We at Museeum are certified museum addicts and were unleashed in the city of Angeles this past weekend. We visited six different Museums/Art Institutions in the past few days alone, aside from the galleries at Art Los Angeles Contemporary (which we visited a few too many times in one weekend). We went to RedCat, Broad, Moca (at Grand), Skirball, Hammer, and Fowler. Oddly during Free Museum Day, we stayed home.
Bouncing in between locations in a short amount of time made us think about first impressions. From job interviews to meeting your partner’s parents, or seeing that person you swiped right with for the first time. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had that moment in which we are uncertain about going in for a tight hug, a firm handshake or a flirty “hey” (cue the seductive hair toss). First impressions matter, the first couple of seconds of every interaction guide the entire encounter. For instance, I recall bumping into a guy I had a crush on (for about a week) a year later (accompanied by someone new). I smiled and said “hey”, he smiled, looked to my left and immediately changed his complexion to “I should have pretended not see her” (we cleared things over text later that day). But I digress, at least until I can text a museum and clear things up the same day.
Redcat Contemporary Arts Center
I had never been to Redcat before, partly because I was not entirely sure about what if anything goes on there. Mostly because its name is Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, emphasis on “theater,” which to me signals not-art, I like performance yet am addicted to art. A friend works there, and I swore to stop by. While entering Redcat, I bumped into someone who quickly realized I was lost and had no idea what to do with myself. He smiled and kindly escorted me in the right direction. I will clarify that this was someone in the administrative team at Redcat who was on his way out of the building. But the initial reaction was “welcome, I can see you are new here… let me help.” Many-many brownie points to Redcat.
The Broad Museum
Before entering the Broad one must stand in line. The line to the right of the entrance (the long, super busy one) is for people who don’t have reservations and are hoping to get in, from my understanding you can stand in this line for up to three hours. The left line is for those with tickets, who either arrived a few minutes early or late. I make it my point to now waste my time in the three-hour line; on this occasion someone who had special privileges to bypass the lines escorted me. We walked to the middle section of both lines, to find the typical cluster of visitor service associates gathered while guarding the doors, speaking amongst themselves exclusively and not paying attention to their surroundings. Ok, so not super pleasant, but I still had to flag one down. Before I can even open my mouth, she shouted at me that we had to stand in line and pointed to the longer line. My companion explained to the visitor service associate that we had a special pass, after which we were explained in a very harsh tone that yes we could come in, but we had to take pictures with no flash, and “DO NOT TOUCH ART” was extremely emphasized rather rudely. After this interaction, I immediately thought “yep, this is why I rarely come here, I don’t need to be treated like this.” Negative brownie points for the Broad.
MOCA (at Grand)
I went to MOCA directly after visiting broad. I had such a devastating experience that I needed to cleanse my chi. Aside from being shouted at before walking in the door, I caught the visitor service associates making incredibly rude comments and ridiculing the guests as I walked by them. I needed to let go of that negative energy; happily, two steps into MOCA cleared that right up. The guest office box was having some type of malfunction and I was instructed to head downstairs for my ticket (I won’t lie the Broad-given mood I had, made me roll my eyes at this), but it was all quickly forgotten. As I approached MOCA, one of their people reached the door to open it for me. She had this great big smile and said, “welcome… hope you are having a great day, do you need a ticket today?” She stopped me in my tracks, I was already in a funk, the shock immediately changed my mood; I was not expecting this level of interaction (not after Broad anyway). I smiled as she led me to the reception desk, where another lovely human being and I spoke about my day, the weather, traffic and some great news I had received a few hours prior, it was as if I was talking to an old friend that I had not seen in a while. All the brownie points for MOCA!
Skirball Cultural Center
Meeting Skirball for the first time was a very confusing experience to me. Their maze-like architecture made me wonder around for about fifteen minutes before I came across human interaction, this is rare in museums, usually before you even reach their parking structure someone is already directing you. I came into the museum and was instructed politely head in another direction, multiple reception-desk-like looking areas. I approached the desk, and the guest services person was very courteous. I had an entrance pass courtesy of ALAC, which I promptly manifested. She was very confused, said this was not valid at the location and had a lot of apprehension about letting me in. I had her read the statement printed on the pass, which she did and then ranted in the nicest of tones about never having her superiors inform her of what happens at the museum. Walking around the grounds before knowing I was in the right place, the dual desk non-reception areas and the card confusion made this a very odd first meeting. The exhibitions made it great, so I have mixed feelings about meeting Skirball. In this brownie point system, they are awarded cookies, still good but not quite the same.
I am near the tenth visits to complete my Hammer membership, and as a Bruin, this museum is close to my heart. I have been there on countless occasions. Walking into Hammer for me is usually a bit of a split-personality moment. Because they have a small gallery on the main floor of the museum and I want to see it before approach the ticketing section. I am almost certain that with the new expansion plans, this and many other intricacies will be resolved in the near future. On this visit, I was received by a string of paper printouts in the museum that alerted me to the fact that Hammer had changed their hours for this particular day. I was mildly upset at this since I had tried calling Hammer that same morning as I knew they had a pending exhibition opening and I wanted to know this very thing, but they had failed to pick up the phone (nor was I able to ascertain this information online). Regardless a student greeted me as I walked toward the reception area, she explained that the museum is free and asked if I had a membership, then it turned into a conversation about how close I am to receiving one. Polite, kind, short and sweet, brownie points for Hammer (but not too many)!
Fowler Museum at UCLA
UCLA’s museum, I have visited possibly one hundred times, for class, for pleasure, to dance, to listen to mariachis. Fowler always gives me reasons to come back. On this occasion however as I came into the building a security guard (or what seemed to be one), was sitting in the reception area and instructed me to completely disregard her to make my way into the museum as it was free and she really didn’t need to waste her time. Ok, awkward…. sure I don’t need to exchange money with you, but at least say hi to me. Granted this is better than being shouted at, but it still felt strange. So a single brownie point for Fowler. I will certainly come back again, their programming merits this, but now, I’m sure I will feel awkward making eye contact with the reception guard.
I am not including ALAC in my greeting list as I had a VIP Card for the weekend, so the greeting and the experience itself changed drastically because of it. But recap, greeting people can be awkward, but it can also be uplifting, it can be fancy, it can make you feel special, but it can also be strange and leave everyone confused.
Redcat’s “Hello!” is similar to greeting your favorite aunt, someone happy to see you who will comfort you with a hug. Broad is more like meeting that jerk from Tinder who is super hot so you want it to work out, but really you should have swiped left, to begin with. MOCA is like saying hi to Mom who made your favorite meal after a rough day. Skirball is your doctor; you might not love it at the beginning but it is super beneficial to stop by every so sporadically. Hammer is meeting your best friend when you are trying to share something important, only to have him or her share something even cooler first and totally steal your thunder. And last but not least Fowler’s greeting is basically your barista, functional, kind, and completely forgettable.