Audience Engagement In Conversation

Niki Ciccotelli Stewart

Vice President and Chief Learning & Engagement Officer | Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation | Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

International Audience Engagement Network: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing museums right now?

Niki Ciccotelli Stewart: In the past few years, the world has changed dramatically – and so have all of us. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I heard us talk about what it would be like ‘after the pandemic was over…’ but in truth, there’s no ending point. We continue to look for experiences that feel safe and engaging. In turn, some of us really have to rethink our business models and offerings, many of which were based on high volume events inside windowless rooms. More than ever, we have to create experiences that are relevant and visitor-centred.

IAE Network: What keeps you passionate about what do you do?

NCS: I’m passionate about the intersection of the arts and education. Whether I’m teaching art in a classroom setting, giving tours in an art museum, working on exhibitions, or creating strategic plans, I am – in fact – advocating for the power of the arts in our lives. I want to have art in my own life, but more than that, I want to help others discover the power of the arts for themselves – and share it with them!

IAE Network: Share one thing your organisation is doing differently to engage audiences?

NCS: In 2021, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation hosted its first art exhibition at Taliesin West. Chihuly In the Desert: Art, Architecture, and Nature paired the work of Wright with the work of Dale Chihuly – and revealed that the two are surprisingly similar. Since then, we’ve continually added art exhibitions to our guest experience. As a result, our visitors have changed. We used to welcome mostly architecture fans to the site, but now, a broader base of visitors are coming – and, in the process, discovering Wright’s work for the first time.

IAE Network: What are you currently reading/watching/listening to that inspires you?

NCS: I’m loving shows that combine food and travel, like Somebody Feed Phil and Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy. I also love the vision of the future that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds gives us – diverse, thriving, and smart. At work, I’m curating an exhibition about Frank Lloyd Wright and Georgia O’Keeffe, so I’m reading several biographies about them both – which makes for an interesting pairing. They have so much more in common that most people think, and a driving passion for their work.