Community Conversations Initiative

The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) recognizes that the museum community is currently undergoing a significant period of change to align with community and visitor expectations, needs and demands.

To address these challenges, VAM is excited to launch an exciting initiative this summer that will serve to acknowledge these changes effectively for our statewide museum community and to provide the tools and preparation necessary to face them.

Community Conversations: Facing Challenges in the Museum Field will engage those in the Virginia and DC museum community to seek effective solutions that can be shared across the field. Encompassing a series of virtual focus groups, in-person charrettes and a mid-year conference, participants will have the opportunity throughout this year and next to share their perspectives and help determine the most pressing needs in Virginia’s museum community, and what support that VAM might provide to meet those needs.

Project Goals

  1. Respond to a key period of transition in the museum field by identifying strategies for museums to respond to changing societal needs and expectations. Position VAM to be a key resource for Virginia and DC museums to support this transition.
  2. Engage VAM’s membership and those in the museum community across Virginia and Washington, DC.
  3. Identify strategic planning initiatives for VAM’s Board of Directors and Staff to help lead the association in its future planning process.

Focus Groups

To launch the initiative, a series of virtual Focus Groups were held throughout July and August. This series was led by project facilitator, Steven Blashfield, Principal and Director of the Cultural Studio at Glavé & Holmes Architecture, and Treasurer of VAM’s Board of Directors.

Utilizing the regularly scheduled Peer Group Chats on Thursday afternoons at 3:00pm ET, these hour-long conversations offered opportunities for members of the museum field in Virginia and Washington, DC to have their voices heard.   

Thank you for all of your feedback during these virtual events--many of the topics covered will become a part of the in-person charette discussions as we plan for VAM's future.


This year, the process continues as VAM hosts a series of charrettes across the Commonwealth.

In-person charrettes will be held in each of the five regions that comprise VAM’s membership map: Central, Mountain/Valley, Northern, Southwest, and Tidewater/Eastern Shore. Led by our project facilitator and board directors for each region, these half-day gatherings will attempt to tackle the challenges raised during the virtual focus groups.

  • Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton (Mountain/Valley) November 30, 2021 
  • William King Museum of Art, Abingdon (Southwest) December 15, 2021 
  • Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Northern) January 24, 2022
  • Mary M. Torggler Fine Arts Center at Christopher Newport University (Tidewater) Februrary 4, 2022 
  • Robert Russa Moton Museum (Central) April 27, 2022 RSVP! 

What is a Charette?

A charette (pronounced “shuh-ret”) is an intense period of work by a group of people, that is often used by various design fields, preservationists, government, housing, and community organizations to tackle an issue or further concept development. The process typically brings groups together for deep listening, brainstorming, and creative problem solving. 

The word charette comes from the French word for “cart” or “chariot” and is sometimes spelled “charrette.” The term is thought to have originated in the 1800s at the Parisian art school, the École des Beaux Arts, when professors would circulate a cart, or “charette,” to collect final artwork while students worked feverishly to meet the deadline.


Ongoing Engagement

During the project, additional opportunities for engagement will be implemented and offered, including as part of VAM’s 2022 Annual Conference program and a comprehensive membership survey. 


Project Outcomes

The results of the Community Conversations: Facing Challenges in the Museum Field initiative will be rolled-out during a mid-year virtual conference to be held in the fall of 2022.

The eventual issues to be addressed will directly impact VAM’s three-year strategic plan.