On May 25 2018, it was held the Research Seminar ‘Connecting with the public of our museums’ in Madrid, organized in the framework of the research projects CONNECT and PUBLICUM, which are currently being carried out by the Institute of Leisure Studies at the University of Deusto. The Seminar was possible thanks to the support of the Chair in Leisure and Knowledge, funded by Banco Santander. The event raised interest among representatives of cultural institutions such as the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, ICOM Spain, National Prado Museum, Spanish Cultural Action or CaixaForum Madrid.
The seminar was structured in two parts: first, a panel that addressed the topic of audience development and museums from an academic point of view; second, a panel that addressed that topic from a practical point of view.
During the first part and based on the final report of the Engage Audiences Project Macarena Cuenca (University of Deusto), reviewed the subject according to eight strategic areas of intervention in Audience Developmentapplied to the field of museums: (1) programming; (2) participation and co-creation; (3) the digital; (4) the use of data; (5) spaces; (6) collaborations and alliances; (7) organizational change; (8) capacity development. After this, Amaia Makua (University of Deusto) continued with a reflection on a new professional profile, understood as the strategic capacity of the organization to which cultural organizations must respond in order to face the challenge of reorienting themselves towards the public. Based on the research carried out in the ADESTE and CONNECT projects, Amaia explained the training needs that were identified and how the University of Deusto plans to respond to these needs through a double postgraduate education (Expert in Cultural Audiences and Audiences Strategies Expert). The pilot program of these titles will be launched in the academic year 2018-2019.
The second part of the Seminar included the presentations of Virginia Garde, Head of the Dissemination and Development Area of the General Subdirectorate of State Museums, and Marcos García, Artistic Director of Medialab Prado. Virginia presented the work carried out by the Permanent Laboratory of Public of Museums, focused on understanding the visitors of the state museums and the actions that have been launched in order to promote this orientation in the museums that are members of the Laboratory. The initiative Museums + social is an example of this. Finally, Marcos addressed the case of Medialab Prado, an initiative of the City of Madrid, conceived as a citizen laboratory for production, research, and dissemination of cultural projects that explores the different ways of experimentation and collaborative learning that arises from digital networks. Medialab is a good example of an organization oriented to its audiences through their work with their local communities and their involvement in participatory projects. Both the closing discussion between speakers and participants, and the coffee break were highly rewarding due to the debate and the interest generated, as well as the networking that took place during the seminar.
What is Audience Development - AD?
According to the European Commission Audience Development is a strategic, dynamic and interactive process of making the arts widely accessible. It aims at engaging individuals and communities in experiencing, enjoying, participating in and valuing the arts through various means available today for cultural operators.
AD could be represented as a multi-faceted means aimed at deepening, strengthening and widening the relationship between cultural institutions and different audiences.
But how do students of cultural management understand AD? At the same time, to what extend are cultural practitioners aware of the importance of AD for their professional activities – and their cultural organisations at a broader level? And above all, would both students and practitioners be interested in taking a course in Audience Development?
These are the questions addressed by two different surveys carried out within the frame work of CONNECT, namely within the Working Program devoted to research activities. And here are the main findings of the surveys.
Students and AD
The research activities involved the participation of over 45 students enrolled in MA courses in management of the cultural sector over 5 different countries (Denmark, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom). According to the vast majority of interviewed students, AD should indeed be taught in universities even if not as subject per se. Conversely, it should be addressed as an innovative way to approach cultural practice, and therefore the teaching of AD should delve less into technicalities and focus more on providing students with new tools for interpreting and understanding people, their thoughts and practices.
MA students would warmly welcome a course in AD. The course should indeed be thought-provoking in addressing the main features of AD, while it should mostly carry a practical connotation. Students would be interested in having the chance to conduct fieldwork, to visit cultural institutions but most importantly to work on AD-related project works granting students the possibility to think for themselves. With the ultimate goal of picking up from the course what makes potential audiences tick, how to better understand and reach them as well as how to communicate successfully with them.
