Brocade Studio is the planning arm of Madge Bemiss Architect. We are a design consultancy that provides research, design, and management services to organizations engaged in work with a positive social impact. We employ principles of user research and design to help organizations create breakthrough solutions to intractable problems.
historic polegreen church foundation
planning for the future of a national historic site
Known locally as the “ghost church” for its distinctive white beams, Polegreen Church was first erected in 1743 and remains a significant site in the story of American religious freedom. During the subsequent Civil War, the artillery shell of a confederate officer - whose father had been baptized at Polegreen - hit the wooden church, which burned to the ground. The congregation could not afford to rebuild it. Almost 150 years later, a compelling open-air structure was erected in its place to commemorate the site’s layered history.
In 2016, the founding generation of leaders at the Historic Polegreen Church Foundation faced a thoroughly modern dilemma: a need to increase the site’s relevancy and expand its community of supporters in order to achieve long-term operational sustainability. The board engaged Brocade Studio to lead a tactical strategic planning effort to help address these issues.
Brocade facilitated planning sessions with the board, considering and weighing competing visions for the future. Using the methods of human-centered design, we cast board members as both experts and designers. This, coupled with research on peer sites, their current audience, and a broader market scan, provided rich context for the board to step into the role of designers and devise possible courses of action.
A tactical, short-term plan emerged that set measurable goals horizons of one, three, and five years to move the foundation through a significant period of transition. Unlike longer-term and more traditional, vision-driven plans, Brocade’s deliverables focused on urgent issues and provided a goal-oriented, quantifiable, and achievable strategic roadmap to ensure the site will thrive in the years to come.
museum of the mississippi delta
reinvigorating a museum community
Once a center of the cotton industry, Greenwood, Mississippi now struggles with the social and economic impacts of its demise. This challenge is well illustrated by the Museum of the Mississippi Delta (MoMD), which was founded as “Cottonlandia” in 1969 to celebrate the story of cotton but more recently renamed itself, determined to broaden its appeal. While the name change was a statement of intent, real growth required a refreshed and clearer purpose.
After several years of declining community support, unrest on the board, and lurching efforts to jumpstart the museum, the Board engaged Brocade Studio director Madge Bemiss to lead a swift, targeted strategic planning effort. By focusing on three critical issues - governance, community engagement, and fundraising - Brocade encouraged an atmosphere of openness and exploration through which the Board, museum staff, and stakeholders were able to narrow an array of competing options down to a manageable set of initiatives. This made it easy for the group to commit to a plan of action.
Invigorated and newly empowered, the museum director and Board leaders set about making targeted changes that resulted in significant impact. Today the board is smaller, more diverse, and more active. A reenergized fundraising team led a successful capital campaign that allowed the museum to renovate two galleries, increase accessibility, and open a community room. Collaborative programmatic partnerships with larger museums and cultural institutions have brought in visitors and increased the museum's’ visibility. In recognition of their success in fostering community conversations, the Mississippi Arts Commission granted the MoMD full funding for the first time this past year.