Audience Development Approaches

The first year graduate students in arts management are spending a couple of weeks discussing marketing, audience development, community engagement, and community arts practice.  I drew a couple of quick sketches on the chalkboard – yes, we still have a chalkboard – to explain the difference between a traditional marketing approach and a community engagement approach to developing audience.  Here on a sticky note is a sketch of the traditional approach, in which marketing is used to overcome the inherent inertia between art and audience to connect one with the other – marketing pushes past that inertia to get the two together. marketing approach

In the engagement approach, on the other hand, the art and audience are brought together into one community circle.

community engagement approach


About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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5 Responses to Audience Development Approaches

  1. Doug Borwick says:

    Hi! At the risk of inappropriately inserting myself here, the relationship among audience development, audience engagement, and community engagement is of considerable interest to me. Here is a link to my take on the three:

    • lindaessig says:

      Thanks, Doug. And I use your distinctions in my class. Community engagement is indeed strategic and mission-based. Marketing is also, but the outcomes are different.

  2. Art is separate from the audience. The audience didn’t make the art. The audience doesn’t want to make the art, otherwise it would. The audience doesn’t know how to make the art.
    The audience doesn’t know what it wants when it comes to art. It knows what it had last time and mostly likely would say it wants more of the same thing. But in reality it doesn’t want the same thing over again. It wants the same feeling of wonderment it had when it viewed or heard or read what blew it’s mind last time.
    Marketing doesn’t push “past that inertia to get the two together.” Marketing helps bring the audience into a place to see or hear or read art.
    I don’t know what “community engagement” even is? Who is doing the engagement? What is engaged?
    It’s easy just to say that art and audiences are “brought together”? But what are you suggesting happens?

    • lindaessig says:

      Richard: I’m sorry that as an audience member you experience art as separate from yourself. I accidentally had an extra afternoon in Fort Worth last weekend and spent the time at the Kimbell and the Carter. When I sat before Monet’s “Weeping Willow” or Thiebaud’s “Salad, Sandwich, and Dessert,” I did not feel separate from the work – on the contrary, I felt connected to it. I also felt connected to the total stranger who was sharing that experience with me. Such is the power of art. I have also felt connected to children dancing in a park or actors on a stage. The work is not separate from the audience – it is incomplete without them.

  3. I think that, like in your sketch, everything goes hand in hand. As a writer or an artist, you can’t have one without the other. Marketing is a very sensitive subject because-like me, many don’t know how to do it correctly. We dread even thinking about it, but it’s what can make or break your career.

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