June 2, 2005

The arts matter - and so does drawing crowds

A response to the 6/2/5 San Francisco Chronicle article
  • The arts matter and so does drawing crowds
  • -by Steven Winn

    Emailed to Steven Winn 6/2/5


    I too attended the Business Arts Council's MetLife Forum last week at SFMOMA and thought that Barry Hessenius' comments were the most direct and impactful. Thank you for highlighting the concept that you need people to have the arts. Barry also talked about supply and demand and I believe that there is significant supply and not a great deal of demand. Audience development needs to be a focus for arts organizations and the recognition that potential audience members don't differentiate between going out for dinner and a movie from seeing a dance performance, unless they are trained artists themselves.

    At one of the San Francisco International Arts Festival performances I chatted with Erika Schuch about the Festival's programming. She was frustrated that her performances were scheduled at the same time as other dance groups'. The already small dance audiences were split between the two performance and many of those people were the dancers themselves.

    I use to be the Director of Business Volunteers for the Arts matching business professionals as pro bono management consultants with small and mid-size arts groups in the Bay Area. The greatest challenge for the volunteers was finding the arts. I heard countless times that they couldn't uncover or navigate the arts scene. Some had tried performances and felt burned by poor quality, dicey venue or not understanding the work.

    Survival of the fittest is the model for most business ventures and arts are competing with all types of other businesses for audiences' attention and dollars. Artists and arts organizations need to get savvier at understanding how potential audience members gather information, make attendance decisions and experience the venue. Without deliberate action we are reducing arts audiences.

    Amy Kweskin