The changing face of cultural participation has been much discussed in recent years. This has been especially true since the publication of the National Endowment for the Arts’ most recent Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, which showed a decline in arts attendance for every category except musical plays.
“Cultural Participation in a 2.0 World” was the topic of EALDC’s Creative Conversation in October. It was clearly a subject that resonated across our local network—the event was one of our most well-attended to date, with a standing room-only crowd.
The attendees at our event debated what kind of cultural participation most appealed to them, with many expressing boredom with the tried-and-true efforts at arts engagement. It was not that post-show talkbacks or program inserts were not appreciated; they just were not enough to make people excited.
Adapting to changes in traditional arts participation is a major issue for arts and culture organizations today. Here in the D.C. area, we have seen some innovative efforts at engaging people in the arts, such as the Hirshhorn Museum’s ARTLAB+ space for teens and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Connectivity initiative (explained on the HowlRound blog).
How can we, as emerging leaders, better encourage participation in the arts? I would venture to say that we must begin by modeling the behavior we hope to see in others.
I probably see more live performances than the average person my age. But I am embarrassed to admit how often I decline opportunities to attend arts events. Often, at the end of the day, I am tired and not interested in hanging around my own place of work or any other arts institution. Going home and sinking into my couch sounds much more appealing.
But nothing reaffirms my career choice more than a great arts experience. After visiting a particularly compelling museum exhibition or hearing a beautiful orchestral performance, I always tell myself I need to do this more often and bring a friend.
Sometimes this motivates me to engage in more extracurricular arts activities for a while, but I inevitably fall back into my daily routine and away from that commitment.
So I challenge myself and the rest of the Emerging Leader Network to think critically about our own levels of cultural participation.
Are we engaging in arts activities in the same way we hope to see others engage? We can encourage change through leading by example.
Emerging Arts Leaders DC would love to continue the conversation started in this week’s blog salon with those attending Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. We will be hosting dine-arounds after the American University Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium on April 15 and a networking reception after the Nancy Hanks Lecture on April 16. Please come out and join us!