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Phoenix museums reach out to Hispanic visitors

By Eugene Scott

The Arizona Republic

Published: Thursday, Feb. 2 2012 12:09 a.m. MST

In this Jan. 18, 2012 photo, Eunice Goldberg of Chandler plays an Indonesian percussion instrument at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Metropolitan Phoenix museums realize they have to do more to attract Hispanic visitors and are launching efforts to reach out to an untapped market.

The Arizona Republic, David Wallace) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES, Associated Press

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Metropolitan Phoenix museums realize they have to do more to attract Hispanic visitors and are launching efforts to reach out to an untapped market.

The Musical Instrument Museum this month received a $50,000 grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust to fund marketing initiatives targeting the Hispanic community. The northeast Phoenix museum will match the grant.

"We feel like one of the ways we can support arts organizations is helping them expand their audience. That brings financial stability, which brings more outreach to the community," said Judy Mohraz, president and CEO of the Piper Charitable Trust.

Arizona's Hispanic population has increased 46 percent since 2000, according to 2010 census figures. Hispanics' share of the state population rose from about a fourth to nearly 30 percent.

"You don't leave a market segment of that size outside of marketing strategies," Mohraz said.

MIM, which opened in April 2010 at Mayo and Tatum boulevards, welcomed its 200,000th visitor late last year. Various exhibits and events highlight the musical genres found in Spanish-speaking countries. Even the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix is helping MIM find ways to highlight Mexican music genres that will draw more Hispanic visitors.

Yet Latinos "have not been represented in the proportions that we would like or that they represent in the population for sure," said Bill DeWalt, president and director of MIM and a former director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

The potential to connect with the Hispanic community is part of what attracted DeWalt to MIM.

"That's a population we really want to have significant outreach to to make sure they know about the museum," he said. "We are working with the various media outlets that reach the Hispanic community, so we're basically thinking that's the major way we will reach that population. And we'll probably do things like billboards in areas where the Hispanic population is heavily represented."

MIM is not alone in its effort. The Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum in central Phoenix are both launching programs to attract Hispanic visitors.

Valley museums have not intentionally ignored the Hispanic community, said Debra Krol, senior manager for advertising and publishing at the Heard.

"I think part of it is that people don't understand the community," Krol said. "I think it was just a matter of people not really having the right information. They were just uninformed. They didn't realize there was a need to do anything special."

But DeWalt said museums may have to go above and beyond to help Hispanics know that there is a place for them at the museums.

"When people think about a museum, they think there's going to have to be a lot of reading, and perhaps their levels of English aren't up to where they think they need to be to visit a museum," DeWalt said.

But MIM is designed to be primarily an aural and visual experience.

"It's really about the music and seeing the musical instruments. The labels are more for informational purposes if you want to go a little bit deeper," DeWalt said. "This is a place where populations from all over the world can visit and have a great time."

The Phoenix Art Museum has partnerships in place with local media organizations that reach the Valley's diverse Hispanic communities.

The museum's relationship with TV y Mas, a television guide, helps familiarize Spanish-speaking residents with the museum, said Nicole DeLeon, public-relations manager at the Phoenix Art Museum.

"We also have a partnership with Latino Perspectives magazine, which targets English-speaking, college-educated Hispanics, many of whom have a deeply influential role in the cultural, social and economic life of the Valley," she said.

Placing ads in local publications read by Valley Hispanics could expose MIM to about 75 percent of that population, said Ray Arvizu, owner and CEO of Arvizu Advertising and Promotions.

The Hispanic-owned Phoenix agency has a track record of Latino-targeted ad campaigns.

"There are multiple (Hispanic) generations in households. You may have a grandmother and grandfather that grew up in the '20s and '30s, still alive, who still want to get their information from those types of publications, which they pass along to their Baby Boomers, who pass them on to the new generation," Arvizu said.

Ultimately, the outreach efforts will produce benefits beyond ticket sales.

"We believe in joining forces with other institutions and organizations, not only to increase intercultural understanding, but also to forge lasting partnerships within the community," VÍctor TreviÑo, consul general of Mexico in Phoenix.

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