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Engaging Audiences in the Age of Social Distancing24067GP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​As social distancing measures are enacted across the globe to slow the spread of COVID-19, arts organizations are taking creative approaches to engage their audiences through nontraditional means. In recent weeks, museums, galleries and performing arts organizations have significantly expanded their online offerings through virtual tours of their collections, broadcasts of performances and interactive educational programs, making their work more accessible to a greater public. The Metropolitan Opera, for instance, announced that it would stream encore performances of its most famous productions, free to the general public. Similarly, the National Theatre in London is releasing new performances from their archives every Thursday, made available for free and “on demand” to audiences for a full week. While the crisis has brought tremendous uncertainty, it has also created opportunities to reach new audiences at a time when the sanctuary and connection offered by the arts is needed most. </p><p>“The traditional live arts experience has been predicated on physically bringing people together, and it relies so heavily on the chemistry between performer and audience, and the immediacy of that exchange,” noted Corinna Schulenburg, director of communications at Theater Communications Group “As we all adapt to new ways of working, we are seeing a real flourishing of experimentation that will likely have a long-lasting impact on how we present and create art.” </p><p>Many of the performing arts organizations in The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability (BAS) initiative have also implemented similar efforts to meet audiences where they are. From free broadcasts to classes and educational workshops, these offerings help audiences in their community—and around the world—continue to feel connected. A sample of digital events and activities are outlined below, with more content added regularly.</p><ul><li> <strong>Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has </strong>started the <a href="https&#58;//www.alvinailey.org/ailey-all-access">Ailey All Access</a>,&#160;an online streaming series allowing audiences to connect with performances, including full length works from the repertory, Ailey Extension dance classes, and original short films created by the Ailey dancers.<br><strong><br></strong></li><li> <strong>Baltimore Symphony Orchestra</strong> has expanded their offerings on <a href="https&#58;//www.bsomusic.org/offstage">BSO Offstage</a>, an online platform where audiences can find performance videos, BSO podcasts, and other content and resources. <br> <strong> <br></strong></li><li> <strong>La Jolla Playhouse</strong>’s online <a href="https&#58;//lajollaplayhouse.org/the-staging-area/">Staging&#160;Area</a>&#160;is dedicated to virtual content, which features conversations with La Jolla artists and weekly posts from Playhouse artists and staff who share their favorite stories and memories. <br> <br> <strong></strong></li><li> <b>Opera Philadelphia </b>brings you opera on the couch through its first-ever <a href="https&#58;//www.operaphila.org/festival/digital-festival/lineup/?promo=145780">Digital Festival​</a>, with free streams of five past productions, including four world premier​es​. &#160; &#160;<br> <br> <strong> </strong></li><li> <strong>Pacific Northwest Ballet</strong> has posted at-home workouts for dancers and footage of rehearsals shot before their lockdown on their <a href="https&#58;//twitter.com/PNBallet">Twitter</a> and <a href="https&#58;//bit.ly/InstaPNB">Instagram</a>, while also uploading articles to their <a href="https&#58;//blogpnborg.wordpress.com/">blog</a>. <br> <br> <strong></strong></li><li> <strong>Seattle Opera </strong>has created a special section on their website, <a href="https&#58;//www.seattleopera.org/inside-look/opera-at-home/">Opera at Home</a>,&#160;which features new playlists, talks, podcasts and other online content for their audiences. <br> <br> <strong></strong></li><li> <strong>Seattle Symphony</strong>’s musicians will share <a href="https&#58;//seattlesymphony.org/live">free broadcasts</a> with the public, streamed via the Symphony’s <a href="https&#58;//www.youtube.com/seattlesymphony">YouTube</a>&#160;channel and&#160;<a href="https&#58;//www.facebook.com/seattlesymphony">Facebook</a>.<br><br><strong> </strong></li><li> <strong>Steppenwolf Theatre Company </strong>is leading weekly free and public <a href="https&#58;//www.steppenwolf.org/education/">virtual workshops</a> for early career professional, teens&#160;and educators. They also released their interview-style podcast <a href="https&#58;//www.steppenwolf.org/tickets--events/half-hour-theatre-podcast/">Half Hour</a> this month. <br>​​<br><strong></strong></li><li> <strong>Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company </strong>has shifted their <a href="https&#58;//www.woollymammoth.net/events/springbenefit">Progressive Party</a> online—free and open to the public—allowing viewers to view performances, participate in an auction&#160;and experience a sneak-peak into Woolly’s 41st Season.