Category Archives: brand

Small Town Identity

My hometown of Chico in California is a little agricultural town which is known for two things: the Sierra Nevada Brewery, and for being on Playboy’s top party colleges back in the 90’s. However, the locals and Chico State school board would like to leverage the lesser known facts –Chico produces most of the Western world’s rice, almonds and walnuts– to make our town a tourist destination.

The existing museums in Chico are relatively unknown outside of Chico but are regular destinations for local school field trips. The Bidwell Mansion the oldest home in Chico, which was owned by the founders of the city, seems to be nothing more than just a strange pink house near the college that can be seen from the busiest street in town. Our 5th graders probably know more about it than our adults.

Bidwell Mansion

The Sierra Nevada Brewery has received so much attention in recent years that their brew-house restaurant was updated less than a decade ago to include a glass wall in the waiting area which allows patrons to view the beer as it is being made.

This became such a popular feature and tour times have been in high demand, prompting the renovation of the brewery. It now includes a beautifully done two story wing made entirely of glass and wood in the Art Nouveu style where brew techniques can be viewed through glass walls and explanatory plaques are placed intermittently to allow the guest to embark on a self-guided tour. Most people use them to further their knowledge as they wait for the guided tour to begin, which is referred to with drunken wonderment as the equivalent of going on a “big kid’s tour” of the Willy Wanka Chocolate Factory, complete with platforms that extend out over the vats, allowing you to be completely immersed in the room.

Sierra Nevada Interior Tour


Although a museum addition wasn’t originally intended by the brewery, they stepped up to the demand of their patrons, and the Sierra Nevada Brewery is now known as the main destination for tourists and families coming to town to check out the college. What were the small agriculture and city oriented museums to do?

In a bold step, the city of Chico built a brand-new, state of the art natural history museum, called the Gateway Science Museum, in an abandoned lot next to the Bidwell Mansion to serve as an extension of Chico State. The juxtaposition of the old Victorian house sharing a parking lot with the brightly colored Modernistic Gateway Science Museum is a bit striking, making both stand out from the street, rejuvenating the centralized area only a few blocks from the oldest church in town, the Bidwell Presbyterian Church, and the entrance to the closed off Chico State campus. Still focused on school aged children, the Gateway Science Museum opened last Spring in time for summer camp to begin, and two of the kids I worked with last year as a youth leader claimed it was “Very cool.” (Which is actually a pretty big compliment if you’ve ever spent any time with bored 6th graders.)

Gateway Science Museum

Although this new museum is very well known now in the community, a bigger effort by the city is still somewhat under-wraps. Previously, I hadn’t known that other than the Bidwell Mansion, Gateway Science Museum and Chico Museum (whose existence is usually only noted by those stumbling down the street at early hours after the bars have closed because of it’s lack of advertisement or even signage in front of the building) there are 3 other museums in the city: an outdoor animal refuge, old rice factory and another piece of historic architecture. In an effort to demonstrate the history of Chico as more than just the partying college and home of good beer, the Gateway Science Museum was created to complete the museum circuit and renovations on the 5 existing facilities are underway. Instead of acting as 6 independent museums competing for attention, the City of Chico is hoping that visitors will appreciate a much broader, multi-locational museum experience with combined efforts, events and a single fee.

However, this was all made known to me through someone who is apart of the planning committee, and therefore, it’ll be interesting to see if they are actually able to advertise in the way needed to make sure this idea is successful. The Sierra Nevada Brewery museum is a hard act to follow, but hopefully this new focus on Chico’s history will lead to an grouping of sites which will be interesting to more than just school children needing time out of the classroom.

Kadie Yale

Pop(up) Art Museum on the Mall

Hirshhorn Museum Transformation by Diller Scofidio + Renfro Architects

This is a truly great project, a spectacular transformation of an already iconic museum building, bring it new life, it is conceptually clear, technically genius, brilliant that it can be performed annually like a circus coming to town. Washington D.C. needs more of this. Bring it on.

Ouroussoff’s review here.

Esquire’s Augmented Reality

This month was Esquire Magazine’s Augmented Reality Issue. On the cover and throughout the magazine, picture codes known as Augmented Reality software were placed next to the featured articles. For example, Robert Downey Jr. had a code on the cover that he was selling. A male supermodel had a code next to the clothes he was wearing. Readers simply download AR Software to their computers and hold up the AR code to their webcam. Once the webcam registers the code, a video of Robert Downey Jr. in his interview pops up. A video of the Model modeling clothes pops up. These are not short clips. They run for a good three – five minutes. High –tech animations and graphics are of course included and by rotating the magazine at different angles, i.e. facing north instead of south, a different video pops up to talk to, entertain, and educate the reader.

