ArtsJournal: Should Arts Organizations Lead or Follow Their Audiences?
Jan 23, 2012
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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Recently I was asked to participate in a new “Lead or Follow” debate on ArtsJournal to weigh in on the provocative topic of when and how arts nonprofits should engage audiences. ArtsJournal framed the question in a very broad way: “In this age of self-expression and information overload, do our artists and arts organizations need to lead more or learn to follow their communities more?”
As we recently launched our new Arts strategy with promoting engagement as its core goal, I gladly accepted the invitation to weigh in. After all, this was a key tension over the last year as we considered how best to support arts organizations in being able to respond to the variety of demographic and technological shifts facing the field. The new “leaders,” I wrote, “will be those who are successful at facilitating creative, immersive, active arts experiences alongside our ‘traditional’ expertise of creating something and presenting it whole and complete for a more observational experience.”
The online debate features other guest authors from a variety of backgrounds who also wrote provocative and compelling entries. I think their posts are important contributions to the debate, helping to define the true meaning of audience engagement and spotlighting the need for top arts administrators to do a better job of listening to what their audiences want. Not surprisingly, many of the posts have prompted robust reactions.
I greatly appreciate ArtsJournal’s efforts at putting this very important debate about arts leadership front and center in a new and compelling format that allows readers to track the posts by author or by “lead” or “follow” argument tracks and for providing a number of resource publications that help inform the debate. Please read my ArtsJournal post and let us know your thoughts.