Photo by Eliesa Johnson
Hunter Palmer Wright
NO. 11 | HUNTER PALMER WRIGHT
A new switch has gone off in the museum world, according to Hunter Palmer Wright, the venture innovation director at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Wright took on the role nearly two years ago when the MIA honed in on a strategic plan to rethink its business model and how to engage a new audience of museum-goers.
"The 100-year-old model is no longer sustainable so we're starting to recreate what's viable for the future," says Wright, a Wayzata native with extensive experience in the field, including stints at the Philip Johnson Glass House and the Museum of Modern Art. While the MoMA recently unveiled plans to redesign its first floor to make it more inviting to the city at large, Wright is now doing the same on our cultural turf. She hired award-winning architecture firm VJAA to transform the MIA's lobby into an open community space set up with an artisanal coffee bar, a new family-friendly cafe, and plenty of flexible seating areas. Wright, a modern design lover, handpicked the edgy furniture, including purple-upholstered Papilio chairs by Naota Fukasa and Ron Arad's iconic white Tom Vac chairs, to round out the space.
VJAA's redesign was strategically paced out, so that one barely remembers the previous narrower entry. "The thinking then was that the lobby was a place to lead you directly to the galleries, but we want this to be a destination for the community to linger in," Wright says. She partnered with Artbook for a wall of fresh titles visitors can flip through while sipping their coffee; she also revamped the gift shop retail, a shift from more traditional souvenirs to pieces by emerging artists.
"I grew up coming here and it's exciting to be part of the change," says Wright. Her great-great grandparents were founding members of the museum—which will be celebrating its centennial with a series of birthday surprises in 2015. "I think that for a long time the Midwest was thought of as always a few steps behind the coasts. But we want to be leading the field and that means looking ahead to what the next 100 years will bring.