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  • Rose Stanley-Gilbert

THE PATH FORWARD: An Interview with Mia's Kristin Prestegaard

Rose Stanley-Gilbert recently sat down with Kristin Prestegaard, Chief Audience Officer at Mia, for a conversation about visitor expectations, the future of the guides, and more.

Credit: (Twin Cities Business)

Kristin Prestegaard is Mia’s Chief Audience Officer and oversees the Audience

Engagement division here at Mia. Mia Guides, within the Learning and Engagement department, are part of this division.

In my hour interview with Kristin Prestegaard I met someone who was warm and generous with her time, but mostly I remember how I was caught up in her enthusiasm. I began re-thinking things…Can change be inspiring? Can challenges be an opportunity? As we talked I began to imagine change as full of possibilities.

Choosing Mia

Kristin grew up in a family that frequently visited Mia. She attended Gustavus Adolphus College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Management, and with a minor in Art History. Later she received her Masters of Organizational Leadership from St. Catherine University. Her career began by working in television, but she soon realized that she wanted to play a part in building a civic institution that would serve her community. She also wanted a career that would also be more personally rewarding. She chose to work at Mia.

Audience Engagement

Kristin began her Mia career 18 years ago, working in Communications for the museum. She became the Audience Officer in 2021. Since then, she has been evaluating Mia’s departments and envisioning how they could work together in the best way.

The Audience division at Mia comprises these three sections:

• Communications (marketing & public relations)

• Design/Branding

Learning and Engagement (which includes the Guides)

In the past Learning and Communications were in separate divisions, even though they are dependent on each other. By merging these departments, Kristin believes that working together will empower the staff and increase creativity.

How do guides fit into the picture?

Guides are part of Mia… and will remain so on the path forward. Audiences will always be evolving and we will be able to adapt and change with them. Before making any alterations relating to guides, Kristin plans to first have conversations with a number of guides about what is working and what is not, and their experiences touring with visitors.

Over the Last 10 Years… How has our Understanding of Visitors Changed?

Minneapolis Institute of Art Loyalty Infographic

This diagram, supplied by Kristin, clarifies Mia’s knowledge of how visitors’ expectations have changed over time. The lower gray section reflects our 2012 understanding that visitors wanted Mia to be an engaging place to visit. According to the black bands, if you were aware of and “knew Mia” and you visited the museum, it was assumed you would become enthusiastic members.

The upper turquoise section reflects the new Mia goal for 2021 and beyond: creating personal experiences for visitors and developing a sense of belonging to a community that loves art. Looking at the upper black bands show what we hope visitors will FEEL. We know art can touch visitors personally. Mia is a place where they can share ideas and feel connected to an art community. Those experiences with art are the basis for developing a true attachment to Mia…and becoming loyal members.

According to Kristin, guides play an indispensable role in achieving these goals. We create themes that are relevant and thought-provoking for living in our modern, diverse world. We make art accessible by sharing its context —what is the artist’s intention, society’s values and other supportive information. We engage our visitors by encouraging individuals to share their thoughts and by respecting a variety of viewpoints.

Beginning in the Fall: Art and Creative Aging

Another area Kristin oversees is Engagement and Programming. Kara notified us this this summer that Mia was among nine art museums from across the country to receive a grant from the Vitality Arts Project, an initiative designed to expand creative aging programming for older adults across the country. The team submitting Mia's grant proposal was led by Kristin and Sheila McGuire.

The grant money Mia receives will be used to create a new series of Creative Aging programs aimed at museum audiences who are 55 and older AND love learning! Local artists will be hired to teach a series of 8-week classes on subjects like drawing, painting, ceramics, metalwork, or participating in music or theater. Sheila McGuire will run the program’s curriculum.

The program was developed to expand the participation of older visitors at Mia. It is also about fostering a creative and diverse community of friends. As an added benefit, the program will support working artists who share their knowledge, passion, and techniques in the classes.

This conversation helped me to realize that the path forward at Mia will have changes, but also opportunities. As we meet our visitors’ expectations, giving tours will continue to be a rewarding experience.

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