29 Jun Meet Our Grants! Mapping Virtual Access in Cultural Institutions
Project Leader: Bojana Coklyat
The Mapping Virtual Access in Cultural Institutions (MVACI) has evolved since its initial inception. The project, which is funded by The FAR Fund, was created in response to the beginning of the pandemic. MAC wanted to be able to document how cultural institutions were approaching virtual access in order to learn to respond to the needs of those working in and visiting these institutions. The information gathered would be presented in a series of workshops in order to share what we learned.
The MVACI Committee relied on our own contacts, the MAC Steering Committee, and others who had been a part of the MAC ecosystem in order to speak to a variety of people working in the field of access. The project was separated into three sections – interviews, a survey, and a series of workshops. As the interviewing proceeded, the answers informed the way we approached the project. There had been unexpected benefits to going virtual and other surprises that we uncovered along the way. Organizations like Daniel’s Music had found creative ways to stay connected with their audiences. Weekly dance parties, one on one music lessons, and attention to financial access were part of a constellation of many other thoughtful and engaging programming provided by Daniel’s Music.
After unpacking the interviews and surveys, the committee started to open up conversation around the difference between compliance-based access and engaging access. How could all of us in the field of access think about access in more creative ways in order to provide a pleasurable experience? We began to think more along these lines, including potential futures for virtual access in cultural institutions.
The project had started in the midst of the worst of the pandemic but as the project proceeded vaccinations were rolled out the future of virtual access was looking murky. We all want to get back to normal and be in fabulous spaces together but the pandemic taught us that virtual events can open up more access and connection than ever before. New attention to access was paid during the learning curve with Zoom and Zoom videos became sharable accessible resources for all. The conversation shifted again to concerns of losing this new momentum around access. Disabled employees and visitors alike benefited from the world moving to a virtual space. Bad pain days might not mean you had to miss work and days when an event wasn’t accessible you could easily leave and find something else that may be.
In thinking about the next wave of access in this phase of the pandemic, we decided we also needed more input from those who were participating in the accessible virtual events. What was their take on the past year? With this in mind, we wrote up a proposal to extend the grant. The grant was approved and we will begin this portion of the project in July. Please reach out to Bojana at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or anyone you know may be interested in speaking about experiences with access in cultural institutions during the pandemic.