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Creativity out of constraint

The freshly-restored MIAN façade ©Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf do Brasil

Collaborative financing for the MIAN’s facelift and renovation

By Tatiana Levy, Educational and Executive Manager, Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro

The Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf do Brasil (MIAN) is a private museum which houses the collection of a single man, Lucien Finkelstein, creator and founder of the museum. It is the largest and most comprehensive compilation of naïve art paintings in the world, consisting of 6,000 works of art from around 120 countries, and opened to the public in 1995.

The building housing the collection is an eclectic-style mansion built in 1908, bought by Mr Finkelstein himself to house the paintings; however, it was deliberately not donated to the foundation which maintains the museum, the Lucien Finkelstein Foundation, making it impossible, according to Brazilian legislation, to apply for public funding or use tax exemption to finance any improvements to the building. This situation had always proved an obstacle for the museum’s team in terms of carrying out the necessary renovation and conservation of the house.

The museum’s interior ©Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf do Brasil

A fresh start

In 2011, the museum, which had been closed for five years due to lack of funding and the passing away of its founder and president, was injected with new life when cultural management consultant Patricia Castro proposed a partnership with the founder’s family. A project was submitted for public funding, the much-awaited financial aid came and the museum reopened to the public in 2012 with new exhibitions, a new visual identity, a new website, a social media presence, interactive and technological features to enrich the visitor’s experience and renovated exhibition halls. However, due to the legal situation of the building, the facade and external areas were not able to benefit from the improvements.

The solution to this longstanding problem came through the popularisation of collaborative funded projects, known as crowdsourcing or crowdfunding.  The museum’s management team created a project called MIAN de Cara Nova (MIAN’s new face), with the objective of actively involving the community, fans and friends of the museum to raise the money needed for the conservation and renovation of the museum´s facade, in the absence of being able to qualify for traditional funding. The idea was to offer museum prizes for financial contributions, ranging from regular gift shop merchandise to original paintings donated by painters, mediated visits and plaques recognising people or companies who contributed to the cause.

A tangible and technological approach

The project was divided into three phases. Phase one consisted of a silent auction: the founder’s family donated 25 paintings from their personal naïve art collections, families of naïve painters and the painters themselves donated another five paintings, for a total of 30. A microsite was created for the paintings up for silent auction and a temporary exhibit was held in the museum’s garden and veranda. This made it possible for people to place bids via e-mail or to come to the museum and view the paintings and place their bid in an urn. This action was publicised on the MIAN website and Facebook page and attracted local media, which resulted in articles in Brazil’s most prestigious newspapers: O Globo and Estadão. The exhibition and the microsite attracted potential contributors and we raised 50% of the funds required. This phase was completed in October 2012.



The MIAN staff gets involved ©Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf do Brasil


Phase two was a crowdfunding initiative. The MIAN management staff chose the Benfeitoria platform to host our project, because (at the time) they were a pro bono platform that had successfully funded cultural projects. They also structured the project and helped us model it on their pillars: win/win (a prize for every financial contribution), using your personal network, getting all staff members involved, and lastly, all or nothing (if the goal amount is not received, all contributions are returned). They also advised us to create a video featuring all staff members, which was a big group effort. Everyone contributed effectively, sharing posts on their social media networks, talking to visitors about the campaign, talking to their friends and families and generally spreading the word. As far as I know, we were the first Brazilian museum to finance a renovation project in this manner, and the initiative drew media attraction, featured in a number of newspaper articles. We successfully raised the rest of the money (50%), after obtaining the legal licenses necessary for the renovation. The renovation work was completed in three months and all the prizes were given to contributors. One of the most remarkable outcomes of this project was to actually connect with the people who had donated to the project when they visited the museum to collect their prizes. Every reward included at least two tickets to the museum, so we received highly interested visitors, hosting well-attended mediated visits, and there was a great deal of dialogue between our benefactors and museum staff. All in all, it was a hugely successful experience: it brought the museum´s staff together as a team, allowed us to connect with our admirers, visitors and neighbours and created a culture of shared responsibility. ‘MIAN de Cara Nova’ was a lot of work, but that’s part of the show!

Phase three is the launch of the MIAN Museum Friend´s Club. While the renovation work has been completed, we still struggle with financial issues to keep the museum alive and kicking, so to build on this connection that started with the silent auction, we are launching a ‘become a museum member’ campaign in June 2016. The categories and buttons are already available on the MIAN site, allowing anyone to choose a category and become a member, but our marketing strategy will be to liaise with our benefactors and their friends through social media, e-mail and direct phone calls to our non-technological friends! Long live the MIAN!

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