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PREVIEW: The Museum Sage @ MIA

Museum Sage is coming to the Minneapolis Institute of Art on December 2nd. This service promises to help you answer important life questions in an unusual manner – by taking you through an art gallery with your eyes closed, then allowing you to select the artwork with your answer in a trial by Bible-esque manner. We chatted with Museum Sage’s Laurie Phillips about this unusual way of engaging with art.


Museum Sage used to be called Art-o-mancy. Why the change?

The original name, Art-o-mancy, referred to the root word for divination: “mancy,” as in cartomancy (Tarot) or bibliomancy. It was a fun retro way to say that this practice is about using art to divine the future. However, we started to serve history and science museums as well and decided to go for a more inclusive name.

Has the programming changed at all with the name change?

Museum Sage was offered only by trained Guides with coaching skills. We’re still delivering it that way, but now we’ve added a self-guided app that we’ll be offering to museum education departments next February.

What are some of the more surprising personal questions that people have expressed?

Some of the more memorable questions:

  • How can I open my heart to my wife more?
  • How do I let go of fear?
  • Should I leave my job?
  • How can I feel peaceful in the midst of so much conflict and tension at work?
  • Where should my creative project go next?
  • How do I deal with my daughter who’s a drug addict?
  • What’s the meaning of my life?
  • Am I overly involved with my cell phone, especially game-playing?
  • How do I take care of my body when I’m in so much pain?
  • Am I doing enough to make a future opportunity happen?

Has anyone ever asked the “Shall I date my co-worker?” question?

Nobody has asked about dating their co-worker… yet.

Is this one question/session, or multiple questions?

Depends on how much time you have. Some people can’t decide on a question and let the art tell them what question they should have asked. It all works!

Do you have many people coming back with different questions?

Yes, once they try it and get a good result, people come back for more!

One of the original Roschach Test ink blots.
One of the original Roschach Test ink blots.

Are there any galleries that are off limits?

There are some collections on loan to the museum where they prohibit taking photos. We avoid those galleries since part of the process is taking a photo of the “Sager” with their artwork, as well as photographing the wall label so they can do more research online when they leave the museum.

Have you tried this in abstract painting galleries?

Yes, the Museum Sage process works well with abstract art. They’re similar to inkblots on a Rorschach psychological test.

Museum Sage will be available on Dec. 2, 2016 from 6:30 PM-9 PM at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Tickets are $35/person and are available online through museumsage.com.

Hanne Appelbaum
Hanne Appelbaum is the Editor of the Twin Cities Arts Reader. She was born in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and moved to the Twin Cities to take up a career as a classroom paraprofessional. She is the mother of three children, an enthusiastic educator, and a passionate fan of dance in all of its forms. She enjoys ice skating, Game of Thrones (books over HBO, but who's counting), and restaurant dives.
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