Preview Center, Center for Creative Connections

Topic: Art Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Kathleen McLean

Published on August 01, 2007

  • Description and goals

    The Preview Center was a temporary installation at the Dallas Museum of Art, designed to show visitors and funders what the new DMA’s Center for Creative Connections (CCC or C3) will be like when it opens in 2008. It was organized around the ideas that underlie the new CCC, and gave people a taste of the types of experiences they can expect. One target audience of the installation was potential donors, and it was designed as a laboratory for visitors as well.

  • Development process and challenges

    The Preview Center was conceived, designed, developed, and installed in 6 weeks. I was involved as an outside consultant, and worked with the staff and the exhibition designer to come up with the content, exhibit groupings, and overall concept in a one-day charette. The designer then took the ideas we developed and, working with staff, turned them into floor plans, mini-environments, and three-dimensional elements. The project was added onto the already full schedules of staff, who squeezed it inbetween other duties. Because of the extreme time constraints, ideas emerged and were acted upon without much discussion, and with no time for iteration and tweaking. This allowed us to be experimental and to not talk ourselves out of cool ideas.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    We learned that it is, indeed, possible to do a project like this in a short period of time and still end up with a compelling experience for visitors. We also learned that the extreme deadlines provided the permissive atmosphere to experiment without worry—after all, who could possibly criticize your work under such circumstances? (Well, actually, I led a critique afterwards, and we all agreed that most of the issues, problems, and shortcomings were a result of not being able to reflect upon or iterate the designs and ideas.) I was reminded once again that the “sweet spot” in exhibit development and design lies between the extremes—between “just doing it” and planning it to death.

  • Exhibition Opened: May 2007

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Dallas, TX, United States

  • Estimated Cost: Less than $100,000 (US)

  • Size: 3,000 to 5,000

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