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Artists and Glaciers

I don’t usually do this sort of newsy update, but it’s been a long time since the last issue of On Our Minds, and much has transpired. While audiences have been the focus of much of our research over the years, we find ourselves more frequently dancing a sort of tango with artists and curators – about how their work is received, what role they can play in building demand, and how funders can best support their work. Claudia Bach and I continue to work with Grantmakers in the Arts, the national association of arts funders, on a richly challenging effort to design a national benchmarking system for support of individual artists, a long-term effort to shine a light on how artists fare in the constellation of funding. Artists are also a focus of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Building Demand for the Arts grant program, a seven-year exploration of how artists and arts organizations can collaborate on building demand. Through evaluation and reflection on what works, we hope to build a stronger framework for demand-building, and share as much as we can with the field. Rebecca and I are engrossed in a fascinating study of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s visitors in Boston, including a deep dive into identity issues using a metaphor elicitation technique that has taken us to a new level of qualitative inquiry. I’m also thrilled to be collaborating with Tom Wolf and Dennie Palmer Wolf on an evaluation of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Institute for Learning, Access and Training, where we are learning so much about the remarkable work of the CSO in supporting lifelong learning and engagement in music. As you’ll see from the announcements that follow, our work in the area of impact assessment continues to evolve and grow. A milestone in this six-year vein of work is the publication this month of “Measuring the intrinsic impacts of arts attendance,” an article co-written by Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and myself, in a special issue of the journal Cultural Trends. The glacial pace of academic publishing has also brought forth The Audience Experience, a new book on audiences available through the University of Chicago Press, including my essay, “All the World’s a Stage: Venues and settings, and their role in shaping patterns of arts participation,” in case you missed it last year. As always, we are learning so much from our clients and their audiences.

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