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Available insight into cultural audiences and Covid-19

With lockdowns part of our life now, I thought it might be helpful to list the research that’s available about audiences and Covid. Thank you to all the organisations that are so generously making their data available for free. 

Most relevant (not just in a New Zealand context) I find: 
  • Culture Segments and Covid Audience Mindsets: Useful for organisations that are working with Culture Segments and Audience Atlas, MHM have looked into how the segments engaged during lockdowns and their attitudes to re-engaging after openings. Attitudes to re-engaging seem to be roughly in line with the segments’ general attitude to taking risk with culture.
    If you are new to Culture Segments, there is a lot of information freely available online that you can use, see more here
  • Dexibit offers Recovery Index, a free dashboard that allows you to compare your visitation to the equivalent time in previous years and rate of recovery, and to put it into context globally and locally. 
    In a live video in February 2021 Dexibit shared Secondary reopening trends for visitor attractions who are reopening after lockdown including visitation recovery, visitor behaviour like attrition and spend.
  • COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor Australia: This is a study by Patternmakers in partnership with international research partner WolfBrown. It tracks how audiences feel about returning to events in the context of the pandemic and was conducted several times with the latest findings from July 2021, with three more phases planned for 2021. It includes data about audience attitudes and behaviours, and how they are changing over time with indicators like attendance, ticket buying and spending, and measures things like comfort at different types of venues and confidence in different safety measures. It includes an interesting fact sheet on disability and factsheet on digital engagement.
  • New Zealanders and the Arts is the latest longitudinal study about New Zealanders’ attitudes to, attendance at and participation in the arts and, given it was conducted in 2020, touches on the impact of Covid-19.
Interesting data from other parts of the world – UK: 
  • Culture Restart is a tracker of cultural audiences and visitors during Covid-19 by the Insights Alliance (a collaboration by Indigo Ltd, Baker Richards and One Further). In their Culture Restart webinar (September 2021), they look back on 18 months of data gathered from cultural audiences, lessons learnt and how to use this insight to build resilience and innovative ways to engage with audiences.
  • The Family Arts Campaign and Indigo have worked together to look specifically at family audiences. There are a few key areas in which families differ significantly, these are price sensitivity, social distancing, digital content, outdoors and Christmas.
  • Indigo also released a special report on disabled audiences. The headline finding is that “77% of disabled audiences consider themselves to be ‘vulnerable to Coronavirus’ whilst only 28% of non-disabled audiences do”. 
  • Cultural Participation Monitor is the Audience Agency’s nationwide longitudinal and ongoing panel survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the pandemic and beyond.
  • The Patrons’ perspective is research undertaken with 3,000 members of the TheaterMania community in the UK and US to better understand the impact of the pandemic on the performing arts industry.
Data from the US:
  • LaPlaca Cohen shares  Culture + Community in a Time of Crisis: A Special Edition of Culture Track, a national research and strategy initiative for US cultural organisations with Key Findings documents, raw data tables and an interactive tool.
  • And Colleen Dilenschneider shares data from Impact’s research with US visitor attractions in a Covid-19 section on her Know Your Own Bone blog
DIY?
  • Lastly, you might want to conduct your own research. But what if there is no budget to outsource research? Well, with some careful planning it can also be done in-house. MHM helpfully shared their 5 tips to get the most from in-house evaluation
  1. Starting thinking about evaluation early
  2. Start by asking — what are you trying to achieve?
  3. Take an audience-focused approach
  4. Mix your methods to cover a range of outcomes
  5. Push for objectivity – challenge your assumptions

Have you come across other useful data? I’d love to expand the list and share what you found useful. Please get in touch.

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What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?

I found this review of research done in 2019 for the WHO.

It concludes that “results from over 3000 studies identified a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the lifespan.”

And further suggests that “the beneficial impact of the arts could be furthered through acknowledging and acting on the growing evidence base; promoting arts engagement at the individual, local and national levels; and supporting cross-sectoral collaboration.

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A new museum model is emerging post Covid

Research with 300+ UK museum directors by the Art Fund (the UK charity that secures works of art for public collections) found that a new model for museums is emerging post Covid:

In this model, the physical space of the museum is no longer dominant and instead the museum is divided into three: on-site, online, and out in the community with each equally important and informed by the other two.

The research also found that health and wellbeing, digital engagement and relevance are central to museums’ ambitions and that these are increasingly delivered through partnerships. 

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Public assets build wellbeing

There are many public assets in our communities but we don’t always realise how much they contribute to our health and wellbeing. Assets such as arts and culture venues, libraries, green spaces, community centres, social clubs, community associations or volunteer groups. The MARCH Network set out to transform the understanding of how social, cultural and community assets enhance public mental health, wellbeing and resilience. The network finished its activities in Nov 2021 after three years, but made its reports, case studies and resources available on its legacy website.

