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Credit: Roland Baege

Credit: Roland Baege



smARTplaces is a visionary, long-term European audience development project aiming to revolutionise the way culture and art can be perceived and consumed, using digital technology and new forms of cultural mediation. It is a larger scale cooperation project delivered by a partnership of 8 museums and cultural institutions from 6 different countries in Europe (supported by 2 research partners) and co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

From 2016 to 2020 more than 55 different activities with a distinctive digital link are aiming to address diverse segments within the existing and prospective audiences of each institution.

The project focuses on developing and testing new approaches to audience development, audience engagement, co-creation, capacity building within the institutions, international exposure of art exhibitions and new creative works. With a coherent and multi-layered use of digital technology, social web tools, adaptive storytelling techniques as well as joint exhibitions and on- and offline activities, the partnering institutions will be turned into smARTplaces: Cultural spaces with features that will enable them to communicate with and engage audiences across Europe and within the international partner network.

The project will move away from the passive visitor experience and instead will connect audiences by creating a new digital cultural space which will grow to become an innovative European Cultural Site Network, that is: dialogic, linked, interactive, educational, integrated, accessible, audience engaging and involving.

To succeed with the overall ambitions the project also focuses on change management and emphasizes the inclusion of cultural mediation, staff training and knowledge exchange. A set of internal training activities will augment internal perception as well as increase the capabilities for digital media usage within a cultural, content-management and creative context.

The project network comprises eight cultural institutions and two universities from eight countries:


smARTplaces project genesis

European museums and cultural sites face numerous but similar challenges in coming up with a long-term audience development strategy. Given the trend towards digitisation, new ways of making art and culture accessible, of increasing visitor participation and of digitally networking the European cultural landscape become ever more relevant. The cooperation project smARTplaces was conceived with these challenges in mind.

The leading organisation Dortmunder U (GER) initiated the project worked on the application for the funding programme called "Creative Europe" for three years and submitted a joint application with its partners. smARTplaces was one of 15 projects from throughout Europe to have been chosen for funding support. Other than Dortmunder U, only two other German applicants were as successful. Just five of those 15 projects, selected from a large pool of 125 applicants, are going to receive the full amount of two million Euros in funding. smARTplaces scored 98 of 100 points during the assessment. According to the "Creative Europe Desk" in Bonn, which advises applicants in matters of EU cultural funding, this is a sensational result.

smARTplaces officially kicked off this year with a conference among partners, from June 20, 2016 to June 22 at the Dortmunder U and will run until May 31, 2020. The second Steering Group meeting was held from November 20, 2016 to November 24, 2016 at ZKM Karlsruhe. The third Steering Group Meeting will take place from June 26, 2017 to June 30, 2017 at Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, Birmingham City University.


What distinguishes the smARTplaces cooperation project? 

smARTplaces is going to live up to new demands with a visionary approach: art and culture are going to be perceived, made accessible, and consumed under totally new conditions and to be linked with digital media internationally. By 2020, Dortmunder U as project leader, together with eight European museums and cultural institutions as well as two research partners, is going to develop several model projects. All individual projects serve the overall project aspirations: locations, each with its unique creative cultural range, and their visitors will be linked strategically with regard to content and each place is going to be turned into a "smart place" for the long term. We will implement a package of multidimensional measures locally and at a European level to reach quite heterogeneous target groups ranging from digital natives and the digital mainstream all the way to digital starters. Relationships will intensify and potential visitors be won over. The shift we intend to implement towards a participatory, networked cultural site needs to be accompanied by strategic Change Management within the institutions themselves. Change through knowledge is the motto that "smARTplaces" is going to put center-stage. One central pillar of the project will be measures that facilitate such change in attitudes and such transfer of knowledge among participating employees. Therefore we will offer trainings, workshops and continuous dialogue beyond national borders.

smARTplaces goals

With the help of digital means smARTplaces aims at a linked, dialogic and participatory cultural space transcending geographical and social boundaries. Art and cultural sites will be turned into interactive as well as participatory, educational and experiential spaces that enable new forms of communicating art, culture and information generally. At the same time they will be part of a global smARTplaces network. Concrete goals, amongst other things, are:

  • to reach out to new target groups of visitors and to build long-term relationships with them.
  • to utilise international synergies through international smARTplaces support and by linking exhibitions, exhibits and individual visitors.
  • to make available media-competency education through the respective smARTplaces
  • to broaden curatorial creative spaces. We will develop trans-medial and multi-medial art installations, projects and content strategies transcending national boundaries while keeping in mind the respective curatorial goals and different visitor target groups.

smARTplaces project strategy

On a variety of levels a viable audience development strategy needs to multi-dimensionally live up to the complexity of art and to the diverse interests of (internal and external) reference groups. We need to change attitudes gently and gradually, offer a multitude of connecting factors and to continuously build on interlinking activities.

What makes the smARTplaces project special is the multitude of multidimensional and strategically interlocking measures (tied to more than 50 activities):

  • change management with respect to internal and external digital competency (training, mediation, education and intercultural exchange)
  • new digital forms of communicating art and art education
  • developing a storytelling smARTplaces Brand World and collective content management
  • connecting visitors and places using an agile toolbox via existing social web tools, platforms and location based services
  • digitizing content and establishing a common smARTplaces archive enabling contextualizing links (optional)
  • communal smARTplaces activities within the network of partners: 17 joint activities (with two or more partners each) as well as 40 local activities with a smARTplaces reference and a final collaborative project in 2019
  • digitizing service (personal art assistant, artucation tours, digital signage etc) and adding more visitor experiences (i.e. Art Hunter, a gamification project)
  • scientific support and evaluation by research partner Birmingham City University (UK) and our technology partner Oulu University of Applied Sciences (Finland)


Call Reference

Support to Cooperation projects 2016’ - EACEA 29/2015 , Cat 2.: Large Scale Cooperation Project; Application N°570751

Project duration
01-06-2016 to 31-05-2020 

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