Of all the purposes a museum serves, which is the most important? This a hard question, and no doubt many would disagree as to which function is most valuable. But several will always be at the top. One of these important functions is the idea of access. Art needs an audience in order for it to truly come alive. The impact of art comes from those who view it and the best place to do this has always been in a museum. But simply having a work on view can sometimes be static. Fortunately, there are many different ways “in” to an work of art!
One of the simplest and most powerful ways Crystal Bridges opens doors to the artworks on view is through our audio guides. People have varied schedules and not everyone can be at the Museum when a tour is happening. The audio guide is always available. You can download it for free to your personal Apple or Android device, or check out the audio guide from Guest Services in the Museum lobby for free!
Walking through the galleries you are given the option to hear commentary on several key works. All you have to do is type an artwork’s audio guide number into your device and you have expert knowledge from curators, directors, and other members of Crystal Bridges’ staff at your fingertips. The voices you hear talk about themes in the works, inspirations the artists may have had, conventions they adopted or broke, and the thoughts, feelings, and backgrounds that guided their hands as they created.
This is how the Museum transforms you from a silent observer into an advocate for art. As we learn, so can we teach. After you’ve listened to a few of the audio guides, you can become the voice from the guide for others! While you walk your friends and family through the galleries, you’ll be able to comment on what you know about the art, and perhaps even color the audio guide’s information with personal accounts of how the work affects you.
The information you learn may create a spark of curiosity in you and lead up to our Library, on the third floor where you can learn even more. By increasing your knowledge, you expand the language in which art can speak to and through you. Soon you’ll go beyond the audio guides, and share the wonders of art not yet captured on the Museum’s official mediums. You are no longer in the audience, you’re the facilitator. In those moments you are not granted access, you give it.