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backstory: Threshold Fear

One of the things we pay close attention to at the Neuberger Museum of Art is threshold fear.

We find that many of our students, particularly those who are first generation to college, have never gone to a museum before and are afraid to step inside. 

I want students to learn through looking at art objects, but they can’t do that if they won’t walk in the door. So what do we do? Free coffee. Free food. One of my colleagues said to me: “The students are coming in, grabbing the coffee, and then leaving. They’re not even looking at the art.” Here’s a secret: I don’t care. I don’t care because I know that at some point in the future, at least a few (maybe all?) will walk in one day and go past ​the coffee, into the galleries, look at the art, then turn around and, yes, grab the coffee and go. That’s a win if you ask me.

Tracy Fitzpatrick
Director, Neuberger Museum of Art