The new Clark Outreach for Williams Students (COWS) program aims to get more Eph visitors to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, using fun incentives and events.
According to Google Maps, the Clark is a 14-minute walk or five-minute bike ride from the steps of Paresky Center. Despite this proximity, many students at the College deem the Clark too far to visit on a regular basis.
Understanding this mindset among students, Meg Richardson ’16 recently launched COWS in partnership with the Clark’s Membership Director Caedy Shultz-Loomis and Special Projects Officer Terri Boccia. The COWS program, a membership program designed for students, aims to bring more Ephs down South Street and into the world-renowned galleries of the Clark via an incentive program.
In the COWS welcome letter delivered to students’ mailboxes, Schultz-Loomis wrote, “The Clark is a place to explore with friends, to study, to eat, or simply to escape from campus for some culture and a breath of fresh air. We hope that COWS will make your experience at the Clark even more fulfilling.”
The membership program offers students incentives to visit the Clark on a regular basis. With a Williams student ID and COWS membership card, attached to the distributed letter, students are able to take advantage of repeated visits. Benefits include free coffee, complimentary admission tickets and even a free Sustainer membership, which offers free admission to over 800 art museums throughout the country.
Richardson described how she developed the membership program: “I got the idea during Winter Study last year when I was interning at the Clark. I wanted to find a way to make students feel more comfortable and excited about going to the Clark. It’s an invitation.” At the end of Winter Study, Richardson was offered the Clark’s Rodgers internship to implement the program.
The Clark has wanted to develop a membership program designed for students for years. “The Clark and Williams are basically neighbors, yet we have heard time and again that someone went four years without visiting the museum,” Boccia said. “The Clark has so much to offer, [so] we thought a gentle nudge would be all we would need to get people here. And once people come here, they are hooked for life. Plus, having students on the Clark campus adds a nice energy for all of our visitors.”
As part of her work, Richardson surveyed students in order to offer appealing benefits. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in problem sets and papers, but spending time at the Clark can connect you with the community and help you appreciate the unique resources [in] the area,” she said. “With the extra push from COWS, you get all the benefits of seeing world-famous masterpieces with a free coffee.”
Boccia highlighted the best incentives offered to students, “We wanted to keep things light, fun and exclusive. Our special events just for members are always popular, so we wanted to give students a chance to attend one [event] of their choice. The Williams formal dance held at the Clark was so popular we thought it would be a fun incentive. And the biggest incentive at 12 visits is the membership that allows entry to over 800 museums across the country. Someone could easily earn that one just at graduation time, when you lose free entry at the Clark.”
In addition to the COWS program, the Clark continues to engage with students and the Williamstown community via special events. Last Saturday, student a cappella group Ephoria performed at the Clark’s Halloween event, which featured haunted gallery tours. “Visitors came out of the galleries as soon as they started singing and all had big smiles on their faces,” Boccia said. “There are so many talented people at Williams, and the Clark is such a great venue that the synergy seems obvious.”
As part of her internship, Richardson also maintains the Ephs at the Clark Facebook page. “It’s a vehicle to let people know about upcoming events, as well as just remind everyone what a great place it is to hang out,” Boccia said. “Also, once COWS membership is activated, students can opt in to the same communications mechanisms that are available to our general members. This includes regular [email] blast reminders about upcoming activities and other news.”
For Richardson, the COWS program represents an opportunity to help everyone just step into the galleries. “If someone could have their day made better by looking at a painting because of this, I would be really happy,” Richardson said. “Engaging with art can be a breath of fresh air, and we want to encourage students to come down the road. You can step into another world.”