I had an interesting conversation with a taxi driver a few weeks back when we drove past the National Museum of Singapore. He said: “The only people who visit the museums in Singapore are the tourists and foreigners. Singaporeans don’t visit the museums.”. I told him that it might be because of our museums only open from 10 – 6 pm. And when Singaporeans get off work, the museum is closed. Then I asked him when was the last time he visited the museum, and he said it was 20 years back when he brought his daughter there, and they haven’t step foot into the museums since.

A museum for the people
Strategy Forum: Understanding the gallery visitors

Ever since Artitute.com was created, I have been trying to encourage my family, friends and even strangers to check out art exhibitions at galleries and museums in Singapore. Among the renewed interest from some folks, I have also been getting negative feedback from other people whom I spoke to about our Singapore museums.

Many of them are simply not interested.

One of the factors that discouraged them is the museum’s design and its programs made for the tourists. The locals do not feel comfortable in opulent settings. Opening hours happen to be at the working hours on the weekdays. Heck, Singaporeans do need to work from nine to six. And feeling half-witted and constrained when inside the museums. And many many more.

So when I was invited by Dr Kevin Lim from the National Art Gallery (TNAG) to attend a focus group a few weeks back, titled – Understanding The Visitors. I was more than happy to participate as I have too many cents worth to contribute to the growth of our art scene.

The focus group was held at the National Museum of Singapore. It consists of folks from all walks of life, age and nationality. Before the focus group session starts, we were treated to a simple but yummy lunch, specially arranged by TNAG’s capable assistant, Regina Chan. Can’t work those brain cells on an empty stomach right?

A museum for the people
A museum for the people

During the focus group session, we were broken up into several small groups. And of course, I was placed in the Youth and Young Adults category. Our discussion and brain storming sessions were casual, fun and animated. Many ideas and thoughts about how to improve our museums, experience for the visitors, and our needs and wants from a museum were all laid out on the table.

I shall not disclose on the details of the discussion during the focus group session, but as many of us are well traveled and have been to many art galleries and museums around the world, the wish list was longer than Father Claus.

Heck no, we are not suggesting to turn our art museums into an amusement park or a pasar malam (night market), but a place where regular people, especially the locals will visit regularly or even a place to hang out with friends and family even for non-museum related events.

After the focus group session has ended, I was buzzing with excitement and looking forward to seeing what the guys from The National Art Gallery will implement from the feedbacks we have provided. I am happy to know that The National Art Gallery cares about how the everyday folks think about our museums and are willing to customise the programs to fit our needs and habits. Even though the official opening date for The National Art Gallery opens in year 2015 seems so far away, I am sure our patience will pay off as they work diligently to bring us a functional world class art museum.

Finally, there will be a museum for the people.

Photo complimentary by and ©Kevin Lim / @brainopera