Mind Blowing How Much Close Family And Friends Add To Attendance Experience

Some pretty compelling evidence that we should be encouraging people to participate in arts and cultural activities with family and friends. Colleen Dilenschneider and the folks at IMPACT released some data about whether school group visits to exhibit and performance based experiences translate into visitation as adults. (subscription required)

The answer is pretty shocking (my emphasis):

People who visited as children with their families generally do find cultural organizations to be welcoming, while folks who visited with groups are somewhat on the fence when considered as a collective.

Perhaps the most jarring finding is the lack of significant difference in welcoming perceptions among those who visited with school groups (or other groups) and those who did not visit as children at all. Visiting a cultural organization with a group generally did not impact attitude affinities as an adult.

They break out this data across a number of graphs in terms of household income and exhibit vs. performance based experiences and the results are consistent. Similarly, responses to intent to visit and the extremely important willingness to recommend to others followed similar trends. People who attended with family and friends had more positive responses than those who attended with groups or never attended.

It is important to note this data doesn’t separate out those who participate in longer term experiences like camps, residencies, classes, outreach programs.

The folks at IMPACTS have some theories about why there is so little difference between those that only have experiences with groups and those that have never visited as children. I encourage people to take a look at the article to learn more about this. They probably wrote 2000+ words on the topic and include a number of charts. I am just reaching 250 words here–including what I have quoted.

Thinking back about my own experiences as a child, I suspect that the modeling behavior of adults has a big impact on children. There are things I assumed about my life arc based on my perceptions of my parents and those of my peers when I was a child that I was surprised to learn were erroneous when I grew up due to the expectations they stated and modeled.

In the context of this data, it seems even more important to reflect on how we can make it easier for families to make the decision to attend. Really, I suspect that if you did the same research on 30-50 year olds who said the friends they made in college helped get them in the attendance habit, you would probably find a similar level of willingness to attend in the future or recommend to others. You might not find the same raw numbers as those whose parents/grandparents/neighbors took them, but socialization will probably still be a factor.

Facilitating the ease of decision making requires examining every aspect of the experience from programming, promotion, ticketing experience, parking, the welcome, concessions, and the departure.

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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