What People Say Helps Them Feel Welcome

Yesterday, I mentioned some of the factors about membership/subscription benefits that Colleen Dilenschneider and the folks at IMPACTS identified as most motivating for different generations and cultural backgrounds.

Earlier this month, they also identified “What Factors Create a Welcoming Guest Experience?” This is basically the sense of a place or experience being for someone like yourself. (subscription required)

Their graph of perceptions of exhibit based entities which were most and least welcoming provides the easiest to understand illustration of this. At the top end are zoos, at the bottom are children’s museums. In between is every other museum type and botanical gardens, eight categories in all. If it isn’t immediately apparent, (and it took me a second of pondering before reading onward to have my instinct verified), not everyone has children and thus don’t perceive children’s museums to be for people like themselves.

Interestingly though, when Dilenschneider’s team broke out the difference in perceptions between those who self-identified as non-Hispanic whites and those who self-identified as a BIPOC racial category, the gap between to two groups was smallest for children’s museums when compared to perceptions for the other exhibit based and performing arts categories. It was a difference of ~2% vs. anywhere between 6-10% difference.

As I noted yesterday, the IMPACTS folks mentioned that there are significant problems with the way people are asked to self-identify their race on surveys so it is difficult to determine any nuance in a category comprised of so many different groups.

Among the most encouraging findings of recent research is that people have noticed and appreciated efforts over the last two years by arts and cultural organizations to be more welcoming to a broader range of their communities. Over 70% of those identifying as BIPOC say they have felt more welcome. Over 50% of those identifying as non-Hispanic whites say they also have felt more welcome.

Perhaps the most important information in the post is what conditions are contributing to making people feel more welcome.

“Seeing people like me (other visitors)” was a significant factor. The indexed weight on the charts Dilenschneider & company provide placed it well ahead of the next two factors which were basically even. (Data like this is why I often encourage people to subscribe to their website and notifications)

Those next two are “Seeing people like me in ads and marketing materials” and “Seeing staff/volunteers like me”

“Fair representation in stories and exhibits” and “Interactions with staff” come next with similar weight, but slightly less than representation in marketing and staff/volunteers. Interactions with staff seems to be more about how people are treated.

“Multi-lingual signs” had far less weight than I expected. That might be a reflection of people who are multi-lingual still having a lower representation among participants.

While each of these categories had a much higher level of detailed explanation than I am providing here, there wasn’t any related to “Seeing programming relevant to me and my family.” My assumption is that given the complexity of interests people have, this differs from the “fair representation” category in that not everything that is relevant to you is necessarily tied to representation of your racial identity. You may feel anime is relevant to you and others of your social group. Similarly, programming related to drought and water conservation may be relevant to the region of the world in which you live.

“Fair and equal access to all experiences” and “Seeing performers relevant/like me and my family” were weighted least important.

Seeing performers like myself/family being at the bottom of the list surprised me since I had seen surveys around 2018 that placed that at the top of survey lists. Though that list was specifically people who did not participate in arts and cultural activities whereas the data set Dilenschneider and team used may be blended and have a larger representation of people who do participate in these activities.

The fact is, if you are going to pay attention to any of the other highly weighted results and work to increase the diversity of visitors, images in marketing, representation among volunteers and staff, and representation in stories and exhibits, there will be an inevitable impact upon who appears as a performer.

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.


Leave a Comment