The Cultural Engagement Index, Why Audience Participation Matters
Last week, the Canary Promotion team attended Alliance Day 2011, presented by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance at The Chemical Heritage Foundation. We joined in with other members of the Philadelphia arts and culture community to hear and discuss the findings of the Cultural Engagement Index (CEI) survey and their impact on the region as a whole.
GPCA President Tom Kaiden’s opening remarks began by reflecting on the fact that in times of economic hardship, Philadelphians still place a high value on arts and culture for insight, for inspiration, and even as an escape. He called for the community to rally as a united front against potential budget cuts of up to 70% at the state level. To that end, GPCA has created an Online Action Center campaign for constituents to make their voices heard. Be sure to visit the site and make your voice heard!
With a growing number of research and information gathering tools at our disposal, now more than ever, Philadelphia has proven that arts have a meaningful impact on the economic health of this city. The Cultural Engagement Index provides solid data to demonstrate that arts and culture are vital to the social and economic success of any city.
Alan Brown, Principal of WolfBrown, presented the CEI, a calculation of frequency and importance of arts and art related activities, including event attendance, participation in online activities, and personal practice such as dancing or listening to music. With results building upon the initial findings in 2008, the CEI shows an 11% increase in arts engagement in the region. Not surprisingly, online activity continues to rise. Increases were also seen in younger respondents (18-34), families with children, and in the African-American and Hispanic communities.
The full report and key findings can be found on GPCA’s website and provide a font of information for additional insights and patterns as they pertain to programming and potential growth for cultural groups and organizations.
The biggest takeaway from these findings is that artists and organizations need to continue to create new ways to engage audiences through participation. Particularly in young people, there is a strong correlation between the personal practice of art and attendance at art programming. Finding the connections between these art activities and attendance is key, and I think that needs to come from both programing and marketing people.
At Canary, we make it a point to work closely with the creative teams at each organization to make our campaigns a true collaborative effort. Marketing has become much more than broadcasting a message – it is also about listening and providing opportunities for the community to be part of the conversation. The CEI findings clearly illustrate that audiences are placing a higher value on arts activities, and they’re ready to participate if you open the door to them.
After the CEI presentation, a panel discussion addressed the changing landscape of the arts in Philadelphia and beyond. Helen Haynes, Director of Cultural Affairs at Montgomery County Community College put it perfectly when she said, “People come to engage with arts and performances, but they stay to engage with each other… When you give people the opportunity to engage in art, you create an opportunity for community.”
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