<strong><u> </u></strong></li></ul> Wallace editorial team792020-04-16T04:00:00ZYour source for research and ideas to expand high quality learning and enrichment opportunities. Supporting: School Leadership, After School, Summer and Extended Learning Time, Arts Education and Building Audiences for the Arts.8/27/2020 3:13:24 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Engaging Audiences in the Age of Social Distancing Arts organizations who participated in Wallace’s Building Audiences for 1368https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
Experimentation and Refinement a Key to Audience Building in the Arts3968GP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>Introducing a recent panel on how to build audiences in the arts, Monique Martin, director of programming at New York’s Harlem Stage stressed the human aspects of arts performances. “I want to acknowledge the importance of community and the desire for our audiences to be part of a community,” she said. “We are in polarizing times and the arts are a refuge for many.” </p><p>But how can organizations help ensure that people seek out that refuge and continue to take advantage of it?</p><p>For the last four years, The Wallace Foundation has been working with 25 performing arts organizations on the <a href="/knowledge-center/building-audiences-for-the-arts/pages/default.aspx">Building Audiences for Sustainability (BAS)</a> initiative to help stem declines in arts audiences. Using data, market research and other tools, BAS organizations take on a process of continuous learning to bring in new audiences, encourage repeat attendance, attract a particular demographic or address any other goal that serves their mission.</p><p>“Continuous learning begins with the premise&#58; we are unlikely to get it right the first time,” Bahia Ramos, Wallace’s director of arts, told the crowd gathered at the panel at The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) annual conference. Martin was moderating the panel, which also included Jenny Reik, director of marketing and communications at Cal Performances, Maure Aronson, executive director at Global Arts Live and Andrew Jorgensen, general director at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL). All shared stories of risk taking and resilience on the road to building their audiences. &#160;</p><h3><strong>Opera, Food, Millennials…oh my!</strong></h3><p>Opera Theatre of Saint Louis had set out to <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/think-opera-is-not-for-you-opera-theatre-of-saint-louis-says-think-again.aspx">target millennials and Gen-Xers</a>, with a special emphasis on populations of color. The journey began with a period of research, after which the company launched a multifaceted campaign with the goal of expanding OTSL’s visibility throughout St. Louis. With expanded print advertising and digital billboards, the organization hoped that greater visibility would heighten awareness of OTSL and ultimately help sell tickets. Unfortunately, the campaign did not produce tangible results. </p><p>“The campaign taught us that we don’t have the resources necessary to blanket the entire St. Louis region with our brand message year-round,” Jorgensen explained. “More importantly, it underscored that visibility by itself, without meaningful context, is not enough to entice potential audiences to buy tickets and get them into the theater.” </p><p>In revisiting the company’s past experiences with hosting preperformance lawn picnics and other community events, Jorgensen noted that they learned the social component is a key part of the OTSL experience. So the organization implemented “Opera Tastings,” a series of concerts with a diverse group of singers performing a range of popular pieces from the history of opera at restaurants and other venues across the St. Louis region. Local chefs pair food and drink to the music, and tickets are $25. In the first year, nearly 50 percent of new attendees at Opera Tastings ended up buying a ticket to the company’s festival season.