Are You An Implementer Or A Reader Of Arts Blog Knowledge?

Via, on Arts & Culture Texas site, Tarra Gaines gives name to the difference between live and streamed performance. (my emphasis)

Amid this deluge of performance art offerings flowing into my house, I realized two words marred my experience: remote and control. With remote clenched in one hand and phone in the other, it hit me: No longer a member of an audience, I had become merely a viewer now.

The problem with streaming performing arts for me is that in ordinary times, even when watching a television show or movie at home I truly like, I still tend to fast forward through subplots, characters, dialogue I find tedious…


Streaming the performing arts at home has taught me that sometimes the visceral power of theater is all about the audience being in it together as a community, but other times its potency lies in all the judging looks I would receive trying to leave the theater in the middle of a scene.

I have come to understand the difference between being a viewer and being an audience is that bit of control we give up to become a part of the we.

Certainly, nothing we haven’t already considered in a general sense. It did get me wondering if there might be some value in messaging, either overtly or as subtext, that says, “We don’t want viewers, we want you to participate as an audience member.”

Basically, the idea would be to make negative associations with being a viewer versus being part of an audience.  There is definite potential in associating audience status with people’s existing values about connecting and sharing experiences with others.

It is important to remember that we know from the soon to be mythical pre-Covid times that people yearned to share experiences that were active rather than passive observation of an event. Elevating audience over viewer through reinforced messaging and imagery by itself ain’t gonna cut it.

Back in early June, I mentioned Nina Simon’s talk for the Opera America conference where she encouraged arts organizations to start using social media messaging to build relationships and start conversations with the groups you want to begin attracting to your organization. One of the benefits of doing this when you aren’t operating at your usual capacity is that you can learn about what interests people and start planning future programming to align with those expectations without having your current programming contradict what you are saying.

The general public aren’t necessarily aware that the arrangements for something happening in August 2020 were made 18-24 months or more earlier. So if you are saying communicating “we are committed to X for the future” and what enters your space next week doesn’t seem to align with that messaging, it can make things difficult.

Obviously, seeing not being able to operate as a beneficial opportunity for your organization is an effort to make lemonade with a whole lot of lemons but that aphorism is all about dealing with the present situation, not the more ideal one you wish you had.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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