Research Statement

I strive to be a productive researcher and an active contributor to the fields of Arts Administration and Museum Studies. My research emphasizes the importance of cultural diversity, social justice, and ecological systems theory in thinking about arts programs and services in nonprofit arts organizations. I focus on collaboration in both formal and informal arts educational settings; such as universities, art museums, and cultural institutions. Through actively researching and participating in academic conversations, I aim to critically examine our arts institutions, worldviews, and society. In this statement, I will describe my current projects, recent publications, and future plans for further research. With the various research activities described in the rest of this statement, I strive to accomplish beyond expected research. I genuinely enjoy writing and working with colleagues from UK and other parts of the country and world in presenting and working on collaborative research projects.

Current Research Projects

In Summer 2015, I conducted a follow-up study of the art museum that I researched for my dissertation. By using systems thinking as a theoretical framework, this study strives to understand interconnections between the museum and its community and to identify the causes of the changes in the last four years since my initial study in 2011. Systems thinking or theory is a perspective that sees the world as interconnected to and interdependent with all parts of the world. When applied to museums, systems thinking sees a museum as an open system where the whole of a museum is bigger than its individuals and departments and the museum necessarily influences and is influenced by its larger community. I used mixed research methods, using both quantitative and qualitative research instruments, while the overall methodology of the study is an ethnographic case study. I stayed in the community where the museum is located for two months and interviewed about 70 people, including all staff members, board members, visitors, and non-visitors. I also collected surveys from 270 community members who are both visitors and non-visitors to the museum.

While I am still analyzing the data collected last summer, the museum has transformed into a more inclusive institution as it presents the works of artists, seeking to include those who are more culturally and racially diverse, and its programs reflect the change. Compared to four years ago, people in the community are more aware of the museum’s work and actively use its facilities. This transformation is related to other changes at the museum. For example, leadership is more stable at the museum as opposed to high director turnover for several years before the current director came on board in 2012. In addition, its senior staff members have left and been replaced and the city’s subsidy, which composed about 30 percent of the museum’s operating budget, might come to an end in the near future.

This research will provide an overarching narrative for a book that I am working on with Dr. Ann Rowson Love, assistant professor of Arts Administration at the Florida State University. The book is entitled Applying Systems Thinking in Museum Management and Operations: Theory and Practice and contracted with the publishing company, Rowman & Littlefield (the book contract and proposal are included in this portfolio). The book will be based on the study that I described earlier and will deal with several topics in museum management, such as leadership, financial management, fundraising, and programming. My co-author and I also plan to invite other museum scholars and professionals to contribute best practice case studies to illuminate applicability of theories and strategies derived from my study in the summer of 2015. The completed book is expected to come out sometime in 2017. To help complete this book project, I have applied for the UK Summer Faculty Research Fellowship grant so I can devote my summer (2016) mostly to writing.

I am also currently working on fundraising research, Student involvement in fundraising at UK’s Arts Administration Program: Understanding a relationship-based fundraising approach and its impact on fundraising success, funded by the UK Research Support Grant (included in the portfolio). This proposed research project will examine the current state of UK Arts Administration fundraising practices and help create a data-driven fundraising model that can be used by the program. In doing so, this study seeks to understand the connection between UK’s Arts Administration program and its stakeholders with regard to the current and future fundraising success of the program. So far, I have completed interviews with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Based on the preliminary findings from interview data, I updated my survey questions and will collect survey answers from 240 current student and alumni participants by the end of April 2016. The Arts Administration program plans to use the study findings to improve its fundraising practice and I plan to publish two to three articles from this study that could be published in major Arts Administration or fundraising research journals.

Recent Publications

Since last year’s review (first year review), I have published two articles and another one has accepted for publication. A theoretical article on art museum fundraising practice entitled, “Diversity Matters: Theoretical Understanding of and Suggestions for the Current Fundraising Practices of Nonprofit Art Museums” was published in November 2015 in the Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society. Using the theory of the commons and social obligation theory of inclusion, this paper critically examines current art museum fundraising practices in the United States that rely too much on traditional White, wealthy patrons. This leads museums to emphasize the limited interests of traditional donors, neglecting the needs of and potential support from their broader communities. This results in the tragedy of the anticommons, where museums are underused by diverse publics. This paper advocates for more inclusive relationship-based fundraising practices that build relationships with local community members and include their perspectives on fundraising practices through diversifying fundraising leadership, understanding diverse giving patterns, and utilizing innovative fundraising methods while remaining sensitive to cultural differences.

The other article is entitled “Micro Examination of Museum Workplace Culture: How Institutional Changes Influence the Culture of a Real World Art Museum” and is recently published in Museum Management and Curatorship. This paper explores how the art museum’s leadership, management structure, and internal communications influence its workplace culture. Using ethnographic inquiry and grounded theory, the paper demonstrates how a specific museum’s organizational culture is constructed and how it can be changed through various structural and value-driven changes based on an emerging theory of an organization as an open system. At the museum, an unstable organizational structure caused by frequent leadership turnover factored heavily in creating a non-collaborative workplace with ongoing personal conflicts. The institutional and internal changes called for a more flexible management system than the traditional hierarchical structure. However, by adopting qualities of a learning organization that constantly evolves and grows, this art museum can become a more effective and efficient organization with a stable management structure, sustainable and collective leadership, an effective communicational system, and therefore a positive, cohesive, and vision-driven workplace.

An article entitled “Contemporary Understanding of Harlem on My Mind: What Can We Learn from an Art Museum’s Early Attempt toward Culturally Inclusive Practice?” is recently accepted for publication in the International Journal of the Inclusive Museum. This article is a follow-up piece to the article, “Harlem on My Mind: A Step toward Promoting Cultural Diversity in Art Museums” which was published in the same journal in 2015. The follow-up paper is more focused on contemporary interpretation of the exhibition by applying critical race theory and examining lessons learnt that are still relevant to today’s art museum practices.

Future Research Plans (for my next review, change this section, include the technology research with Rachel and creating online open pedagogical resource center for nonprofit arts organizations in collaboration with the art museum)

A related area of interest for me is visitor and non-visitor studies. My current research on museums has impressed upon me that in order to reach out to diverse community members and build new audiences it is essential to thoroughly understand who is coming to the museum and who is not. While I conducted visitor and non-visitor studies at the museum in the summer of 2015 as mentioned above, I would like to be more involved it the topic with nearby arts organizations. I have been having some conversations with local nonprofit arts organizations in town and nearby cities and hoping to contribute to their success through my research.

I am also interested in fundraising research for local nonprofit arts organizations. As shared above, I have been working on a fundraising research for the Arts Administration program and published an article on the topic. I have noticed that arts organizations tend to work with a traditional fundraising model that is focused on a small group of people who tend to be very wealthy and generally White. As our society is becoming more diverse and the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger, arts organizations will have a difficult time finding the traditional donor base as it is shrinking rapidly and the millennial generation’s charity patterns are dramatically different from those of their parents. There is room for further research in this traditional model and finding more sustainable and inclusive ways to fund our arts organizations.

For these proposed future research plans, I would like to submit a collaborative grant to get funding for the research from federal, state, local government agencies or through private foundations. I am currently evaluating potential partner arts organizations and possible grants to apply for these studies. The focus is on the more immediate and concrete projects listed above that I am currently working on.

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