</p><p>Although they were successful, Jorgensen said, Opera Tastings were also expensive. “They did not produce enough revenue to support themselves without philanthropic backing,” he explained. When asked how the organization plans to move forward, he noted, “It’s a question we are struggling with. As passionate arts presenters, we have a desire to always be adding programming and reaching more people. Opera Tastings is only four years old, and it’s hard to imagine letting go of it.” </p><p>This spring OTSL will host a modified version of Opera Tastings with fewer events, larger audiences and a slightly higher price point, as they continue to learn how to better reflect the demographics of key audiences. For example, African Americans comprise the largest non-white group in St. Louis, so the organization will continue its commitment to present work that they’ve learned might appeal to African American audiences. “Representation matters” Jorgensen said. </p><h3><strong>A Music Festival Grows in Boston</strong></h3><p>Global Arts Live (formerly World Music/CRASHarts) learned a similar lesson about programming when it began its <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/world-music-crasharts-tests-new-format-new-name-to-draw-new-audiences.aspx">effort to expand audiences</a> with extensive market research. The research suggested that the organization's name was too hard to remember and its brand could be more clear and consistent. So the organization rebranded, revealing <a href="/News-and-Media/Blog/pages/new-name-new-look-to-draw-a-new-generation-of-fans.aspx">its new name, Global Arts Live</a>, in May 2019.</p><p>Research also suggested that the organization’s current audience was growing older. This led Aronson and his team to start programming events for a younger audience, specifically in the 21-40 age range. “We thought that changing our marketing and adding small, secondary events, such as meetups, classes and talks, would reengage the younger audience by creating a sense of community,” he said. “But we learned that experimenting with on-mission programming was far more effective.” </p><p>Global Arts Live started producing 10 to 15 targeted concerts per year in “millennial-friendly clubs,” which were incredibly successful. These target concerts attracted between 7,000 and 10,000 attendees, which was a big jump from the 500 attendees that the less-successful secondary events attracted. Aronson and his team also developed CRASHfest, a global festival offering a vibrant and social atmosphere. This idea stemmed from focus groups the company executed during its market research phase. The festival, targeted toward millennials, showcased different types of performances in the same place. “We found that expanding artistic programming worked in parallel with CRASHfest, not only as a reengagement tool, but also as an audience building tool,” Aronson said. “The two strategies worked together to create multiple points of frequency.”</p><p>The first CRASHfest event took place at the House of Blues in Boston in 2016. Fifteen-hundred people attended, meeting the organization’s goal and grossing $38,000. Sixty-one percent of the audience was new to the organization, and 56 percent of the new audience was under the age of 40. “It’s nice to see it being multigenerational--reaching new audiences but keeping our old audience happy as well,” Aronson said. “You’re still finding a fair amount of people over the age of 40 coming to these events, which is important because we’d be in trouble if we lost our old audience.” </p><p>One surprising finding, according to Aronson, was that millennials didn’t mind being in an intergenerational audience. The two other organizations on the panel agreed that they had also made presumptions about their target audience that proved untrue. </p><h3><strong>Students Take the Reins</strong></h3><p>Reik noted that through her team’s efforts at Cal Performances to reach a younger audience, they too learned that millennials had more things in common with their older audiences than they would have expected. “Many of us had preconceived ideas of what a millennial generation would need. Some of what we found was that younger audiences liked the same things that the older audiences did—they actually like our core programming,” Reik said. “The other really interesting thing is that the current audience actually liked the really edgy stuff.” </p><p>During the first year of the BAS initiative, Cal Performances tested multiple approaches to target the 18- to 22-year-old student demographic on the UC Berkeley campus. “One of our most illuminating failures came in that very first year, and it is important to start with because our successful programming evolved as a result of that,” Reik shared. </p><p>Cal Performances had implemented a program called Citizen Dance to give students access to the organization’s resources and stage. Staff saw this as an opportunity for the many student-led dance crews to create large-scale work in cooperation with emerging choreographers. But participation was much lower than expected. “We learned quickly that students wanted to be in charge of their own program delivery, and they saw Citizen Dance as competing for their time and attention. It wasn’t enhancing their own experience,” Reik explained.