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THE NEW ENGAGEMENT PARADIGM Media Strategies in Programming and Marketing for Arts Organizations Alexandra Richardson, University of Oregon, December 2013

Contents Introduction PART ONE: Social Media in Arts Organizations > Why Should Arts Organizations Use Social Media? > How Does Social Media Usage Benefit Arts Organizations? > How Do Arts Organizations Use Social Media Currently? > Choosing Social Media Platforms

PART TWO: Technological Innovations in Programming

> The Audience Involvement Spectrum > Extending the Engagement Experience Through Technology Use > Audience Artwork Co-Creation


Cover Photo taken by author at Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History’s “Santa Cruz Music Night,” August 16, 2013

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Introduction • How can an arts organization best respond to social expectations for increased use of social media through their marketing efforts?

• How can an arts organization best respond to their constituents’ demands for deeper engagement via technologically assisted programming?

These are the two questions I will address in this report. As is the case for all industries, avenues for both marketing and services (ie., programming) in arts nonprofits have been opened up dramatically in recent years by the Internet. This coincides with a growing interest in participatory arts in the cultural sector. In part, a shift away from a prescriptive approach and towards a more community process approach to programming can be traced back to a change in perspective regarding what purpose arts organizations should really serve (Rossman, 2008, pp. 28-29). One of the major contributors to this change is a broadening conception of what constitutes “art.” While at one time, an elitist definition would include only traditional, fine art forms, a more inclusive and populist definition of art has taken hold.

Over the last several decades, many arts organizations have followed the lead set by the National Endowment for the Arts in that their approach to programming has shifted from prescriptive and elitist to one that is populist and seeks, to varying degrees, input from their constituents. This change is evidence of the ascendency of cultural democracy. In this framework, there exists pluralism in what constitutes “art.” Mulcahy (2006) states, “The objective of cultural democracy…is to provide for a more participatory (or populist) approach in the definition and provision of cultural opportunities” and can be seen ”as an alternative, or complement, to a strategy of fine-arts dissemination” (p. 324). Indeed, this is reflected in the latest round of the NEA’s Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (2013). These surveys, conducted periodically since 1982, capture arts participation through a variety of modalities. Categories have been added and refined over the last three decades. “Arts Consumption Through Electronic Media” and a sharpened definition of “Art-Making and Art-Sharing” are two particular areas that hold interest for the purposes of this report. In 2012, seventy-one percent of U.S. adults used tv, radio, or the internet to access the arts, and forty percent of adults emailed, shared, or posted artwork online.

Yet, only thirty-seven percent attended a live performing arts event (NEA, 2013). Unfortunately, participation in events like classical music and jazz performances, opera, theater, musical theater, ballet and other dance forms has steadily declined since 2002. The ways in which people participate in the arts are changing due to increased opportunities afforded by technology, and so too are the nonprofit institutions that have traditionally been the vehicles for delivery of arts programs. A 2013 report from the New Media Consortium suggests that museums, in particular, are coming to rely on social media, open content, and crowdsourcing “as a means of engaging their communities both internally and externally on a deeper level” (New Media Consortium, 2013, p. 7). Museums, as well as other arts organizations, are charged with creating an immersive experience through their cultural offerings, often in ways assisted by technology. Indeed, NPower’s Technology Guide (2006) states, “the environment in which art is shared with the public through nonprofit institutions is changing… traditional audiences [are] maturing, diversifying, and being constantly bombarded with competition for their attention” (p. 5). However, the report goes on to say, “the innovative and strategic use of technology can help nonprofit arts organizations engage, inform, and inspire their diverse audience” (p. 5). If performing and other arts organizations are to continue to thrive, they must adapt to changes in arts participation trends. Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Initiative’s Research Center, released a report called “Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies” in early 2013. This report, which details a study conducted of over 1200 arts organizations in 2012, found that the Internet and digital technologies have permeated arts organizations in myriad ways. Technology has changed audience expectations; 77% of study respondents surveyed agreed with the statement that digital technologies have “played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art” (Pew Internet, 2013a, p. 2). The Pew report also states that arts organizations considered the Internet and digital technologies most central to two concerns: promotions/ marketing, and increasing audience engagement (p.13). I will explore these two aspects by first looking at social media usage in arts organizations, and then explore how organizations increase participant engagement through technology.

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Part One: Social Media in Arts Organizations Why Should Arts Organizations Use How Do Arts Organizations Use Social Media Currently? Social Media?


he Pew Internet report (2013a) peered closely into social media usage within arts organizations in the year 2012. A whopping 97% of arts organizations reported having social media sites (p. 40). The report explains that a company’s investment of time in social media engagement with their patrons does pay off. For example, according to a nationally representative phone survey of U.S. adults that Pew conducted in 2012, 44% of all adults had attended a live music, dance, or theater performance within the last year. Among those who followed a dance/music/theatrical group or venue on a social networking site, the figure grew to 77% (p. 27). The report states, “…given their power to “hook” patrons and expand audience through these platforms, arts organizations may see tremendous dividends in social media properties that are informative, engaging, and relevant to their audience” (2013a, p. 28). As 72% of U.S. adults currently use social networking sites (Pew Internet, 2013c), it is easy to understand why, according to Forbes (DeMers, 2013b), “investment in social media will become a necessity, not a luxury” for all businesses in 2014 (para. 3).

