The findings suggest that participation in arts, culture and heritage activities will increase from where it was in post-Covid 2020. While intention data always needs to be read with a grain of salt, it is good news that intended participation is higher than post-Covid 2020 participation for all arts, culture and heritage activities with increases most pronounced for activities which involve visiting a place or going to an event.
There is a clear preference for engaging with arts, culture and heritage in person rather than online, in particular among Māori and Pacific peoples, as well as women. Yet results also indicate that online engagement will continue with respondents typically saying they intend to engage both online and in person.
Still, concern about Covid-19 is the primary barrier to in person visits to arts, culture and heritage places in the next 12 months. Aucklanders (especially those living in South Auckland), people with disabilities, Pacific peoples and Asian peoples were more concerned than average about Covid-19. The research suggests that the most effective measure for encouraging attendance is reassurance that people will be refunded if the event is cancelled. Health-related measures are important to half of New Zealanders, but play a lesser role.
The study goes into participation and engagement by art form and for highlights demographic differences in engagement levels and platform preferences, find the full report here.
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.
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.
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:
Starting thinking about evaluation early
Start by asking — what are you trying to achieve?
Take an audience-focused approach
Mix your methods to cover a range of outcomes
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.
Cultural organisations are closed in most countries and will be for a while. US research agency IMPACT is looking into data that can help prepare for the time when organisations can re-open.
The key data they analyse is “intent to visit”. Colleen Dilenschneider is sharing this data weekly now in her blog Know-your-own-bone.
The data is US focused so to be taken cautiously as an indicator for other markets, and it is early days, and as we see with this crisis, things can change very quickly. Keeping this in mind, I find Colleen’s conclusion interesting that
“demand for cultural enterprise will not be (at least immediately) distributed as it was pre-coronavirus.”
The data indicates demand for visits might be redistributed away from some organisation types and towards others, which will be important to consider for re-opening. Three main trends seem to emerge and sound like common sense in the current environment:
Cultural experiences that allow for relative freedom of movement and in particular outside spaces (such as public parks, botanic gardens, zoos, aquariums, historic sites, museums) may get increased demand;
Enclosed spaces with minimal visitor movement (such as performing arts) may get less demand;
Tactile experiences (such as those offered at science centres) may get less demand.
The data is from the US and still very fresh, thus might change, however, it might trigger some useful discussions for the planning of the eventual reopening: What practical measures will be required to allow physical distancing? What reassurances are needed? How to best communicate this.
The difficult choices ahead for funders supporting the arts out of the crisis
The pandemic is a big challenge for the cultural sector and things might not be the same again once we have overcome it.
Alan Brown of WolfBrown, a research and consulting firm serving the arts and culture sector, offers a sobering view of the decisions that will need to be taken to rebuild the arts sector after the Covid-19 crisis in this article. While written from a US perspective, it provides challenging food for thought relevant in other parts of the world.
For arts funders, the moral dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis are heartbreaking but unavoidable.
In a sector where many are under financial strain even in the best of times, some of the tough questions he brings up are:
Should funders continue supporting the same organizations they give grants to year after year, or shift focus to other, more vulnerable organizations?
Should support of institutions be prioritized above support of self-employed arts workers?
Should funding be prioritized for keeping viable nonprofits going, or for salvaging the assets of those whose only option is bankruptcy?
Or, should capital be preserved for supporting the eventual ramp up of programming activity amongst those fortunate enough to survive?
His article kicks off a series of papers, blogs and announcements by WolfBrown that will examine the arts sector’s response to COVID-19. Read the article here, where you can also subscribe to the series.