I’m an art museum addict, so while at a recent conference in San Antonio, Texas, I managed, in the few hours before my return flight, to fit in a trip to the McNay Art Museum. (Maybe I should mention how graciously they fit all of my luggage into the coatroom and called a cab in time to get me to the airport, too.)
But aside from the pleasures of the collection, I was struck by something I’d never seen before: Wall postings next to selected paintings containing patrons’ recollections of what that particular work has meant to them over the years.
The accounts included everything from adults describing their childhood favorite paintings — or in one case, a man describing how a Modigliani became his ideal when searching for a wife — to a child saying of Monet’s Water Lilies, “My favorite picture was of the pond and lepads.” (I think I’ve got that right — I know I remember her spelling of lily pads correctly!)
What a great way to get people to reflect on what the museum means to them, using the power of storytelling. It’s a subtle strategy to build loyalty and a sense of affinity with fellow patrons, which of course leads to donations.
Also, the tendency for people to consider what the art has meant to them over a lifetime also inspires the sort of reflection that translates into legacy gifts.
My one criticism is that I couldn’t find any of these patron accounts on the McNay’s website. (Or maybe they’re there somewhere, but too well buried to be useful.) They’d be perfect additions to the donor pages, which are otherwise rather dry.