Interesting article here about how we define arts audiences. The basic idea is that more people are involved with the arts then we generally count, as things like photography, social dancing, and cultural events are all art forms, even if they don’t take place in the traditional institutional spaces. I think that part of our job as Arts Leaders and administrators is to tap into these forms and use them to get them into our spaces. The Brooklyn Musuem (full disclosure: I currently have an office there, though I don’t work for them) did a photography exhibition called Click earlier this year where Brooklyn residents took the pictures and voted on which ones would ultimately be shown. That’s the kind of thing of which I’m thinking. If you’ve seen Welcome to Arroyo’s or The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, you know that I like to explore non-traditional art forms in my work as well. (Yes, I do consider both hip-hop and professional wrestling art forms; in fact they’re two of the most important and uniquely American art forms that exist, right along the American Broadway Musical.)
I’m reminded of my experiences teaching in Cleveland a few years back. I’d go into a new classroom, and I’d ask “how many people have ever been to the theater before?” In grade schools with predominantly African-American student bodies, maybe 30% of the hands would go up at that question. I’d ask what they’d seen, and I’d hear things like Shakespeare, children’s plays — the kind of shows you’re dragged to in school, things that seem like high culture (even if the term high culture isn’t something you’ve ever heard). But then…I’d ask who had ever seen a Madea play (Madea being, of course, the protagonist of many of Tyler Perry‘s plays), and over 80% of the hands would shoot up, full of excitement.
It’s all about perception.