Row X is where audience experience meets artistic practice and organizational (business) strategy of arts organizations. The goal of the blog is to explore the sweet spot where these three interests overlap.
Audience experience is often seen as the purview of the marketing department until the point that the audience enters the theater or gallery doors. Then the artists take over. I’m in favor of a holistic approach that better meets everyone’s needs: the artist who wants to connect with and have an impact on their audience, the organization who wants an ongoing relationship with the audience, and the audience who wants to have an authentic engagement with art, somewhere on the spectrum of entertainment to earth-shaking and with a flexible exchange policy and easy parking.
The name of the blog refers to the same use of “X” as in the terms UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience). My goal in referring to those terms is that UX and CX practice focuses on the audience as more than just a source of money. “Experience” goes beyond the exchange of value between two parties to consider the process, impact, and ongoing relationship. Just about everyone in the arts says they want to take audience experience seriously, if not put it at the center of their work or their mission. This blog will discuss how close or far the arts are coming to this goal, and what that looks like.
A few values statements, or mantras, I will work from in my writing. 1) There is no one audience; there are many audiences for any artwork. Any one person or group’s experience can’t necessarily be extrapolated to other people. 2) Just as artists want to make all kinds of art and I’m sure you, dear reader, would agree that this should be encouraged, audiences want to see all kinds of art. Value judgments about taste are counterproductive to all parties. 3) Much can be learned from other industries and fields of study, so my writing will regularly begin with an idea from outside of the arts. 4) There need not be a tradeoff between artistic excellence or merit and a great audience experience. There are other tradeoffs, but that’s not one I’ll concede.
I’ll write about (mostly) current events in the arts through the lens of audience experience for the ArtsJournal audience of arts professionals. I’m an academic, so I’ll weave in research, but I’m much more interested in practice than detached scholarship, as I expect you are as well. I’m starting this blog in the Fall of 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so there will be frequent discussion of the new digital delivery of the arts, its innovations, and ramifications.
You are the audience for this blog that seeks to place the audience at the center. I want Row X to be useful and thought-provoking for you. I never had enough time when I was an arts staffer and leader to read about the field, much less step back and make original observations about what was happening. Now that is part of my job, and I’m glad to be in dialogue with you about our field.
I welcome your comments on Row X. Comments will be reviewed and approved by me. I’ll post critical comments, but not comments made in bad faith or that make insults. Not all comments will be approved for posting and it’s possible I may remove comments previously approved.