When I learned about “Culture + Community In a Time of Crisis,” Culture Track's national study provided by LaPlaca Cohen and SloverLinett, I knew that the Auditorium Theatre had to participate. This national study explores the attitudes and behaviors toward arts and culture during COVID-19, and how organizations can better serve their communities. This study is a valuable tool for developing strategic plans and marketing strategies as organizations reopen and rebuild their audiences post-COVID-19. Approximately 124K people from 653 cultural organizations around the United States responded to the survey making it one of the largest arts and cultural studies.
What’s cool about this research is that they also recently released an interactive dashboard(s) that you can use to measure overall responses against people who hold memberships or subscribe to an organization. Earlier this summer, they also released a report that discusses crucial findings.
You can see the interactive dashboard here and the report here.
There's a lot of information to digest in this report, and many ways different departments at your organization can use it to improve your mission, strategies, and processes.
I pulled some of the insights that are the most compelling to me from a marketing and growth strategy standpoint. Please keep in mind that the survey was sent between April 29-May 19, before the protests for racial justice took place across the country. Given how fluid current events are these days, attitudes have most likely changed and a second wave is planned for this fall.
The arts and cultural organizations need to create a viable plan that genuinely works toward including people of color on and off the stage. Most of the people who responded had the characteristics of the traditional arts audience member (white, wealthy, older, and educated). This doesn’t give an accurate representation of how people from all walks of life feel about arts and culture during COVID-19. For example, 81% of respondents were white; however, white adults make up 63% of the US adult population. To ensure that the report provides a more accurate representation from all voices, La Placa Cohen and Slover Linnett weighted the responses from people of color.
Throughout the study, it's clear that people want to participate in activities that are fun, connect with other people, and make them laugh.
There is also a strong indication that people want arts organizations to play a role in educating young people.
Respondents want to see arts organizations improve by supporting more local artists, including all kinds of people, and treating their employees fairly and equitably.
81% of responders said that they spent time doing something creative during the quarantine. Note that these activities centered around creating (not consuming) something. Cooking or baking, singing, knitting, painting, photography, and writing are examples.
53% of people who responded said they participated in one or more digital cultural activities, meaning that they consumed arts and culture. Pre-COVID performances, live-stream performances, activities for kids, classes/workshops, podcasts were the top five types of digital choices.
Only 13% of responders paid to watch online cultural content.
Many respondents who utilized online cultural offerings had not physically visited the same cultural organizations in the past year. Depending on the type of organization, this ranged from 28-74%.
Over half of the respondents are aware that arts and culture organizations are hurting financially. Not surprisingly, donating to human and health services have become a more critical priority since the pandemic began.
RETURNING IN PERSON
69% of people had done little to no planning for a future arts and culture experience post-COVID-19.
There are 6 out of 10 factors that influence peoples’ decisions to return to the arts that organizations can control. More people selected the uncontrollable factors such as a vaccine (50%) and the availability of testing (40%).
Develop digital and in person programs that at least includes a component that focuses on creating art as opposed to consuming art. A significant number of people said that they were spending their time creating (81%) as opposed to consuming art (53%).
Engaging young people is key to this industries long-term health and growth. Right now, caregivers are seeking high-quality, educational activities for the young people in their lives. They'll appreciate it if you schedule programming and activities that are appealing to younger people.
For all the discussions that take place around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the arts and culture sector, there's many bold decisions that need to be made and executed. The New York Times recently featured a piece on solutions (among other challenges) from 20 players in the industry: "End unpaid internships. Set term limits for leaders. Get real about inclusion. Take performances to the streets. Say yes to joy, and no to couch plays." Click here to read all of them.