Cultural practitioners and AD
Parallel to the survey on students ran an online questionnaire that reached out to over 620 cultural practitioners over the 5 different European countries. Cultural practitioners shared with students a strong interest in Audience Development. Yet, while students appeared to be more flexible in their approach to AD and therefore more eager to learn, practitioners working in the field reasonably shared a more structured understanding of AD. According to the data gathered, only about half of the cultural practitioners understand Audience Development as a subject not limited to marketing. And among those practitioners potentially interested in taking a course in AD, only half seems to possess the key management and marketing tools necessary for an effective delivery of AD-related activities.
Cultural practitioners too would warmly welcome a course in AD. Together with students, they would favour a practice-based approach. The importance of formal accreditation of such AD course starkly varies from country to country, while the vast majority of practitioners favours innovative teaching methodologies based on active learning over traditional lecture-style teaching.
AD and higher education
The main findings of the surveys on students and cultural practitioners are not surprising if confronted with the actual educational offer within both graduate and post-graduate courses in the 5 countries covered by the research.
In fact, a third stream of research activity within CONNECT consisted in a survey of existing programmes of current practices on entrepreneurship education and audience development (an entrepreneurial approach is strictly linked to audience development practices). The main findings of the survey show that, with few exceptions with a good degree of coherence across all the 5 countries countries, both Audience Development and entrepreneurial skills are not yet commonly found within course curriculums and are mainly provided by vocational training providers (e.g. agencies, foundations, associations, etc.), rarely by universities.
Drawing from the survey on higher education courses, as well as from the surveys on students of cultural management and cultural practitioners across the 5 countries, AD is still an open issue in the European higher education sector. Few university courses target AD specifically; students are enthusiastic about discovering AD even if they struggle to conceive it as a subject “per se”; cultural practitioners agree on the strategic importance of AD but still tend to regard it as “mainly about marketing”.
What emerged from the research seems to acknowledge the importance of designing ad-hoc courses specifically dedicated to AD. Do not fear though – CONNECT Twin Track training programme is coming in Autumn 2018. Stay tuned for updates!
CONNECT aims at building bridges between higher education and the labour market of cultural practitioners on Audience Development -related issues, through the delivery of a Twin-Track training programme for both students and practitioners. But what topics should the course cover? How should it be structured? In other words, how can one best design a course that is relevant to both cultural practitioners working on the field and university students eager to join cultural organisations?
The need analysis carried out within CONNECT meant to answer these questions with the aim of guiding the design of the Twin-Track Programme. Therefore, CONNECT includes a Working Program devoted to research activities, namely designed as a detailed need analysis of the target groups, consisting of three main activities:
- a detailed needs analysis of arts management post-graduate students;
- a detailed needs analysis of practitioners in the cultural sector;
- and a Survey of existing programmes of current practices on entrepreneurship education and audience development (an entrepreneurial approach is strictly linked to audience development practices).
The research was carried out at national levels by the different partners of the project so that, for the collection of data, each country was considered as a “national hub”. The data collected was eventually aggregated for both national and cross-national interpretation.
The data collection focused on 5 main countries, based on the geographical provenance of the partners of the consortium, namely: Denmark, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The research analyzed over 130 higher-education courses, through 2 ad-hoc AD indicators with the aim of shedding light on the extent to which such courses covered AD-related issues. At the same time, the consortium interviews over 45 students enrolled at 19 different universities through Semi-structured in-depth interviews and Focus Group Interviews, exploring students’ views on AD as well as their expectations for a potential Audience Development-related course. Finally, CONNECT was able to reach out to over 620 cultural practitioners working across the 5 countries covered with a CAWI (Computer Assisted Web Interview) survey based on an online questionnaire, focusing on the practitioners’ understanding of AD as well as on the role of AD-related strategies within their cultural organisations.
The data collected are the starting ground for the design of the Twin-Track programme to be delivered starting from Autumn 2018. The training programme will feature a transnational team of researchers, teachers and trainers from higher education institutions and private cultural organisations and it will combine both formal and informal training, as well as digital resources.
What are the outcomes of the research activities? What did cultural practitioners and university students share? If you want to know more about the findings of the research activity, Click HERE.