For many reasons, the questions of ‘audience engagement’ have been simmering in my head in recent weeks. For one, I’m working on a project on that very topic, as an advising consultant to AMS Planning & Research for TCG’s Audience (R)Evolution initiative. For another, I’m prepping for this Thursday’s ‘How Art Works’ public forum with the National Endowment for the Arts and their new systems map, which explores how individual and social impacts flow from the arts experience. But there have been other strands, as well:
- An executive search consultant to arts organizations concerned about the shift in senior-level marketing director candidates, who see their work increasingly as a job rather than a calling (an empty seat is a missed metric rather than a lost opportunity for joy).
- A choreographer frustrated that we’ve become so focused on getting more butts in the seats that we’re dissipating the effort to deepen and enrich the experience of those already there.
- My own prep and presentation for my Survey of Arts Management class at American University, where I’ve been trying to rethink how to talk about and teach the dynamic tensions of cultural management.
- Last week’s short but elegant post by Greg Sandow on our four keys to a better future for classical music.
- My continuing pondering on the efforts and insights of ‘Counting New Beans,’ from Theatre Bay Area, and Clay Lord’s exploration of participatory practice in the new edition of Artivate.
For myself, I resolved the question long ago about whether an arts organization is a business. Of course it is. But that doesn’t determine for me what business an arts organization is in. In a world of scarcity and competition, we all seem tempted to be in a volume business — grabbing as many participants as we can. But if we’re really in the meaning business, then quantity can’t be our only metric or goal.