The growing importance of non-traditional venues to the arts audience

Theaters, concert halls, and museums are conducive to certain kinds of exchanges between art and people. These are, and will always be, critically important spaces for public participation in the arts. But meaningful exchange occurs with greater frequency in many other settings, from old breweries to planetariums, abandoned subway platforms, barges, cinemas, and community bookstores. With the proliferation of virtual spaces for arts programs, it seems now that all the world's a stage.
The new emphasis on setting is evident in the rise of site-specific festivals, growing experimentation with temporary or "pop-up" spaces, a new pattern of use of cinemas for high quality digital arts programs, and increased use of outdoor urban spaces for video presentation. It is also evident in the work of young artists who choose to curate the settings for their work as an integral part of the work itself. Inviting audiences to spaces they do not want to visit is a losing proposition, especially when they do show up and feel out of place. Without a clearer perspective on the dynamics between audience, artist and setting, the arts sector will not develop the capacity it needs to engage the next generation of art lovers...
A sea change is underway in the relationship between the public and the settings where it engages with culture, both live and digital. To say that the professionalized arts sector has been caught off-guard would be an understatement. "It almost makes you think the arts have been in hiding all these years, playing it safe in their own cultural caves instead of venturing out to where life is really going on," says Peter Linett of Slover Linett Strategies, a leading research firm.... Many artists and arts groups prefer not to perform or exhibit in unconventional settings. There are financial obstacles, artistic limitations, technical barriers, and a host of other legitimate reasons for keeping art in purpose-built venues. Nonetheless, the fact remains that setting is an under-leveraged variable in the stubborn calculus of audience development. Arts groups with fixed spaces have tough choices to make. How to balance the need for operating efficiencies with the longer-term need to replenish audiences through programming in new or different spaces?

Excerpt from "All The World's a Stage: Venues and Settings, and the Role they Pl...

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