Changing Participation in the Arts: Leading by Example

Posted by Elizabeth McCloskey Miller On April - 5 - 2012
Liz Miller

Elizabeth McCloskey Miller

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. Read the rest of this entry »