</p><p>The difficulties they experienced launching Citizen Dance led Cal Performances to significantly strengthen student ownership of events. The organization attracted a close-knit group of students who were involved in every decision regarding the genesis, production, artists, programming, marketing and more. The organization then launched Front Row, an event curated by the students themselves. “We taught students how to be presenters themselves—they received all of the credit,” Reik said. The results were quite different from Citizen Dance—more than 45,000 students attended Front Row, many for the first time. </p><p>While building this community of students, the staff at Cal Performances also learned that price matters greatly to this audience. As a result, the organization implemented Flex Pass, which offered students four tickets for $40 to Cal Performances’ main stage events. Reik said Flex Pass was a great success in its first two years. In year three of the programming, the organization increased the price of Flex Pass in an attempt to “move the needle upward” against the investment costs of making seats available at discounted prices. “We found that even a five dollar increase had a fairly significant impact on sales,” said Reik. </p><h3><strong>Risks and Rewards</strong></h3><p>The three leaders agreed that risk taking and experimenting with new strategies and tactics, such as those described, was vital to better connect with their audiences. While they may have tried different methods and experienced different challenges along the way, they agreed that all departments must be involved in the audience-building work from the beginning for it to succeed. “When different departments work together from the beginning—when the structure and whole concept is built from that foundation—you can move quicker to execution and success,” Reik explained. </p><p>“You have to be all in&#58; the staff, the board, to succeed or to fail in this project,” Aronson added. “We see the future as optimistic. The work is continuous; it’s incremental, and you have to have a vision in the organization to implement your learnings.”&#160; </p><p><em>Learn more about the arts organizations who were on the panel&#58;</em><br> <a href="https&#58;//calperformances.org/">Cal Performances</a> is a performing arts presenting, commissioning and producing organization based at the University of California, Berkeley. &#160;</p><p><a href="https&#58;//www.globalartslive.org/">Global Arts Live</a> brings international music, contemporary dance and jazz from around the world to stages across Greater Boston. </p><p><a href="https&#58;//www.opera-stl.org/">Opera Theatre of Saint Louis</a> is known for its short annual festival season in late May and June, and for its commitment to commissioning new operas and developing emerging talent. </p><p><a href="https&#58;//www.harlemstage.org/">Harlem Stage</a> provides opportunity and support for artists of color, makes performances easily accessible to all audiences and introduces children to the rich diversity and inspiration of the performing arts. </p><p>To learn more about Wallace’s building audiences work, visit our <a href="/knowledge-center/building-audiences-for-the-arts/pages/default.aspx">knowledge center</a>.</p>Jenna Doleh912020-02-11T05:00:00ZYour source for research and ideas to expand high quality learning and enrichment opportunities. Supporting: School Leadership, After School, Summer and Extended Learning Time, Arts Education and Building Audiences for the Arts.2/13/2020 5:37:34 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Experimentation and Refinement a Key to Audience Building in the Arts Arts leaders on panel say data, market research and 512https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
How Can Opera Draw Younger and More Diverse Crowds?3322GP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61 <p>When tenor Joshua Blue gets together with friends, they sometimes kick around the same question nagging opera companies and other performing arts presenters everywhere&#58; how to draw younger, more diverse audiences to the art form they love. They have a few ideas, including a radical one that would test their own powers of concentration. &#160;</p><p>But let’s back up and meet Blue. The 24-year-old rising star, who this season is singing Alfredo Germont in “La Traviata” and as a soloist in “A Concert of Comic Masterpieces,” among other roles, at the Washington National Opera, precociously signaled his own interest in music at age 3, when he started plunking on the piano in his home after watching his sister practice. His mother decided to get him lessons, too. Once he was in school, a friend convinced him to join a choir group—both of his parents sang in choirs—and then “a teacher had me get exposed to every kind of vocal group there was.” He attended Waubonsie Valley High School, his local public school in Aurora, Il., which happens to have a Grammy Award-winning music program. On a choir group trip to Australia, Blue saw his first opera (“La Traviata”). Soon thereafter—as he was going into his senior year in high school—he decided that he wanted to be a professional opera singer.