Haven’t Seen You Around Recently

I’m happy to say that things are starting to get back to a place where I feel like I can start blogging again. Hopefully it will stay that way. I really underestimated how difficult things were going to become when I made the “On Hiatus” post in November.

When I finally got a chance to start reading about practices and trends in the arts, a familiar source caught my attention – Colleen Dilenschneider. Last week she posted that not only was visitation by new and non-recent visitors up on 2020 and 2021 versus 2019 and earlier, but that visitation by self-identifying non-white members of these groups was also up in this period of time.

The percentage of new and non-recent visitors who self-identify as non-White increased 52% from 2019 to 2020! It rose from 10.0% to 15.2%. This percentage fell to 13.9% of new and non-recent attendance in 2021, but is still a dramatic 39% increase compared to 2019 levels!

Earlier in February, she had posted that in recent years people have begun to perceive many, though not all, cultural entities as being more welcoming to individuals like themselves. That article is worth reading for greater insight into this trend. Unfortunately, symphony/orchestras were most strongly perceived as “not welcoming to people like me” among survey respondents.

In last week’s post, Dilenschneider provides some guidance about how to interpret the increased numbers:

Please resist the urge to see these numbers and think “Score! We got people who were disinterested in attending to visit us during the pandemic.” Behavioral economics and audience motivation studies suggest that entities should instead say, “Score! We got people who were already interested in visiting us to finally move us up on their to-do list and trial/re-trial our experience!”

She suggests that the uptick in attendance is likely due to the start of efforts toward diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ). Specifically she mentions that due to the pandemic, marketing messaging shifted from “Visit Now” toward DEIJ and customer-centric values.

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive 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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