Image: MARCH network

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Museums must harness their data or lose relevance

Relevance is critical for the future of cultural organisations. Microsoft’s Strategy Leader for Libraries and Museums suggests harnessing data to underpin this relevance. In a MuseumNext article about the opportunities and challenges presented by big data, she argues that:

“Big data in and of itself doesn’t benefit museums, but having mechanisms in place to analyse and gain insights really does”.

Artificial intelligence can help with that, but there is also a need for more data specialists in the museum sector. And finally (and importantly I may add), it requires to determine how to act on those insights. 

Image: J Taubitz on Unsplash

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Young people and culture


That ‘arts and culture’ as a term does not resonates with young people or is used by them to describe the activities that they engage with (see this recent post) was also found in this ethnographic study by A New Direction. 

The study is a few years old and was done with young Londoners, but I found some of the findings about how they define culture, the role of friends, life stages and what happens underneath rational barriers really useful to generally understand young people’s engagement with culture better and still relevant today. 

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Food, festivals and friendship


The British Museum and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation run a new UK-wide national programme for people aged 18–24. They invite local cultural and third sector organisations as key partners, who then recruit young people to co-design and deliver projects that are unique to their locality and respond to a community need identified by the young people.

The main aims of this programme called “Where we are…” are “to remove some of the barriers to engagement that young people face within the cultural sector, and to create a sense of agency in young people that can be reflected into their communities”.

Interestingly, the programme takes a broad definition of ‘culture’ building on how young people defined culture in the scoping stage of the project: food, festivals and friendship rather than paintings, theatre or exhibitions.

Image: Jade Masri on Unsplash

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10 tips for online programmes with young people

“We Belong” is a programme to tackle loneliness and empower children in care aged 11-18 run in a borough of London. In this case study and practical guide the team shares insights into what they learnt on their journey and their top tips for creating participatory programmes in the digital sphere. Lockdowns required agility and a supportive community, especially when working with vulnerable young people. They had to restructure the programme to online delivery and create a one week digital residency during half term. 

Image: Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash

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Universal basic income for artists


The concept of universal basic income, in simple terms, is to provide an unconditional cash payment rather than a bureaucratic benefit system. It has been discussed in various countries for a while as a way to address economic insecurity and increasing income disparities. Now two trials are underway that apply this concept to the arts to address the economic insecurity of arts practitioners hit by the pandemic:  

San Francisco is running a pilot programme for artists administered by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, who also run a study to evaluate the effects. Initially it offered $1,000 monthly stipends to up to 130 artists and cultural workers for a period of 6 months, later extended with private funding.  

Ireland has also started a pilot for the arts based on a proposal that predates Covid-19. The National Campaign for the Arts believes the programme has “the potential to be an historic milestone for the arts in Ireland… [as it] recognises the necessity to remove precarity from the lives of artists and arts workers of all disciplines, so that they might develop, create and present their best work for the benefit of all society.”

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The power of light

Urban Sun is an innovation to reduce the spread of the corona virus in public spaces. It reminds me of Olafur Eliasson’s art installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, the Weather Project. In 2003 this had a major impact on Tate’s approach to visitors. Now, an artificial sun might be the future of shared in-person experiences and a new wellbeing. 

Image: Studio Roosegaarde

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An interactive museum and working lab

new interactive exhibition about behavioural science challenges visitors’ “sometimes mistaken ideas of how rational they believe they are in daily decision-making and life choices”. It is run by Mindworks, the world’s first interactive museum and working lab dedicated to behavioural science, operated by the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Image: Pentagram

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Customer journeys for a post-pandemic world

The pandemic highlights the importance of being relevant to audiences. Designing customer or visitor journeys can help with this. The Global Lead for the High-Tech Industry at Accenture suggests three steps to designing customer journeys:

Image: Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

1. Be customer-centric, not company-centric
This means designing journeys and experiences not as a path to purchase but as a path for the customer to fulfil their purpose. I know many cultural organisations have motivations to visit and sometimes the corresponding outcomes of a visit included in their visitor surveys – these could be useful for understanding your audiences’ purpose for the visit. 

2. Create flexible journeys based on need-points, not touchpoints
Such journeys should not align to touchpoints according to what the organisation wants to happen, but to understand the need-points customers traverse in order to make decisions that achieve their desired outcomes.

3. Use Customer Performance Indicators (CPIs) rather than KPIs
Measure how well an organisation is performing for customers at each need-point and eventually, the better an organisation performs at CPIs, the better it will perform on outcomes important to the organisation (KPIs).

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Busking in a cashless world

Street performers add vitality to a city. However, they are rarely part of arts funding models and the exchange for money between street performer and audience has been changing with the increase of cashless transactions as well as Covid-19 restrictions.

Building a community is core to developing an artist’s fan base and getting donations. The Busking Project is a platform that helps fans to find performers and buskers to get business. It builds a community and enables cashless donations, hiring a performer and building a fan following. 

This article looks into the data of the type of street performers more likely to receive donations and the characteristics that generate higher donations. 

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Image: Evelina Friman on Unsplash