</p><p>But to state the obvious, “Historically, classical music wasn’t something that black families had access to,” Blue notes, and therefore they couldn’t teach their children about it. In the past, schools might have filled the gap, but nowadays, given the cuts in arts education funding, most kids just aren’t exposed to opera at all—unless, of course, opera companies take on the task. </p><p>If opera is to flourish, Blue says that opera companies must do that. He believes that they should go into schools, churches, community centers and the local YMCA, perhaps offering free one-hour sessions&#58; “Instead of asking them to come to the opera, you have to take it to them in their own comfort zones.” He cites the Opera on the Go program of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL), “where the performers are in jeans and polos,” as a good example. </p><p>OTSL, which receives funds from the Wallace Foundation through its Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative, <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/think-opera-is-not-for-you-opera-theatre-of-saint-louis-says-think-again.aspx">also offers a program called Opera Tastings, </a> where Blue has performed. At these events, which Blue lauds as a “low-pressure” way to introduce opera to those who are unfamiliar with it, people listen to live opera excerpts while they sample food and drink that is paired with the performances. </p><p>But even with such efforts, Blue says you can’t expect people to buy tickets right away. “If they’ve never gone, they don’t know if they are supposed to wear a suit, or buy a bottle of champagne, or what else to expect,” he says. And if they’ve seen only a one-hour concert version of “The Barber of Seville,” say, they are not going to buy $200 tickets to a full-blown production of it even if they loved it, he adds. Blue recommends offering lower-price tickets for initial purchasers. </p><p>Then Blue turns to that revolutionary idea&#58; he thinks opera companies could offer one show per season that is “family-friendly.” People could bring their babies and children and be given the message&#58; “We don’t care if they make noise, we’ll keep doing the presentation—we are taught to act with absolutely anything happening.” Blue says he knows people who cannot attend because they can’t get, or afford, a baby-sitter and they know their children will not keep quiet during a performance. This idea would address that issue for them. Wallace’s research over the last few decades has both documented that <a href="/News-and-Media/Blog/pages/breaking-the-practical-barriers-of-arts-participation.aspx?_ga=2.255114048.971312321.1546880470-1057583374.1513009179">such “practical barriers”</a> may factor into the considerations of many who might attend an arts event and discovered what some organizations are doing about it.</p><p>Blue also sees language as a problem for many would-be attendees. Sub- or super-titles simply do not solve the problem for some people who don’t like switching back and forth from the action to the words, he says. He wishes more companies performed in English, though he realizes that would annoy traditional opera-goers. </p><p>Blue also thinks that some opera companies are wrongly fiddling with programming to attract more diverse audiences&#58; “They think, if we do ‘Porgy &amp; Bess,’ we’ll get African-Americans.” And maybe they will—but he believes that the better way is to aim for diversity in casting. “You don’t need to do ‘Porgy &amp; Bess’ to see more blacks in the audience; you should just hire a more diverse group of people for roles.”</p><p>“In a perfect world,” he adds, “you want your performers to reflect your audience; you want them to be just as diverse in age and gender and race as we are on stage.” This is necessary, he believes, because “people want to go and support people that remind you of yourself. That makes it easier to put yourself into the story, to make the emotional connection.” </p><p>“It is beginning to happen,” Blue says. “Opera will look completely different in 20 years. As shows and casts become more diverse you’ll see audiences follow suit. We are starting to see it. Diversity is a key factor in keeping opera alive.”</p> To see how other arts organizations are working to build and retain audiences, visit our <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/the-building-audiences-for-sustainability-stories-project.aspx">Building Audiences for Sustainability Stories page</a>. Judith H. Dobrzynski892019-01-08T05:00:00ZOne young tenor has some ideas to make the art form more accessible to new audiences1/16/2019 9:42:39 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / How Can Opera Draw Younger and More Diverse Crowds One young tenor has some ideas to make the art form more accessible to 1318https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx

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