MORE THAN JUST A PARTY | Audience Development in the Arts (for 18-34 yr olds)
This report is part of a larger set of case studies, commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, that describes and evaluates newly launched participation-building programs for audience development purposes in 4 American arts organizations .
There’s a context behind this study. Adult participation in cultural activities, such as visiting museums, was apparently at its lowest levels since 1982, according to the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.
However, this report explains how low levels of participation, as measured by the 2008 survey, do not imply low levels of interest. Right now we are witnessing a dramatic shift in participation, how it is measured, and what it can entail (especially for the more technological savvy younger generations, coincidentally targeted in this case study).
So the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum wanted to meet the needs of adults aged 18-24 who might be looking for more interactive ways of engaging with the museum. And when I think of Gen-Yers, I immediately think of anything mobile.
Which brings me back to my entry on the importance of evaluating social media interactions. With the need to attract and engage new audiences to ensure financial security, how do institutions evaluate and monitor their communications with online audiences? How do those interactions really measure up with headcounts and physical attendance ?
..And frankly, how much input do institutions actually have on this comparison, when faced with backward-thinking cultural policy-makers who claim that museum success is measured (and public support determined) by counting visitor heads?! #bitter #Dutchgovernment
Back to the report. Key findings among all cases in the major study are as follows:
- Market research can sharpen participation-strategy development and execution. (What I been sayin’!) Rigorous research, know your audience.
- Audiences are open to engaging with the arts in new and different ways. Makes sense, museums just have to keep up with the kids these days.
- Participation is ongoing, not a one-off initiative. This is important - not only to reach new audiences, but maintain and strengthen relationships with existing audiences as well.
- Audience-building efforts should be fully integrated into every element of an organization, not as a separate initiative. Yes! Not only for the Education Department shoved somewhere in a dark corner.
- Mission is critical. Phew, now I know why those mission statement exercises were hammered home during my Master’s program.
It’s an interesting read. Enjoy!