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Arts and Culture as Social Bridges – both off and online

At the Arts Marketing Association conference 2016, Nina Simon gave a couple of interesting talks about her work as Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and how she has embedded within the Museum her ideas about participatory practice and community engagement.

One of the concepts that stood out for me was her description of the Museum as a ‘social bridge’. The idea being that people from all walks of life may come to the venue for quite specific community-driven reasons based on geography, identity and affinity. They come to see an exhibit that they find particularly relevant or interesting to them. But if the venue offers meaning for a range of communities, then they will inevitably collide/cross/meet.

The Museum becomes a social bridge. People are connected through a common bond of curiosity.

For me, this is a new way of looking at a phenomenon that has long been a key driver for online communities of interest and the success of social media networking sites. On Flickr for example it doesn’t matter where you come from, what religious or political beliefs you have. If you love taking photographs of sunsets you can join a relevant group and create an instant bridge to a new social crew. I have personally witnessed the powerful effects these novel social bridges can have on people – from weddings to restraining orders!

At Indigo we have encouraged our cultural and tourism clients to use digital to develop audiences in an organic, highly personal way with the development of online communities of interest. For Mslexia we developed a closed social network for women writers. For National Glass Centre we developed a nodal website connecting a global network of glass and ceramics research. For Northumberland National Park we developed a personalisation framework which allows visitors to share tips and recommendations.

It is interesting then to hear Nina turn these web 2.0 principles on their head and apply them to a physical venue. It resonates with my thinking around digital and its push-pull influence on audiences and institutions.

Social Bridging therefore earns its place as a key concept in Indigo’s ever-evolving Transmedia Engagement Toolkit.


Caroline Greener

Marketing and Social Media Specialist

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