I hope more and more people attend performances in the future. The difficulty is finding new ways to market the arts to a generation highly drawn to a computer screen and turned off by actual physical contact and interactions.
Here in the US, the government has not been very supportive of the arts. While we have the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts), actual government and public support is hard to come by. For example, in the late 90's, there was a controversial art exhibit called "Sensation" hosted by Brooklyn Museum of Art. Many people were offended by the artwork and images presented, and because of this, complained to government officials. Mayor Guiliani even imposed sanctions (BMA took NYC to court and won, by the way) against BMA. All because members of the public felt "offended". Now, had they felt "happy", things would have been fine. There have been similar instances for years regarding public funding of the arts and what is "decent" to fund. My personal feeling is that the government shouldn't decide what is and is not decent to fund; but we also have to remember that this is taxpayer money funding the arts. Most likely, government funding of public art will be looked at under a microscope for years to come.
With the education budget cuts in the past few years, the government has practically eradicated arts education in public schools (both elementary and secondary). With little support from government, it again sends a message to our youth that the arts aren't important, or they are if you can afford it. If we are trying to grow our audiences, how do we reach those who think the arts aren't for them? How do we show them that the arts aren't all "gee, that was pretty," but instead can be filled with angst, uncertainty, joy, and exploration. And how do we show them that the arts are affordable?
Part of this may have root in our outreach programs. Many times, these are aimed at the low-income or senior citizen groups(hey, these programs make us [arts admins and such]) feel better about our organizations). A little talk and maybe giving them free tickets for one show will also help our egos. But do they create and stimulate one's interest in the arts? Probably not. Longer programs probably do, but these are costly. Ican Travel Ltd discussed youth interest. How do we gain their interest? I think outreach and marketing to families is one key element. Encourage parents to talk about the arts with their children, offer family discounts (real ones, not buy four tickets get the 5th half off), plan family-friendly lectures, events. Also, the arts have a place in schools, whether they are public or private.
This leads me to the "average factor", as I call it. Access to the arts is similar to education. You have kids who get A's and are going to succeed, kids who get F's who get special help, but what about the kids in the middle, the C students? Translating this into our audience development issue, those who have money can afford to see performances, those who are low-income, elderly, etc. many times have special programming and such, but we don't offer much for the "in-between" potential audience. They're not poor or rich, and they get lost in the fold. If ticket prices could be lowered, that could be one motivational factor. But this subsidy in ticket cost would need to come from the private sector. Most likely the government wouldn't kick in the necessary funding because 1) it doesn't have any more to give, and 2)it doesn't like to get too involved in the arts to begin with.
Reigning in the in-between's can be easier for larger companies. They can partner with corporate sponsors, offer freebies and special event night, and such. But for those smaller, and many times for interesting groups, this type of outreach can be incredibly difficult.
In order to broaden the arts "appeal" (and I say that somewhat facetiously because I believe the arts are already pretty appealling), I think we will need to forge coalitions and partnerships with various outlets. Costs have to be examined, and we need to focus on methods of diversifying our audiences.
<small>[ 25 June 2004, 04:28 PM: Message edited by: RaHir ]</small>
So two dancers walked into a barre...