Throughout the year, El Museo del Barrio hosts various cultural programs that are open to the public and often free. To explore the effectiveness of the Museum’s cultural programs, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A) conducted case studies for three programs—Day of the Dead, Three Kings Day, and Super Sabado – Carnival.
How did we approach this study?
RK&A conducted naturalistic observations of visitors to the three programs. Trained data collectors unobtrusively observed program attendees and took notes on select behaviors using observation guides specific to each program. RK&A interviewed program participants 18 years and older onsite during various stages of their program experience. Trained data collectors took notes while interviewing the visitors. Data collectors interviewed visitors in English or Spanish, as necessary, using interview guides specific to each program. Additionally, RK&A conducted telephone interviews with teachers who attended the Three Kings Day Parade; data collectors took handwritten notes and used a specific interview guide.
What did we learn?
El Museo’s cultural celebration programs are clearly an asset to its audience and the surrounding community. The programs are festive and rich in content, not to mention that the Day of the Dead and Three Kings Day programs are now both long-standing traditions. The cultural celebrations result in a shared cultural experience, overall good will among visitors, and provide a unique opportunity to preserve and embrace cultural traditions. Even though art was undoubtedly embedded in the programs—through art-making activities and various forms of performance art (i.e., music, storytelling, processions, and other forms of performance)—art was not top of mind for any visitors when they described the experience they had.
What are the implications of the findings?
The challenge facing El Museo’s cultural celebration programs is how to better reconcile “art” with “culture” so as to better fulfill the Museum’s mission and purpose. As El Museo continues to provide Super Sabado programs and as it repeats Day of the Dead and Three Kings Day, the staff should consider ways of making the connections between the cultural traditions and artistic traditions of the Latino celebrations more explicit for its audiences.