Monday, 30 January 2017




Interactive Kiosk (Source)
The Cleveland Museum of Art officially unveiled Gallery One in January 2013, as part of an ambitious overarching initiative to reinstall and reinterpret its entire permanent collection into new gallery spaces. Gallery One offers visitors an innovative opportunity to experience and learn about art through technology. The space fluidly integrates interactive and immersive digital activities with physical artworks from the museum’s collection.

There are four main digital components: a 40-foot multi-touch MicroTile Collection Wall, six interactive learning kiosks, a dedicated family area called “Studio Play” and the ArtLens application. Gallery One has six stations or “lenses” to examine groupings of physical artwork through: sculpture lens, lions lens, epic stories lens, globalism lens, thirties lens and painting lens. Each lens offers interactive games and activities designed around the specific theme and question of the lens.

Collection Wall (Source)
The sculpture lens features two different activities called “Make a Face” and “Strike a Pose” that enables visitors to use their physical bodies to create connections with the artwork. In the first activity, a visitor’s facial expression is matched to artworks within the CMA’s collection using facial recognition software. The nodal points in the visitor’s image are compared to the nodal points in the database of 189 catalogued artworks. 

Sculpture Lens: "Make A Face" activity (Source)
In the second activity, visitors are asked to mimic the physical position of the image of a sculpture displayed on the screen. Through the use of sensors, visitors are “evaluated” and given a percentage based on how accurate their pose matches the original. These activities incorporate an aspect of humour and encourage visitors to interact with the artwork in a fun, unconventional way. Although only one person can partake in each activity at a time, this lens naturally attracts groups of people to watch.

Sculpture Lens: "Strike A Pose" activity (Source)
The painting lens has a total of five activities, but I will focus on two called “Make Your Mark” and “Remix Picasso”. In the first activity, visitors are presented with three artworks from the CMA’s collection representing three different abstract painting techniques. Visitors are invited to experiment digitally with different painting techniques such as pour, drip and gesture. They are able to share their paintings to a visitor-created collection in the lens. 

The second activity encourages visitors to adopt the mindset of Picasso and digitally rearrange abstract pieces of a composition by using rotational and zoom functions, as well as, manipulating flatness and depth perspectives. Both of these activities give visitors the chance to learn about abstraction by becoming the artist and creating their own abstract artwork.

Visitors are empowered to play and create their version of abstraction, while a real Picasso or Pollock is hanging in front of them. The goal of these activities is not for visitors to learn how to paint, but in adopting the mindset of the artist, they are able to make a real connection to the greater context of what constitutes as abstraction. Abstract art is often a difficult topic to approach for visitors without an art background. These activities act as an accessible entry point, as visitors are engaged in active learning and motivated by discovery.

Painting Lens: "Make A Mark" activity (Source)
In addition to these interactive games, all six stations have a “Look Closer” mode activated by touching any artwork on the screen. This mode gives visitors the ability to rotate and zoom in on high-resolution images of the artwork. Visitors can learn more about each artwork through informational hotspots, in the form of text and video, conveying further details about the artwork, artist and time period.

Although Gallery One makes use of thematic groupings, the CMA’s role as a museum according to its mission is primarily to provide the institutional space, art objects and technological tools to transform visitors from being passive observers into active participants. The magnitude and depth of how much is learned is left up to the visitor. Gallery One is successful in providing visitors with opportunities to learn experientially through digital technology and to ultimately enjoy the process of learning.

Alexander, J. (2014). Gallery One at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Curator: The Museum Journal, 57(3), 347-362. doi:10.1111/ cura.12073

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