To build audiences, arts presenters should examine why people attend a cultural event, where they like to go, with whom they attend and what they hope to get out of it. A national survey of 1,231 Americans about cultural participation, commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, suggests that “… arts research, policy and management need to pay greater attention to the diversity of cultural participation – that is, the difference in what people attend and the differing motivations, expectations and experiences that accompany particular types of arts participation.” The report concludes, “One size does not fit all.”

For example, those who produce arts and crafts fairs and festivals might be chagrined that only 34 percent of those who attended strongly agreed that the artistic quality was high. But, then again, only 26 percent of attendees did so for high-quality art. Also, fairs may be falling short of expectations: while “socializing” was named as the prime motivator by nearly 60 percent of visitors, only 45 percent felt their expectations were met.

Another finding was that 59 percent of frequent attendees of cultural events said they had attended at least one event in the past year held at a club, coffee house or restaurant. If presenters want to target frequent attendees, they might consider staging an event at such a venue, or advertising there.

 Points of Interest

  • Arts audience members attend events for a variety of different reasons, such as socializing or gaining knowledge—and those seeking to build audiences should take the reasons into account.
    Survey: #Arts attendees report varied motivations. Those seeking to build audiences should take that into account.
  • Survey reports that at least 59% of attendees of dance, music and theater performances and arts and crafts fairs and festivals are primarily motivated by opportunity to socialize; art museum and gallery goers, however, seeks to gain knowledge.
    Survey: Socializing is prime motivator for many arts attendees. An exception: art museumgoers: they seek knowledge.
  • Frequent attendees of cultural events report they have attended at least one event in a club, restaurant or coffee house in the last year. Arts promoters take note.
    Coffee houses are hot. Also restaurants & clubs. Survey: These make good venues for attracting arts seekers.