Interesting stuff, as always, from arts market researcher Alan S. Brown…this time in his work with the University of Pennsylvania’s ”Social Impact of the Arts Project,” and their efforts to benchmark cultural participation in and around North Philadelphia. There’s lots to dig through in the final report by project leaders Mark J. Stern and Susan C. Seifert (available here as a PDF file), but I’ll focus on a single slide in Brown’s presentation to the area’s cultural institutions (available in PowerPoint).
Specifically, Brown suggests five ”modes” of arts participation, based on the level of creative control by the participant. Moving from total control to no control, he describes these modes as follows:
- Inventive Arts Participation engages the mind, body and spirit in an act of artistic creation that is unique and idiosyncratic, regardless of skill level.
- Interpretive Arts Participation is a creative act of self-expression that brings alive and adds value to pre-existing works of art, either individually or collaboratively.
- Curatorial Arts Participation is the creative act of purposefully selecting, organizing and collecting art to the satisfaction of one’s own artistic sensibility.
- Observational Arts Participation encompasses arts experiences that you select or consent to, motivated by some expectation of value.
- Ambient Arts Participation involves experiencing art, consciously or unconsciously, that you did not select.
The implication is that we all engage, create, or consume cultural experiences in different ways at different times, and that an essential variable in that spectrum is the level of personal control over that experience. I’d suggest that the predominant (perhaps disproportional) emphasis of professional cultural nonprofits is the forth mode on the list (observational). Have we been ignoring or discounting opportunities in the rest of the spectrum?