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MSLCE Students Measure Public Engagement at The Block Museum of Art

By Nick Roman


In preparing for the professional world of creative enterprises, MSLCE students constantly take into account the challenges that creative organizations face-such as low attendance figures and box office sales. To develop keen awareness to these trends and strategize ways to increase engagement, Dr. Jennifer Novak-Leonard’s engagement with Public Culture course gave students hands-on experience in measuring impact through Northwestern’s own Block Museum of Art.

The course was designed to create indicators of public engagement and impact, measure community relevance, and enhance public perception of the Block. As these elements become increasingly difficult to harness, the course gave students the opportunity to engage with metrics needed to understand audiences and participants, beyond receipts and sales. Structured as a lab based at the Block, Dr. Novak-Leonard challenged students to explore questions such as “What are meaningful metrics for public culture? What types of data are useful? How do you collect the needed data? What do you do with it once you have it? How can data help inform an enterprise’s own decision-making and help communicate about its work and impact?” Methodologies developed through answering these questions are essential to leadership for creative enterprises since they go beyond mere numerical data such as sales and numbers.

In reflection on the lab experience, MSLCE student Metra Gilliard states that “As creative leaders it’s imperative to understand data and how it can be leveraged to inform decision- making. The Block lab class was a hands-on crash course that helped students look at data holistically, from survey design and audience segmentation to meticulous review of respondent feedback. Being able to apply this knowledge to further efforts for The Block Museum was exceptionally gratifying.”

With Dr. Novak-Leonard’s vast background in arts participation, the Block lab class is a perfect fit to get the most out of MSLCE students. Hands-on experience with existing organizations helps students bring professional experience into workplace upon graduation.


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