In a twist of serendipity, The Wallace Foundation released a report this month called “Taking Out the Guesswork: A Guide to Using Research to Build Arts Audiences.” As designing and administering surveys is one of my primary tasks here at Actors’ Theatre, the case studies presented in this paper provide really fantastic insight for me into how other arts organizations effectively gather data from audiences through surveys and focus groups, and then use this data to reach new audiences. And, it’s really well-written and engaging!
In just two weeks of gathering data and creating weekly reports, some clear trends have started to emerge in terms of audience makeup, attendance, and how audience members hear about the performance. As I wrote last week, it is exciting to see how even a short survey can yield so much valuable information when compiled appropriately. Moving this week from looking at columns of numbers to graphically representing them in bar graphs and pie charts has been illuminating, and artistically satisfying.
A former professor of mine at OSU frequently says, “a great assignment is a gift.” She’s referring to academic assignments, like a compelling prompt for a paper or choreographic task–the kind of assignment that sparks something unexpected, beautiful, or challenging in the creative process and the product. That phrase came to mind this week as I made calls to local schools, community centers and retirement communities. Interim Artistic Director Philip J. Hickman asked me to research these sites around Columbus and make initial contact with them to gauge their interest in presenting an ATC performance this fall. Through researching locations around Columbus, and speaking with a number of people who work in schools or community centers, I’m learning so much about the resources for people of all ages and backgrounds in our city. Between the assignment to make calls and administering surveys at ATC’s performances every weekend–both gifts, for sure–I’m talking to people from all over the community (and I have the survey data to prove it!), experiencing a Columbus whose breadth and depth is so much greater than what I know from my day-to-day life as a grad student at OSU.