The ease at which Esquire introduced Augmented Reality to the public struck me as something that Museums; particularly Natural History Museums can use to make their visitors more engaged. If they were to place these codes next to their still objects suck as earthen vases, traditional wedding costumes, or even primeval weapons, visitors can beep the codes located next to the objects and immediately watch a video of how they were used. For example, the Natural History Museum in NYC has a traditional Chinese Wedding Costume for a bride along with the Sedan Chair that she sits in. As accurate as those two items are, if I weren’t from Chinese heritage, I wouldn’t know the tradition and importance of the logic behind how the bride gets brought into the carriage. If a video can pop up immediately after scanning the adjacent AR code, visitors can be brought back to ancient China and see that the veiled bride has to be piggy-backed over a brazier on to the carriage by an older woman known as the matron of honor, that the bride was always sheltered with a red parasol and kerchief, and that the door of the Sedan Chair was always kicked open to chase away bad spirits that may have latched on the to bride before.

As these Augmented Reality codes can be beeped on any digital device, the Museum won’t have to worry about introducing a vast amount of technology into their actual exhibits. People can simply view these on their phones. Augmented Reality Codes and software can enhance the experience of viewing still objects!

Kelly Lo

The Public Art Centre

Public Art Centre in Bromwich UK

Public Art Centre in Bromwich UK

The Public Art Centre in West Bromwich UK recently opened, and is already demounting many of its exhibits which have failed to perform. The Art Newspaper has been tracking this project June 08 and Feb 09. Their recent piece on the opening is only in print and not yet online.

I have not been there but from what I can tell The Public is a peculiar hybrid of museum types with the aim of being all inclusive, community-oriented, friendly and accessible in posture and yet holding it self up as a premier international art museum housed in an iconic architecture. They have no collection of their own. Instead it is filled with loaned exhibitions, and site-specific installations. For the opening at least there seems to be an emphasis on digital and interactive art. As they state in their own words “The Public has something for everyone, putting amateur work beside professional, young next to old and setting local projects right alongside digital exhibits and contemporary sculpture by top international artists.”

Apparently the building was design by Wil Alsop but design was at some point taken over by another firm. It shows. This procees seems as indecisive as the museum’s program. I suspect this is the echo of the Bilbao Effect, discussed on a previous post, but it took too long to realize this one (it began in 1993, opened in 2009) that the mission and architecture had to be hastily revised to address the changed climate since the crash of Sept 2008. By the time it opened the world has changed and the original vision looks quite outdated. Its kind of like a guest arriving late to a party dressed to the nines and full of enthusiasm only to discover that everyone who is still there is busy cleaning up the mess. It does question whether iconic museum architecture can be sustained, or even if it should be. Is it a good idea to have something for everyone? Can you really make a successful museum out of nothing? Does anyone know more about this strange and elusive project?


The Syndrome of ’92: Guggenheim Effect

In her recent book “Txoriburu”, the writer and illustrator Asun Balzola describes how her natal city was in the 40’s. She says that for her, the most curious fact of the Guggenheim effect is that “people has made it theirs, they don’t see the museum as a thing of some people in New York, but as theirs”. Plus, “the most encouraging thing is that the young people are their first fans. When you are inside of the building the light, the spirals of its architecture make the things inside just there, you can almost visit it empty and it would be the same”. Without a doubt, she concludes, the Guggenheim “has revived Bilbao, because you can see it from a lot of places. You are going around the streets and all of the sudden you can see this mount in front of you and the titanium roofs. Its amazing”.

On October 18th of 1997, the king Juan Carlos, the president of the foundation, the architect and the authorities inaugurated the museum in front of the eyes of 10,000 curious people. In its first month, a hundred thousand people met the Guggenheim, making it the third most visited museum of Spain, after El Prado and Reina Sofia, both in Madrid. Besides, of the 70,000 visitants in the first eight months (the most optimistic calculations were estimating 40,000 in a year), almost one of very four was foreign.

Eighty private companies compromised to collaborate with the museum in some way and 86 of every 100 visitors expressed the means to come back: the Guggenheim Effect was born.

Now a days, they are offering weekends special in Milan, London, to visit this colossal of glass and titanium. Taking advantage of the renovations of the airport, airlines of countries like Portugal, Belgium or Germany multiply their connections with Bilbao. Luxury Cruises dock alongside the old fishing life in the city port, where their passengers get surprised by the welcoming they receive. In what used to be a port area in which cargo containers were poling up waiting to be chartered, now arises the last grand new museum built in the 20th Century, maximum exponent of the city’s new identity.

For the first time in a long time, this population of a mostly gray and humid climate is noticed by all the world for something that is not the kidnapers or terrorist violence.