the discussion, bringing new ideas, topics and suggestions, including who should present at our conferences. The diversity of input that we receive is very rich. We also always involve the stakeholders from the host cities of the conference to ensure that we are deeply relevant to that community. It also ensures that our conference participants get to know a different aspect of the city and the institutions, not just the view a tourist would have.
Your personal specialty has been communications and public relations. What has changed in how communications are tackled in the cultural space?
PR and communications are tightly intertwined with the public sphere, in terms of their ability to interact and post, inside and outside of the institution’s forum for communication. Since the digital revolution, every visitor has become a potential PR person. The question of who is leading the conversation – the audience versus the museum – is very much at the heart of the communication process nowadays.
If you were to forecast the future, what do you think is the rising challenge that museums and arts institutions are going to face in the next five years?
Collaboration is the focus. Museums and arts centres have always had some sense of a collaborative spirit, but now it is mandatory across the entire cultural sector for several reasons. First is funding. Donors and grantors are increasingly looking to gain more impact with their dollars, and institutions working together help to build that. Second is the need to share data. Even the largest institution will not have enough data to always recognise trends and effective forecasting if they are working in a silo. Shared data helps all of us see what is coming and plan for it. Last but not least is sharing resources. With limited funding, the ability to share the labor and cost across institutions allows institutions to create the best experience.
Where are you heading next?
This year Communicating the Arts will take place in Copenhagen, Montreal and Sydney.
Each edition will cover a different topic from Leadership to Inclusivity and Collaboration.
What are you most looking forward to in Copenhagen?
This is a chance for attendees to see the new creative approach and energy from the highly successful Scandinavian model in place there.
© SMK – Art watcher foran Carl Blochs Et romersk osteria