Benefits of the Arts


One of the best things about blogging (especially in the summer when so many of my colleagues in academia are paying less attention) is the opportunity to experiment with ideas that are, shall we say, not fully baked. Careful (and long-time) readers of this blog may recall that in my post Art for Art's Sake? There's No Such Thing, I expressed some discomfort with the notions of intrinsic and instrumental benefits of the arts. That construct … [Read more...]

Engagement Vocabulary in Action


In an effort to clarify the points from my last two posts (Engagement Vocabulary and Parsing Vocabulary), I'm going to try to describe the differences among audience development, audience engagement, and community engagement by using a specific work produced by an arts organization as an example. [But first, to re-repeat, here are the operating definitions I'm using: Audience Development is a marketing strategy designed for immediate … [Read more...]

Parsing Vocabulary

In Engagement Vocabulary I introduced work-in-progress definitions of audience development, audience engagement, and community engagement. [To repeat: Audience Development is a marketing strategy designed for immediate results (sales, donations, etc.). Audience Engagement is a marketing strategy designed for deepening relationships with current stakeholders and expanding reach over time. Community Engagement is a mission strategy … [Read more...]

Engagement Vocabulary

I have on a number of occasions this year (New Thought on Audience and Community Engagement, An Engagement Continuum, Outreach and Audience Engagement, Outreach ≠ Community Engagement) introduced the idea that we need to come to some consensus on the meaning of the words we use when discussing “engagement.” What follows is a summary of some of the thinking I’ve been doing and presenting in work around the country (and in … [Read more...]

Outreach ≠ Community Engagement

I  sometimes hear people equate outreach with community engagement. In my ongoing effort to clarify the language we use about these matters, I'd like to differentiate between these two terms. For me, the simplest distinction is that outreach is (at best) done "for," community engagement is done "with."  Outreach, as the word implies, keeps the "outreacher" at the center. The "targets" of the outreach are outsiders. The entire center of gravity as … [Read more...]

An Engagement Continuum


I'm on a roll talking about types of engagement (New Thought on Audience and Community Engagement). So I thought I'd take a crack at one I've not addressed before: Civic Engagement. Early last month I spoke with a friend and colleague–Barbara Schaffer Bacon–who, along with Pam Korza (another buddy), is co-director of Americans for the Arts' Animating Democracy program. One purpose of the conversation was to see how we might best coordinate the … [Read more...]

New Thought on Audience and Community Engagement


Let me make it clear up front that I am talking about a concept in progress here. That caveat out of the way . . . . As I have said before here, there is (or should be) a differentiation between audience engagement and community engagement. I have written about this on numerous occasions, but as I speak about it more and more I find that my understanding of the differences is emerging. Here are the current "top of my mind" thoughts. The … [Read more...]

Civic Practice

Michael Rohd, the Founding Director of Portland (OR)'s Sojourn Theatre has recently posted an extremely thoughtful reflection on community engagement and theatre: The New Work of Building Civic Practice. As I've said before, I am aware of the danger of echo-chambering in the blog world, especially in this case since the things he says sound so much like my rants. But, as in the past, I simply can't help myself. Mr. Rohd identifies the central … [Read more...]

The Words We Use


Visitor, audience Customer, consumer These are some of the words that we in the museum and performing arts world use to describe those who take advantage of the work we offer the public. Over the last two months of conference immersion I have been hearing and thinking about all of them a good deal. One thing they have in common, from my point of view, is that they separate us from them. With the first two it is understood that they come to us, … [Read more...]