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MSLCE Students Visit MCA Chicago and Talk Social Media, Audience Development

By Nick Roman

When MSLCE students visited the Museum of Contemporary Art on Friday, they did not expect to get an exclusive sneak peek of Chicago-based artist Jaime Fennelly’s Mind Over Mirrors, a multilayered music and art installation coming to the MCA Stage in April 2018.  MSLCE students got a special preview of the cyclical, aural prism, demonstrating one of the many dynamic offerings MCA shared with us throughout the morning.  

MSLCE students sat down with Abraham Ritchie, MCA’s social media manager, and Phil Cabeen of the MCA stage department and discussed administrative aspects of the organization.  Cabeen described the process of curating and receiving proposals as an “intermedia” process that involves developing qualified submissions, performing administrative tasks to bring work to the stage, coordinating the communications team for marketing and sales, and ensuring that the work supports MCA’s globalized mandate.  

Both Ritchie and Cabeen explained that audience development at MCA is a collaborative effort, much like curating work for the stage.  It involves the curatorial and performance departments, partnerships with other non-profits organizations, schools, and the general community and public.  Broad-based awareness for MCA audiences is supported by the shift from print to digital marketing, where MCA administrators can accurately observe their audience, evaluating the return on advertising. 

In speaking about social media marketing, Ritchie balances time management and investment in various social media platforms.  In the age of bots and fake followers that corrupt data, it is no wonder that Ritchie strategically invests in a handful of social media applications for reliability.  The potential of a singular MCA app has come up in planning conversations, yet Ritchie’s plan to successfully optimize MCA’s current platforms remains.  MCA’s general social media strategy can be summarized through interconnectedness between driving action through museum attendance and sales, communication and creativity through MCA content, and building and retaining audiences. 

Renovation at the MCA is as much practical as it is philosophical. The new Marisol café is conveniently placed to give it street space for easy accessibility.  The education facilities, now called the Learning and Public Programs department, has moved to the second-floor commons, fully integrating it among gallery spaces, centralizing the museum’s value on education.  The site visit ended with the opportunity to peruse the museum’s gallery spaces.  The MCA is located at 220 E Chicago Ave in Chicago’s River North neighborhood; Northwestern students can attend MCA free of admission with a valid Wildcard.