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Changing Spaces

This past Friday at the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in New York City, I was thrilled to participate in a forward-looking discussion about the pivotal role that venues and settings play in performing arts experiences.  All else being equal, why will some people attend programs in one setting, but not another?  What will artists require in terms of performance spaces in 10 or 20 years?  While most arts presenters are hardwired to offer programs in conventional venues with good acoustics and technical capabilities, the public is increasingly drawn to nontraditional, unusual, multi-use and temporary spaces that add a unique dimension to the live experience.  An increasingly impatient audience, with a shorter attention span and a higher threshold for pleasure, wants spaces where they can move around, be comfortable, eat, drink, socialize, be creative, and participate more actively in the experience.  What does this portend for the future of arts facilities?

I worry that cinemas will become the venue of choice for a large segment of the arts-going public, where they can sit in really comfortable seats and watch high quality digital broadcasts of the best art in the world for a fraction of the cost.  In fact, this train has already left the station.  While multiplexes might be the new frontier of arts participation, and a boost to overall levels of public participation in the arts, conventional spaces might be left in the dark.

I’ll be researching this topic over the coming months and plan to publish a white paper later in the year.  If you have an opinion to share, or if you would like to pass along examples of how arts groups have used non-traditional settings to reach new audiences, I would love to hear about it.  You may submit your comments here or via email.


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