We all love to go to our favorite theatre and watch a production, sit and listen to our favorite orchestra, or visit our favorite museum. Traditionally, a person interacted with arts organizations by sitting in the audience of a theater and viewing a performance; but is that enough? I say no way! Like me, many audience members want to get involved and interact with arts organizations in a new way.
Today we live in a world with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms. These platforms give us a space to share our views and interact with people from around the world. As a young person in my early twenties, interaction and participation is crucial. Arts organizations are beginning to realize the importance of audience engagement and are finding new and innovative ways to engage their audiences.
Audience engagement includes a range of activities from open rehearsals, online forums, to interactive shows. Here in Washington, DC, Dog & Pony DC produced a production of The Killing Game that whole-heartedly embraced the idea of audience engagement. Audience members were able to decide important events of the play such as who survives the plague and who dies. When asked about their experience at The Killing Game, one audience member stated “We begin like stone-faced spectators; we end like the world’s most talkative flash mob”
Although the traditional way an audience views a performance is still very important, I think arts organizations should try to find new ways to engage their audience. As someone who enjoys participation, audience engagement is very important.
With audience engagement becoming more of a necessity, what are some cost effective methods of audience engagement? How are we using technology/social media to effectively engage audiences without losing the true value of the arts experience? And who do you think are some of the most successful arts organizations in terms of audience engagement right now?
To continue this discussion on the importance of audience engagement, please join us on April 7th for the 6th annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium at American University.
Panelists for this topic will include:
JR Russ – Class Acts Arts, #thearts, Dance Place: JR Russ is a Washington, DC native who received his B.A. in Dance from UMD, and an M.A. in Arts Management from American University. Since then he’s gone on to teach and choreograph in the area, as well as continue to perform, and even work on the administrative & production side of things. This has led to him managing digital and social media for Class Acts Arts & Dance Place, as well as joining the communications and marketing committees for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington & SpeakeasyDC. He also assist Duke Ellington School for the Arts with their social media efforts, in policy and implementation organizationally and through workshops to students on using new media professionally.
Alli Houseworth – Method 121: Alli Houseworth is the founder and chief consultant and strategist at Method 121. Throughout her entire career, she has brought an innovative way of thinking to her work. Often hired to manage projects and implement changes that require deep analytical and strategic thinking, coupled with highly creative ideas, Alli has drawn on her ten years of experience in the communications field to bring an extraordinarily high level of innovation to her work in both the nonprofit and commercial arts sectors. The core of the work always focuses on branding, new media, service-centric audience experiences, and leveraging the power of community. Constantly passionate about developing audiences for the theatre, Alli has established herself as an industry expert in audience engagement and social media.
Margy Waller – Topos Partnership: Margy Waller is a Senior Fellow at Topos Partnership and former Vice-President of Research and Strategic Communications at ArtsWave. Previously she was Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, with a joint appointment in the Economic Studies and Metropolitan Policy programs. Prior to Brookings, she was Senior Advisor on domestic policy in the Clinton-Gore White House. Before joining the Administration, Margy was Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. She also served as Director of Public Policy at United Way of America, and Director of Policy Development at Public/Private Ventures in Philadelphia, and a congressional fellow in the office of U.S. Representative Eric Fingerhut (D-OH).
Doug Borwick – ArtsEngaged: Doug Borwick holds the Ph.D. in Music Composition from the Eastman School of Music and is an award-winning member of ASCAP. He gained experience as an arts administrator and producer working with the Arts Council of Rochester (NY) and through founding and leading the NC Composers Alliance in the mid-1980’s. Dr. Borwick also served for nearly thirty years as Director of the Arts Management and Not-for-Profit Management Programs at Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC. Dr. Borwick is also a leading advocate for community engagement in the arts. He is author of Engaging Matters, a blog for ArtsJournal and author/editor of Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of the Arts in the U.S.
Ximena Varela – American University: Ximena Varela is a researcher, educator, and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in international cultural policy, management practice, marketing strategy, arts management research, and sustainable development. She has worked with and advised international organizations, national and regional governments, city agencies, as well as private and nonprofit organizations in arts funding and arts policy. Currently, she chairs the Research Council of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, and has been a board member of the Latin American Institute of Museums since 2000.