I feel the arts are a bit dis-eased. Budget cuts, shrinking audiences, and other gloom and doom that hits the news regularly are casting a murky illness over what we could be doing to better the situation. I have good news and bad news. Which would you like first? The bad news?
The bad news is that the majority in our industry have Artsitis with the nasty symptoms of going in circles, feelings of paralysis, and whoa as me pox. The symptoms worsen with each focus on the negative and each complaint about what is going wrong, which leads to migraines and nervous breakdowns. This group of arts folks keep bashing out the what is wrong scenario. They hire expensive research teams to calculate and articulate what is wrong and what should be done, over and over again. They attempt to paint a different picture to funders while doing the same clunky, tired out programs. The puss builds and oozes, the germs spread, the infection infects, particularly in bigger gathering places, where frequent Artsitis outbreaks have been documented. You see, the shoulds and all the talk about the problems add up to more dis-ease.
This dis-ease makes my skin itch and my brain twitch. I am sick with concern that as an industry, we are heading in the wrong direction and/or moving at such a snail pace that life will run us over and bury us in its dust.
The good news, which is desperately needed to ease the pain, there is a cure for Artsitis and some artists and arts organizations have already been applying the dosage. It’s called audience development in all its varying forms:
- Research that focuses on solutions that turns into programs for building your audience
- Technology formats that engage, educate and inform your audiences
- Outreach projects with the intention of starting relationships with people that are not attending
- Social media which is social
- Diversity programs that bring people of varying cultures together
- Fundraising projects that get the audiences involved
I could go on and on. In order to be effective, what do all of these audience development points have in common? Focused planning and committed action. Instead of contracting Artsitis, going in circles, and applying bandages of conversation, action (the antidote) is being taken. There are examples out there of people experimenting with their dosage in order to get to what works to cure their dis-ease.
Artsitis is making us turn blue (and green with envy of those already working toward their cure), and making us feel blue about our industry. We feel panicked and out of control. We feel fear that we don’t have enough time to turn things around. Misery loves company, so we talk and talk and talk about what needs to happen, what needs to shift, instead of actually doing something about it.
Maybe we all (myself included) need to take a big dose of reality medicine and realize that if we don’t start taking action to make the changes, Artsitis will eventually kill us. Strikes and bankruptcies galore. This is not the arts world I would like to envision.
Aren’t you tired of going in circles or moving at a speed that is easily passed by? I know I am. So, I will be taking a huge dose in the coming month of April. I am taking time to evaluate, research and plan for the next phase, and then action will happen at an experimental speed! We all can take this dose of medicine any time we want. There is no shame in taking the time out to mentally and physically prepare for action. In May, I will shift to action. I admit that I have contracted a little bit of Artsitis, and now it is time to cure what is ailing me.
It’s the action, in the end, that will cure Artsitis after all. Will you help me work for the cure?
What action are you taking to build relationships with your audiences? Let’s talk about solutions!
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Audience Development Specialists
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
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