The Problem of Taste

About Lynne Conner

Lynne Conner has written 3 posts in this blog. #

Lynne Conner is a cultural historian and playwright/director currently serving as Chair of the Theater and Dance Department at Colby College. Her research interests and consulting projects are focused on studying the history and contemporary status of audience behavior and psychology, with a special interest in how audiences engage in the interpretive process. She has given scores of talks on topics in the cultural policy field, including keynote and panels lectures at the Salzburg Global Seminar, Toronto Creative Trust, National Performing Arts Convention, Wallace Foundation, International Society of Performing Arts Presenters, Boston Foundation/Massachusetts Cultural Council, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Southwest Arts Conference, Grantmakers in the Arts, Dance USA, and the American Symphony Orchestra League, among others. Her audience studies publications include a widely cited chapter in Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America’s Cultural Life, co-edited by Steven J. Tepper and Bill Ivey (Routledge, 2008), Project Brief: The Arts Experience Initiative (available at, and We the Audience: The Pleasures of Interpretation in the Live|Digital Era, forthcoming in fall 2013 from Palgrave Macmillan. She has twice before been a guest blogger for #



  1. James E. Modrick says:

    ‘Life would be so much simpler if more people agreed with me.’

    The arts have experienced a “taste” problem for a very long time. Seems as though there has always been a distinction of “good” music versus many other forms, and even among the art formsm there is sone kind of distinction from “high” to “low” – “popular” to “elite”. Even grant applications make reference to this thing called artistic “excellence,” yet the only consistent definition provided is “I know it when I see it.” Hence: Life would be so much simpler is more people agreed with me.

    Even arts education advocates rely on the line “there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in art.” Still, apparent or not, there is a difference between “good” and “better”.

    The great challenge to this work of managing or administering in the arts remains giving people, i.e. your audience, what they want while you also provide what you as an artist feel that they need. In the perfect world: you give them what you think they need, and the audience thinks it is what they wanted all along.

    The wrench in all this audience development lead or follow discussion is that the modes of creating are expanding faster than our capacity to present them. Thus providing some kind of space for quality, or taste if you will, makes note that the need for skill development and being better is always there.