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Growing Audiences

Over the last several years, there has been increasing talk about sharing knowledge in the cultural sector so that all can benefit from the lessons learned by a few. Because so much is happening at once in our sector, sometimes it’s hard to know where to look and what to read to find good syntheses. A few issues ago, I wrote about a Wallace Foundation publication that summarized research on effective arts education programs. Now, I’d like to recommend another Wallace publication that summarizes a variety of discussions and “lessons learned” at a recent gathering of more than 50 Wallace-funded arts organizations on the topic of engaging audiences. One of the key points highlighted in the report is the close relationship between personal practice (e.g., playing an instrument) and arts attendance (buying a ticket), and derives in part from our work with several of the Wallace grantees, including the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Building more bridges between arts creation and arts attendance, the report suggests, could be a long-term strategy for audience development.

As fewer and fewer people attend conferences due to shrinking budgets, I wish more conference organizers would produce this kind of concise summary, so that the field might benefit more widely from the dialogues that too often start and end at conferences.


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