Dr. Tedi Asher, a graduate of Swarthmore College, is using neuroscience research to create powerful art experiences at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., writes Jackie Mansky for Smithsonian magazine.
Asher joined PEM with the help of a Barr Foundation grant secured by museum director Dan Monroe. His goal was to improve the museum’s falling attendance by creating experiences that truly impact people.
“When I first got to PEM,” recalled Asher, “we knew what the objective was, but we didn’t know exactly how to do that.”
Over time, she has created a three-step approach. First, she researches findings relevant to exhibition design. Then, she identifies a hypothesis to apply those findings, and finally devises a test for visitors.
One such test is “T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America,” which explores the impact of the 20th-century Native American artist on art, music, and poetry. The participants are wired up with eye-tracking glasses and biometric sensors to record their responses during one of three viewing tasks. The goal is to see if given prompts could get them to engage with the art differently.
“Sometimes our conscious experience of things does not always reflect our physiological response to something, or our behavioral response,” said Asher.
Read more about Dr. Tedi Asher in Smithsonian magazine by clicking here.