The Re-Entry Study
The Audience Outlook Monitor COVID-19 Study tracks the attitudes of audience members about returning to cultural events. As of August 2021 a large majority of arts goers are vaccinated, although 40% to 50% are still reluctant to go out. With many arts organizations planning to reopen in the fall months, and with rising concerns over risk of breakthrough infections, variants and the most recent surge of infections primarily amongst unvaccinated Americans, maintaining a high level of trust and transparency about health safety protocols is paramount.
We believe that creating a feedback loop with audiences about their initial “return experience” – in other words, surveying audiences and reflecting results back to them – will help to lower anxiety levels amongst patrons, including those who are planning to return but reconsidering their decision due to worsening COVID-19 conditions, as well as “wait and see” patrons who’ve not yet decided when they’ll return to live events. The vast majority of patrons will have positive experiences upon return, and it is essential for others to hear about those experiences.
Inviting critical feedback from customers and being sincere and transparent about the feedback you receive will also contribute to an atmosphere of trust.
The IDEA Study
Over the past two years the WolfBrown team has actively debated how we can play a meaningful role in our sector’s work to expose, challenge and ultimately dismantle the structures of cultural production that perpetuate racism, or that exclude or marginalize certain community members while privileging others.
The next Audience Outlook Monitor study represents an important opportunity to advance our own learning, forge new partnerships, and contribute to field learning around organizational efforts to be more inclusive and implement anti-racist practices – as seen through the eyes of audience members.
Many arts organizations have taken significant steps to address lack of diversity in staffing and board membership, adopt better HR policies and practices that will lead to greater diversity, and change organizational culture. Some organizations have moved towards more pluralistic models of artistic leadership and diversification of programming with the intent to serve a broader audience.
Many questions remain, however, as to the extent to which audiences understand themselves as a stakeholder in this work, their expectations of arts organizations in this regard, and their preferences and tastes for a more diverse palette of artistic work. Through this large-scale collaborative study we hope to learn how arts organizations can activate audiences in their work to be more inclusive – or, actually, if they can succeed at all without the support of their audience.