ARTICLE: How Austin’s Thinkery Curated a New Audience

August 3, 2015 Nicolle Bowling


Oh, Austin, TX. It’s safe to say this town is  up there trending with those other ‘cool hipster’ cities like Brooklyn and Portland. And with the influx of 100+ people moving here on a daily basis, it’s a good thing the locals continue to remind everyone to “Keep Austin Weird.

How is this influx of new people influencing  Austin’s Arts & Cultural community?

Well, in some pretty big ways if you talk to the team at Thinkery, who just created Thinkery21, an evening of fun created just for this demographic.

Thinkery21 happens every six weeks, and has a different theme every time. When I attended, the theme was “Inkery”, so besides getting access to all the standard interactive exhibits, I was also able to get a caricature drawn, get ‘inked’ at a squid dissection, get a henna tattoo, decorate a sugar cookie with natural food dyes, and enjoy light snacks and drinks – all while a DJ mixed top tracks over the sound system. It was a fabulous date night (check out said caricature), and the next day I was telling all of my friends – with and without children – that they had to visit Thinkery. Genius, Thinkery, genius!

The event routinely sells out, and this month was no different. The team at Thinkery has done an excellent job in getting the word out in all the right publications (Austin’s Culture Map, Austin’s Social Planner, among others) since they launched this innovative idea in December 2013.  The event is definitely a hit, and Thinkery has enjoyed increased revenue, an expanded audience, and an increase in their supporter base.

How can you explore doing something similar at your museum? I asked the team for tips on how they implemented Thinkery21 – check it out:

  1. Pick topics that excite your audience. We periodically ask our Thinkery21 attendees what topics they would like us to explore. That way we get audience buy-in before we’ve even started planning an event.
  2. Develop strong relationships with community partners. Austin is full of brilliant artists, scientists, musicians, performers, educators and organizations doing incredible work. We invite 5-10 community partners to share their passion and expertise at each event requiring that they do a hands-on interactive activity that aligns with the evening’s theme. Even the beer we serve is from local breweries!
  3. Take advantage of social media. We blast event invites, pictures and information on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram because our attendees do too! Our visitors help spread the word by tagging us or using the hashtag #thinkery21.

“In short, the best topics are ones that are relevant to and directly showcase our community. Plus, we get the word out about Thinkery21 in the place we know our community is…social media.” – Adrienne Barnett, Public Programs Manager

Now that you’ve got the tips, how will you take it further? Comment on ideas you’ve put into play at your museum!


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