UH Blaffer Art Museum Tours Enhanced by iPad Interviews, Videos

Blaffer docents show patrons videos of artist Andy Coolquitt during a recent tour.

Docents at the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to artists and exhibitions. Sometimes, however, the actual voice of an artist is essential in communicating the inspiration behind specific works. In other instances, images of an artist in action are helpful in spotlighting his/her creative processes. Thanks to the power – and portability – of Apple iPads, docents can offer Blaffer patrons these added elements during museum tours.

The addition of iPads to Blaffer tours recently was made possible by a $4,500 grant from the Marcus Institute for Digital Education in the Arts. The grant provided funding for new iPads that are used by docents for exhibition tours and for use as educational tours.

The first exhibition to receive the iPad treatment is Andy Coolquitt’s “Attainable Excellence,” which is on view at Blaffer. The museum’s curator of education Katherine Veneman and staff members conducted interviews with Coolquitt and Blaffer director Claudia Schmuckli. The video conversations were edited by education associate Lindsey Slavin (a former UH student) and organized for museum tours. Other videos include footage of Coolquitt at work (provided by the Austin Museum of Art and comments from museum visitors.

“iPads will offer visitors an opportunity to hear from the artists themselves, which bring the works to life,” Veneman said. “They also provide an extra layer of interactivity with the exhibitions. They’re interpretative tools that enhance the museum tour experience.”

Coolquitt’s exhibition marks a pilot run for the iPads, but Veneman said that these tools would continue to be used for future exhibitions. She added that her team would continue to explore new ways of applying iPads and tablet technology to tours and other educational initiatives.

“There’s no tried and true format,” she said. “We’re looking forward to coming up with new and creative ways of communicating with our patrons and sharing insights from the artists we spotlight at the museum.”

Blaffer tours are free for groups and can be scheduled online. For more details, visit the museum’s website.

Blaffer Art Museum opened to the public in 1973. Named for Houston arts patron and collector, Sarah Campbell Blaffer, the museum quickly earned notoriety as a space for innovative, cutting-edge exhibitions. In addition to hosting artists’ works, the museum commissions work and organizes exhibitions that tour nationally. In 2012, the museum underwent an expansion that included the addition of lounge, new second level spaces (studio, media gallery), front entrance, new signage and redesigned staircase. To learn about Blaffer Art Museum, visit its website.