An inclusive vision
Our collaborative workshops with the Buffalo AKG team revealed that they were open to non traditional creative solutions: to reach new audiences, they were willing to step outside the expected, and incorporate a spirit of fun. We selected seven themes that had unique and engaging hooks including comedy, sports, animals, and mindfulness. To overcome the perceived inaccessibility of modern and contemporary art and, in turn, create a more relatable interaction with Buffalo AKG's collections, we enlisted the Buffalo community to join artists, architects and curators to be our storytellers.
Keeping true to our intentions to create a more relatable and personal audio journey, we didn't write word-for-word scripts. Instead, we conducted interviews with the goal of capturing authentic and organic emotional expression, particularly from those who were in conversation with one another. For example, we facilitated a conversation with Thurman Thomas, the legendary running back for the Buffalo Bills, together with his wife Patti Thomas, an artist known as "The Ghost," and asked them to examine artworks through the lens of sports. The finished tour prioritizes their husband and wife banter and Thomas’s personal connection to the tour’s theme of “Victory & Defeat” over a traditional academic understanding of form and technique.
"I hope AKGo! does what we intend for it to do, especially for people who feel like they don't relate to art—to realize that there are many different ways to look at it. A lot of people don't connect with art, and that's okay. We hope AKGo! will spark conversations and new ways of looking at art, and make people see the museum as a place that is not exclusively for folks with PhDs or art-scene types—to think about Buffalo AKG as a space that is more than just about the interpretation of the paintings and the sculptures there."
– Jenny Pachucki,
Senior Content Developer, Art Processors
Sound is an essential element of story. Our sound designers incorporated multi-layered textural music, sound effects, and archival audio to accompany the AKGo! journeys. Every individual artwork is paired with a piece of music to elicit a specific mood and compliment the theme or aesthetic, from airy piano ambience to bossa nova jazz, somber cinematic swells, Latin classical guitar, and plenty more.
Ambient nature sounds draw the visitor's attention to the natural world as they listen to architect Shohei Shigematsu talk about the transparent glass façade of the new Jeffrey E. Gundlach building. And in discussing Arshile Gorky's The Liver is the Cock's Comb, the soundscape reconstructs the curator's own interpretation through the gentle chirp of crickets, a dog barking in the distance, and the clucking and crowing of a rooster panning between the stereo channels.
One journey, designed specifically as a mindfulness activity, features originally-composed music to calm and uplift, facilitating an authentic emotional experience. Local artist Julia Bottoms, guides the visitor through topics for contemplation and a range of mindfulness techniques, but also contains the option to experience as a music-only journey.
“All the music we’ve selected is specially chosen for that space and that experience, and that's really unique. And because it's not a scripted experience, the emotion that you hear in the narrators’ voices is totally organic and authentic. If you are hoping for people to have authentic emotional encounters in a museum space, you have to approach content creation with an open hand and an open heart to generate that.“
– Jenny Pachucki,
Senior Content Developer, Art Processors
"Well this one doesn't look like it's done at all. Did you call the artist? Is she coming through to finish this one?"
"Alright, hear me out, okay…?"
In our ambition to engage visitors with contemporary artworks that might be considered challenging or just plain baffling, we took things in an unconventional but light-hearted direction. In AKGo!, local standup comedian Kevin Thomas is teamed with Assistant Curator Andrea Alvarez in "Now Hear Me Out…" to discuss some of the more abstract and provocative pieces in the museum. In doing so, Kevin voices humorous observations that many people might think about such artworks, but may be regarded as taboo to express in a museum. However, their rapport—which is evident when listening to the journey—also allows Andrea to insert expository knowledge to facilitate the visitor's understanding of these works.
AKGo! features seven audio journeys with location-aware guidance to help visitors navigate to each stop. Each journey is 15-27 minutes long, and includes 7-13 stops—manageable in terms of time and legwork. Importantly, the variety of journeys encourages repeat visits from Buffalo locals.
- "Journey Through Modern Art" explores the history of modern art through the AKG's dynamic collection.
- "Now Hear Me Out…" features comedian Kevin Thomas, Jr. and Assistant Curator Andrea Alvarez playfully discussing what they see, what they think they see, and what it all means.
- "Victory & Defeat" features Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas and his wife, artist Patti Thomas ("The Ghost"), connecting the trials and triumphs of artists in the museum's collection with the ups and downs of the athletic world.
- "ARTimals" has been designed to inform and entertain younger visitors about the animals in the museum's artworks.
- "Spotlights" highlights unique and specific pieces as told by special guests, including artists Anselm Kiefer and Miriam Bäckström.
- "Glass Steel Stone" allows visitors to explore the new Jeffrey E. Gundlach Building guided by the architect himself.
- "Stop Look Listen" is a mindfulness experience for contemplation and refuge, featuring an original musical soundscape composed by Art Processors.
The free AKGo! audio app is more than your standard museum audio guide—it demonstrates how inclusive storytelling and location-aware technology can transform a museum into a more welcoming and accessible space.
To begin diving into the amazing stories behind the museum's collection, visitors can download the AKGo! app from the Apple App Store or scan the QR codes conveniently located throughout the museum for instant access in the moment.
Providing choice in how visitors access the audio tours and journey through the museum ensures they don't feel pressured to download AKGo!—but when they do, they get full access to more sophisticated features, including the ability to find their way around the museum using maps that respond to their location, and the ability to search for artworks nearby.
Importantly, AKGo! is accessible. It features audio descriptions, transcripts, and control over complexity for extra support.