Why am I doing this? Arts Audience Development

This morning I am literally in tears over an article I just read,  I took my 9-year-old to the opera, and she loved it,  although it may be due to the combination of articles this morning.  The articles this morning ranged from arts education, let’s do this – to talks about better Boards – to arts cuts – to why the arts should not be funded publicly.

We live in a strange world.  Despite the arts being front and center for making all our lives better, the arts and artists are struggling to be funded.  The argument that arts will go on despite funding, this may be true since artists need to create, or we die inside, however, the reach that the arts would have if funding were to disappear would shrink.  Without public funding, the biggest arts offerings would start to collapse.  There would be less grand opera, less orchestras, less art on a bigger scale.

People may say that the reason the collapse would happen is because people do not desire these art forms any more.  Well, this 9-year old proves to me that this isn’t the case.  The arts are relevant today and these bigger art forms that are in question for funding are appealing today, if we let them be seen and heard, which means continuing to fund the arts.

There seems to be such a weird disconnect.  There are opera and symphonies blaring in the background of our commercials.  We have classical music in our movie soundtracks.  There is public art beautifying our neighborhoods.  What we buy in the form of design are created by creative people that were inspired by art.  The television and radio would not be what it is today without the arts.  Why is there such a disconnect between the arts being funded publicly if we use the arts everyday in almost every aspect of our lives?

And, why am I in tears?  It is the last statement in the article.  The 9-year old looks up at her mom and says: “Mommy, why aren’t there more people here?” she asked. “If I could, I would come every night.”

Aside from letting this opera company know that they should have a special subscription for this little girl and her mother due to the heart of this posting, I am in tears because this is exactly the reason why I started my business.  I look around and see low attendance at events that should be packed to the gills.  More people could be enjoying the arts if they only knew they exist for them.

It’s not a matter of not being relevant.  It’s a matter of doing the work necessary to becoming connected with our communities again.  I see the turnarounds, and most of them are due to building relationships and becoming a part of their communities again – audience development.  I know what true audience development can do for an arts business.   I think the main reason I ended up crying over the little girl’s statement is because I want to help, yet I know that it will take time for artists and arts organizations to decide to make the changes toward audience development.

I have to admit that one of the statements in the Forbes article, smacking with elitism, may be a little correct.

The health of art organizations are too important to depend on government. Politics kills goodwill and development skills atrophy. Art thrives on delighting its audiences and developing a loyal fan base. Ensuring that should not be outsourced to government coercion. An identifiable pool of patrons is far superior to a vague cloud of resentful taxpayers.

Are we so used to relying on public funding that we ourselves have created the atrophy of private support?

I know that in order to have a healthier more peaceful world, we need to start with ourselves.  We need to be strong as individuals to add to the collective of a better world.  I still feel strongly that the arts should be funded publicly since the arts contribute to all of us in one way or another, however, if we want to keep the arts on a grand scale, we ourselves need to create stronger, healthier arts businesses.  In my opinion, the best way to do this is to roll up our sleeves and get to work on audience development.

If you can’t bring yourself to feel worthy of working for a better audience, at least, do it for the little girl and for all the children with hopes for a future that embraces the arts.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists



“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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1 Comment

Filed under arts management, Audience Development

One response to “Why am I doing this? Arts Audience Development

  1. Clarification: This posting was mainly discussing funding for the bigger benchmark arts. Since the articles were mainly about large arts organizations, I ran with it. For the record, I am a big advocate of fair funding for smaller organizations, ethnic arts and individual artists as well. Thank you again for reading my blog, and I hope you share your comments here too!

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