The Cultural Index – a mission to increase the accessibility of cultural topics and art

The Cultural Index – a mission to increase the accessibility of cultural topics and art

Featured image: Anti-recognition garment by Mirjam v. Mengershausen
Grace Houghton (29) from Brisbane, Australia, has a background in experience design and strategy. A year and a half ago, she founded The Cultural Index with Sukie Rigby and Olivia Ellice-Flint. Their mission? Making innovative learning experiences unlike anything the world has ever seen before. On May 21st 2022 she launched her first learning exhibition named UNMASKED. With this exhibition, Grace dives deep into art and stories about the human face.

Can you tell me more about The Cultural Index and what it is exactly?

“The Cultural Index(TCI) was founded with the mission to increase the accessibility of cultural topics and art. We want to remove the academic barriers and connotations that come with traditional learning. We try to move away from the idea of heavy texts and long lectures which exclude the vast majority of people from important conversations. We focus on young adult audiences who may not have studied academically, but who are interested in understanding the world, art and culture in general.”

What are the kind of things you usually do when working for TCI? And what do you enjoy most?

“I have a pretty wonderful role at The Cultural Index. In an average week I could be working on anything from developing partnerships with artists or museums, to curating topics and ideas. Or coming up with creative concepts, moodboards and references for our experiences. And I write a lot. I mainly rewrite complex concepts into easily digestible pieces of information or translate them to stories. I work together a lot with my teammates Sukie Rigby and Olivia Ellis-Flint, and together we spend a lot of time brainstorming and trying to come up with nice angles, relevant partners and channels to bring these topics to life.”

How and when did you decide you wanted to start something like TCI?

“I moved to the Netherlands to design educational experiences for The European Holocaust Research Infrastructure. I then worked as a consultant, strategist and experience designer for technology and innovation projects. Consulting led me back to training and education. I started to think about how I could combine these worlds. Good design, cutting-edge technology, powerful stories and learning. The idea arose to teach people in ways that are both aesthetically stunning and foster knowledge transfer. All these elements came together and The Cultural Index was born.”

UNMASKED: Facial Weaponization Suite, by Zach Blas

The exhibition launch of your first project UNMASKED was on the 21st of May. Can you tell me more about this specific project?

“The exhibition marks the launch of our first online learning experience called UNMASKED.

UNMASKED invites visitors to reflect on the way we show our faces to the world. Will facial recognition and deepfake technology lead to the damnation or salvation of society?

UNMASKED asks audiences to reflect on the power and value of the human face. The project dives into stories and artifacts from Design Museum Den Bosch and Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, and features many international as well as local emerging artists.”

UNMASKED: Oliver Hunter Pohorille (Scum Boy)

What would be your dream job or project for TCI?

“Our goal with TCI is to explore how we can help organisations (both commercial and cultural) tell their stories and share their values with their audiences through learning infused experiences. For the majority of people today, brands form some of the most culturally powerful touchpoints, so we would love to investigate how we can help organisations use their reach to not just show what they stand for but also help their audiences experience it. We have visions of a future in which we bring together emerging artists and big players in the cultural sector and help them to connect to brands that want to say more.”

So what would be a dream collab?

“Working with an organisation such as Trippin world – a platform for inclusive conscious travel – artists like Scumboy, and a brand like Dazed to create learning infused stories that take editorials to the next level would definitely be a dream collab.”

As an entrepreneur, what is the definition of success for you?

“To me, success means having helped people learn something in a new way and to open up their perspective, even if it’s just a little bit.”



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