Artists and arts organization struggle daily with the question, “What do audiences want?” Some artists might boldly declare a detached nonchalant response to this question. Their artistic genius matters not on commercial success, but on meeting their own muse’s standards. Other arts organizations may change their signature completely to meet a budgetary goal by programming more popular art, rather than artists with more quality of the discipline. Otherwise termed, “the sell-out.”
Every artistic genre has stories of artists who choose to align their work on one side of this balance or the other. Many arts organizations work toward inviting people into understanding what their work is about through various means of outreach and educational initiatives. M asterworks will stand the test of time. But how do audiences develop an interest in being part of the new art, the live art, or participating in the process instead of merely observing its existence?
As an artist, I was pulled into these questions during the culture wars of the 1990s. Intrigued, worried, and somewhat befuddled by conversations I heard from established artists in the professional orchestra I was lucky enough to perform with, I started a quest to understand the barriers to the first problem:
Our audiences are graying. What are we doing to reach out to younger audiences?
That was 25 years ago. Babies born in that decade are having babies now. There have been changes in technology, changes in art, changes in the cultural economy, but the problem of audience building is ever present. There have been studies on audience segmentation, white papers on low barriers to entry, theories, symposiums, cross-disciplinary studies, foundations willing to support good ideas, and on and on.
There is no one solution. There are many creative ideas, innovative technologies, and people willing to take risks changing how they promote their art. But it can’t just be the artists who change. What about us, the audience? How can we change?
I’m about to take a risk in putting something into the world that might help audiences know more about the arts scene in The Lehigh Valley. It’s a mix of behind the scenes stories, interviews with “magic fairies,” information about the works, supplementary content, suggestions for complimentary activities, a blend of concierge/maitre’d assistance to help readers discover artistic experiences produced in the Lehigh Valley.
I’ve been building this project for a while.
This post is not meant to be a tease. It’s an invitation to readers to share what they look for when they’re looking for an artistic adventure. There are so many brilliant artistic voices in our community. So many ways to participate in the process.
What would you want to be able to access that would help you learn more about what’s happening in our arts community?
Asking…. for a friend.
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