Parent Ambassadors in Visitor Experience (PAVE) at the Queens Museum

For some museum visitors, discussion, comparison, and discovering personal connections with artworks begins easily in museum galleries. For others, however, numerous factors complicate these connections. Some visitors may feel they lack the expertise to speak about art; some speak more easily about artworks using different languages; some find museum environments intimidating; many engage with artwork more readily through nonverbal or multi-sensory activities.

Through our PAVE program (Parent Ambassadors in Visitor Experience), we jointly have a chance to ask a key question: how can museum galleries become more engaging for families? This is an exploration best conducted across museum departments and with parents and families guiding our efforts. To that end, PAVE incorporates the leadership of Visitor Experience Agents, parent guides, who develop programming and lesson plans based on their interest in museum exhibits, and museum educators, who structure each seasonal cycle and offer additional mentorship to parent leaders.

Collaboration and experimentation are built into this initiative. During PAVE’s first cycle in Spring 2015, participating families spoke most fluently in Spanish, and our Visitor Experience and Education staff working on the project designed all sessions to take place entirely in Spanish, with some bilingual English translation. The second cycle in Summer 2015 hosts a range of families whose common language is English; participating children range from 3 to 11 years of age, and some children have autism, and so staff and parents make sure to take their range of interests and abilities into account. In its diversity so far, PAVE provides a real sample of the types of families who visit the museum, and watching the responsiveness and flexibility of families and staff is an exciting sign for future programming in the galleries.

The insights we gain as museum staff interested in visitor experience and interests are immensely valuable; for some parents, the experience of designing and leading museum programs is both challenging and valuable in itself. As we finish the second cycle of PAVE, we hope this online platform will provide space for parents and staff to reflect on their experiences so far, and share their thoughts, ongoing questions, and ideas for the future with a larger audience.

The PAVE team of families, Visitor Experience Agents and educators will be celebrating this cycle’s culminating event event on August 29. 2015. Registration for the Fall cycle is open for 8 new families. Families who are interested to participate in this playful collaborative learning experience may contact: jcandiano@queensmuseum.org

– Rachel Shipps, Associate Coordinator, ArtAccess

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