Facing waning audiences and challenged relevancy, many arts organizations are paying closer attention to place — the settings where arts experiences are offered — as a way to attract and more deeply engage new audiences.
Why “Where”? Because “Who” examines why and how place has become an important variable for arts practitioners to consider as they chart a course for the future.
HISTORICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT
This report looks at the historical and social context for this phenomenon. The arts have existed for centuries in public and informal spaces that are only recently considered unusual places to program. In many ways, this new focus on “where” has brought art back to the places in which it once existed, not taken it to places that are entirely foreign.
These places are often more accessible to more potential participants than are “traditional venues.” The arts were once “owned” by a larger portion of the population but that control shifted over the last two hundred years. Programming in unusual spaces has the capacity to reengage a broader public by creating experiences that align with their values and expectations in the places they want to be engaged.
FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING AND APPLICATION
Why “Where”? Because “Who” presents a framework designed to help practitioners understand and make informed choices about the variables at work in arts programming across a variety of places. This framework is applied to project case studies included in this report, offering examples and ideas for interested practitioners and supporters.
Study of organizations featured in this report generated a set of six lessons learned about putting place to work toward an arts organization’s goals for new audience engagement. These are:
These lessons, and the many more than can be drawn from looking at other examples of best practice, are vital. The increased focus on “where” is not likely to change anytime soon. The future of the arts depends on programming in both new and old spaces, creating experiences that satisfy current participants and speak to new ones. Ultimately, “where” should and will grow to be an ever more important variable in the presentation and production of art, especially as one considers “who” one serves.
Arts Organizations Connecting With Audiences Here, There, and Everywhere
In Toronto, arts organizations have been turning train stations, abandoned factories, and even bustling malls into concert spaces.
Several opera companies around the world are shaking things up, sometimes dramatically. One company in Italy is performing opera on the beach!
In Brooklyn, Loft Opera performs programs in unusual places at affordable prices – warehouses, studios, and lofts – something that is not new to art in the city, but is new to the “mainstream” opera of today.
Chamber music was written to be performed in, well, chambers, not concert halls, and those chambers were often people’s homes. While most of us can’t hire musicians to come play in our living room, arts organizations can, and many are now discovering how much audiences love it.
Some organizations are redefining what a concert experience can be. In Brooklyn, an old sawdust factory is being transformed into a combination night club, concert hall, and music studio featuring such establishment companies as the New York Philharmonic, among others.
The San Francisco Symphony has turned one of its rehearsal halls into a performance space complete with cocktails and mood lighting to attract a younger audience.
These metamorphoses are not limited to music – on Chicago’s Southside, the Beverly Area Arts Alliance is turning long-vacant storefronts into art galleries.
As we revealed in a recent report, arts organizations are learning that the work they create can be more meaningful and relevant to their audiences depending on where it’s presented.