Great audience engagement during the pandemic

While the pandemic has pushed us into a time of uncertainty, we've simultaneously witnessed outbreaks of creativity and resourcefulness from cultural organizations worldwide.  Despite every obstacle that's been thrown at them, our sector has found new and sometimes even better ways to connect audiences with their creative causes. 

Our New York-based consultant, Rhiannon, shares a few that have really struck a chord with us.  

Tim on the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s Twitter

When the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma had to close due to Covid-19, they asked the museum's head of security, Tim Tiller, and the only person left on site, to take over their Twitter account.

From poking fun at his own lack of experience (#Hashtag) to sharing his favorite museum objects, his tweets quickly went viral. He brought a ton of personality and enthusiasm to his new duties and continues to tweet and blog for the museum.

Why we love this: By putting Tim in charge of Twitter, the marketing team brought a personal human voice to the museum. Instead of feeling like the museum is just an institution, they gave people a relatable person to connect with while the museum was closed.

This is a great example of how anyone in your organization can be your biggest cheerleader and best spokesperson, no matter what their role. Tim's genuine passion for what he does and where he works brought an energy to communications that's hard to replicate.  

Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse

The Donmar put on a number of great productions throughout the pandemic but none quite as ambitious as Blindness. This was an in-person experience that required the socially-distanced audience to don headphones and listen to a gripping story told by Juliet Stevenson. The sound design and lighting in the theatre plunged the audience into the narrative, even though no live actors were present. 

After a sold-out run at the Donmar, Blindness is transferring to North America with plans to tour Toronto, New York City and Washington DC.

Why we love this: The Donmar turned the concept of immersive theatre on its head. They delivered a stunning story-telling experience that exploited the limitations imposed by the pandemic. And in doing so they gave audiences the chance to share an experience together, something we've all been missing during the pandemic.  

Second Sundays with SFMOMA

SFMOMA's family team created a virtual version of their family days at the museum. This monthly series, in partnership with the San Francisco Public Library, includes a reading with a librarian followed by a guided art activity for families to complete at home.

Each month focuses on a particular artist from SFMOMA's collection, from Frida Kahlo to Georgia O'Keeffe. Although they premier on the second Sunday of each month, the recordings are available afterwards for anyone to enjoy.

Why we love this: SFMOMA has created a fun, hands-on way for families to explore their collections and learn about art, even at home. As not all families have the same access to supplies, they have created craft kits that are distributed at library sites. The kits include everything families need to complete the craft projects, ensuring the experiences are accessible to the wider community. 

NY Phil Bandwagon:

After being forced to cancel most of their season, the New York Philharmonic brought back the joy of live music by introducing the NY Phil Bandwagon. A custom pick-up truck brought musicians from the orchestra as well as guest artists to neighborhoods around New York City for live, outdoor, pull-up performances.

They presented over 80 performances in parks and public spaces across the city, giving hundreds of people the opportunity to experience the magic of music for free. They partnered with community organizations, parks, performing arts institutions and more to reach as many people as they could. Excitingly, the Bandwagon will be back in the spring for more performances around the city. 

Why we love this: This initiative brought unexpected joy to people's own communities during a challenging time. It shared the orchestra and its music with new audiences and gave everyone lucky enough to see it a powerful experience they are sure to remember.  

Want to know how audiences have engaged with culture during the pandemic? See our research into Culture Segments and Covid Audience Mindsets. 

Credits:  
Blindness at the Donmar. Photo by Helen Maybanks
National Cowboy Museum. 


Rhiannon joins the MHM team in our office in New York. As Consultant, she leads a wide range of...

Lorna is a Senior Consultant and heads our USA team. She has extensive experience on both sides of...

Image for Museums: Inciting social action for good

Museums: Inciting social action for good

Image for Connecting worlds – the challenge for philanthropy in the arts

Connecting worlds – the challenge for philanthropy in the arts

Image for Culture Segments and Covid Audience Mindsets

Culture Segments and Covid Audience Mindsets

Image for The 7 Pillars of Audience-focus

The 7 Pillars of Audience-focus