Artful companions
2 May 2011
Inside the Classics

New data out from a recent NEA study has been making the papers lately, and the findings are illuminating, if not occasionally surprising. Of the 1.5 million Americans who attend an arts performance on any given day, less that 7 percent go alone. A vast majority attend with either friends or family members.

Which aligns with my personal philosophy that the arts are all about social connections and the deep-rooted human desire to share those moments of beauty or hilarity or introspection with a fellow human being. And if that’s the case, as it seems to be, it gets me thinking about ways in which we could enhance the concert experience to incorporate that social aspect of attending a show. For instance, we’ve long talked about how performers can engage the audience more in the concert experience, through pre-concert talks and post-concert Q&A’s, but what about finding a way in which audience members can engage each other in an exchange of ideas?

The surprising statistic (at least for me) was the comparison between the amount Americans spent on performing arts admissions – $14.5 billion – and the amount spent on sports events – $20.7 billion. Maybe because it’s because I’ve been reading too many online comments from articles about the floundering or bankruptcy of various orchestras – comments which often run along the lines of “Well, nobody cares about the arts anyway, most Americans are into sports.” I’m delighted to say the haters are wrong!

I know we’ve been a little down about our industry lately, but I find it important, both organizationally as well as personally, to periodically assert that what we do matters to a whole lotta people. It’s the encouragement we need to keep thinking both critically and creatively as we move forward, which is, after all, the only logical direction in which to move.

<February 2020>

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