Audience engagement on the ground

by Jini Stolk

Andrew Taylor’s The Artful Manager contains a link to one of the most useful pages of resources I’ve come across:  a full list of audience engagement literature  prepared as background reading for Theatre Communications Group’s Audience (R)Evolution Learning Convening.

Many of these studies (Alan Brown’s name looms large on the list, as does The Wallace Foundation which is delving deeply into this ubiquitous topic as grantor, thought-leader, and convenor) focus on actual engagement activities of performing arts companies. The purpose of TCG’s “Convening” is to share information on what worked, and what didn’t.

The enormous value of evaluating specific tactics, tried and tested, against companies’ overall audience engagement and development strategies is obvious.

In Toronto, we seem to have a growing number of opportunities to hear what is often wise and inspirational advice from experts in community engagement and engaging and diversifying audiences. I think we’re now ready for some follow-up: Did you take this advice and put it into practice in your company? What did your program look like, and how did it work? Did it achieve what you hoped it would? If it didn’t, do you understand why not?

Without a phase two, we still won’t know whether we’re doing the best possible job of engaging the residents of our own city in our work, or inspiring life-long participation and appreciation of the arts.

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