Introduction

In our increasingly divisive world, polarized by issues regarding politics, racial inequities, marriage equality, global warming, income disparities, and immigration policies, it becomes clear that our failures to understand other people’s feelings are exacerbating prejudice, conflict, and inequality. If we wish to develop not only a more equal society but a happier and more creative one, we will need to look outside ourselves and attempt to identify with the experienc- es of others. This critical skill is called empathy, which “has the power to transform relation- ships, from the personal to the political, and create fundamental social change” (Kznaric, Roman, Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It).

Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) posits that art museums can play a vital role in helping people understand each other in an increasingly connected yet fragmented world. Mia holds a belief in the power of art—and the responsibility of art museums—to spark curiosity and creativity, connect people across cultural differences, and engage our individual and shared values. Art museums, with their rich collections filled with stories of humanity from across the globe, are well positioned to play a vital role in helping people understand each other.
Mia envisions the Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts (CEVA) taking a leading role in collaborating with fellow museum colleagues as well as researchers, scholars, content experts, and other influencers to research and explore best practices for fostering empathy and global awareness through the power of art and to share these findings with the field.

Project Timeline:

October 2017 – Berkeley Think Tank
Winter 2018 – hire research manager
March 2018 – workshop with Mia Staff (Greater Good Science Center)
Late March 2018 – partner kick off
Late March 2018 – develop research plan
Spring 2018 – build tool (digital) to measure empathy, including prototypes to test
Spring 2018 – start tests on two groups 1) 18+ general museum visitors (may include families); school groups (treatment and control group/ in order); use tool to measure impact