Making Sense of Audience Engagement
A New Publication from WolfBrown
A new report from WolfBrown takes stock of the growing body of practice in the arts sector referred to as “audience engagement” – a bewildering array of programs and activities such as lectures, open rehearsals, docent tours and online forums – employed by arts groups to deepen participation and encourage repeat attendance.
To help make sense of this rapidly developing landscape, WolfBrown surveyed arts practitioners and conducted case study research on a wide range of engagement practices. The report, authored by Alan Brown and Rebecca Ratzkin, advances several theoretical frameworks for understanding audience and visitor engagement, and includes 11 brief case studies.
A cornerstone of the report is the “Arc of Engagement,” a simple model describing the stages through which audience members travel in constructing unique experiences around a shared work of art.
Helping audiences and visitors make meaning from artistic work is a major focus in the field right now, motivated by the need to attract and retain audiences in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Arts organizations hoping to reap the benefits of an engaged audience must think holistically about managing the total experience, from the moment a decision is made to attend, to the days, months and years after the event.
Engaged audiences are a cornerstone in the foundation of a strong arts ecosystem.
Making Sense of Audience Engagement was commissioned by The San Francisco Foundation and Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund as part of the two funders’ collaborative capacity-building efforts, supported by The Wallace Foundation through its Wallace Excellence Awards Program.