Trust In Cultural Organizations Continues To Grow

A recent post from Colleen Dilenschneider and the folks at IMPACTS analyzes survey data that shows trust in cultural organizations has grown since the pandemic.  Trust in cultural entities exceeds that of media sources, state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations. Among the more interesting insights from the data is that from 2010 to 2019, the level of trust for cultural organizations held relatively steady with values indicating mild agreement with the concept of trust associated with these organizations. Since 2020 however, the values increased to the level of agree and strongly agree with being able to trust those types of organizations.

I usually make relatively lengthy posts when writing about research results from Dilenschneider and her colleagues, but today I am going to offer a single excerpt that stood out to me regarding the cause of this shift in sentiment: (my emphasis)

At the same time, many cultural organizations experienced business disruptions. Some were closed for weeks or months at a time and unable to deliver the usual “visit us today” messaging. Instead, many cultural institutions began offering online experiences like virtual curator talks and trips behind the scenes. They put on educational programs and developed materials for families and schools grappling with virtual learning. In short, they proved relevance beyond their walls. They weren’t only talking about being places anymore. They also proved they were community resources.

Last May I posted about research showing that communicating on organization mission resulted in return visitation for cultural organizations.

Readers will probably also note that by shifting from visit us messaging to delivering content to communities, the organizations were focusing externally rather than internally.  The organizations were trying to offer content they felt would entertain, educated, and engage people rather than primarily focus the artistic excellence of the organization and artists.

I saw a lot of organizations develop fun, clever, engaging voices for themselves through digital offerings during the pandemic. Much of the content was new information for me and I didn’t find it dumbed down. If anything, it often made me do some additional research.  I am thinking maybe I need to go back and see if they are  maintaining or expanded  on that voice after restrictions lifted or did they shift back to more internally focused visit us today approach.

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. (

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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