How Does Social Media Usage Benefit Arts Organizations?


orthrup-Simpson (2012) discusses patrons’ expectations of arts marketers. She states, “In 2013, patrons expect that your organization has its act together on social media. That doesn’t mean you’ve jumped on to the very newest social media platforms…” (para. 6) but, she says, it does mean that the staff person charged with posting within the organization is consistent, timely, and responsive to patrons. This means that rather than using social media as a way to simply blast a large audience with event and ticket announcements, communication through social media can, and should, be a two-way street. So what are some strategies for an arts organization that wants to leverage social media to connect with their audience in a rich and meaningful way? Let’s first review some of the ways arts organizations used social media in the last year, again referencing the Pew Internet report (2013a). The study found that the majority of arts organizations surveyed (81%) posted content to social media between several times a week and several times a day (p. 29).

Social media usage in businesses:

1. 2.

Increases brand awareness

Allows for a more personal, immediate connection to patrons, adding dimension to an otherwise possibly impersonal relationship


Provides an easy avenue for patron feedback—both that which the organization discovers by monitoring comments, and that which the patron intentionally offers

4. Facilitates word-of-mouth advertising 5. Increases patron loyalty (DeMers, 2012)

When arts organizations post, they most often “engage with audience members either prior to, during, or following an I would add to this list that social media also: (82%); “monitor what people are saying about [the] 6. Creates new avenues for sharing and/or co-creation of event” organization” (77%); “learn more about [the] audience, programming patrons, or stakeholders” (65%); or “get feedback from the public or ‘crowdsource’ an idea” (52%) (p. 29). Let’s look at how social media accomplishes some of these objectives.

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With regards to that last social media utility— the crowdsourcing of ideas—let’s look at some specific examples of how this might be achieved. One survey respondent described how their organization periodically asked patrons to suggest performers, exhibits, and films they would like to see at at the performing arts center. The ideas were then compiled by the curation team, who

researched the suggestions for possible fit for future programming (Pew Internet, 2013a, p. 34). At the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, the organization uses Pinterest to collect activity ideas and visual inspiration from patrons for upcoming events (Santacruzmah on Pinterest, n.d.). At Eugene, OR’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, curators put out a call to community members for Instagram photographs and curated a show based on these crowdsourced submissions. A leader from another arts organization uses Twitter in a unique way:

“Because I believe in experience, my first attempts to use Twitter was to create TwitterMoves, wherein I tweet a daily creative dance prompt out to the unknown. I was thrilled to learn that dance teachers were using these tweets…for developing curriculum, as opportunities to engage reluctant learners and to teach life skills to students with special needs” (Pew Internet, 2013a, p. 36). These nonprofits used Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter to reach out to their constituents. Which, then, are the most commonly used social media platforms for arts organizations?

Choosing Social Media Platforms


he Pew report (2013a) shows that the social media platform most commonly used by arts organizations is—big surprise—Facebook. 99% of organizations surveyed who used social media used Facebook. The six next most common social media platforms that organizations used were: Twitter (74%); Youtube (67%); Flickr (38%); LinkedIn (31%); Wikipedia (27%); and Vimeo (23%) (p. 26). Interestingly, only 48 respondents (out of a total of over 1200) reported using Pinterest, while Flickr was heavily utilized. This could speak to the more common practice of sharing photos of events or art objects with the public via galleries, as Flickr enables, versus allowing the public to also contribute images or links, as one can do with Pinterest. As mentioned, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History employs this latter method of photo sharing. Judging by the platforms most commonly used, video sharing is frequent among arts organizations. Likely, organizations are using video platforms to make content of performances or events available to a broader public. On the Boards, a Seattlebased performing arts presenter, is a fully functional performing arts organization with traditional, seated performances. Additionally, though, the organization has a paid subscription Internet “TV” service (On the Boards TV, n.d.). Even if an arts organization does not have the type of performances that would logically lend themselves to video creation, videos can be used to generate interest in patrons to other ends. For example, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, a contemporary visual and performing arts nonprofit in Portland, OR, uses their Vimeo channel to house video recordings of artist talks and performances, but they also use the platform to upload upcoming season “trailers” (PICA 2013 Trailer, n.d.). During their “Hack the Museum” exhibit design camp for adults, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History staff filmed a series of campers’ tongue-in-cheek “confessions” and edited these into an engaging, short film (Hack the Museum Camp Day One, n.d.). However, the current number of views for this video is far lower than that of a video of artist Thomas Campbell at work on an installation in the museum (Thomas Campbell Work in Progress: Part One, n.d.).

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Trailers and one-off shorts are perhaps great way to spark curiosity in prospective patrons of an arts organization; current members may be more apt to watch whole performances. Conversely, when filmed performances are available on the Internet, works can reach individuals at a great geographic distance who never intend to attend in-person. While choosing a social media platform based on the type of media the organization wishes to share or the manner of engagement they wish to achieve, another way to consider platforms is through user demographics. Most arts organizations use between 2 and 6 different social media platforms (Pew Internet, 2013a, p. 27). DeMers (2013a) discusses some of the factors that can help an arts organization decide which social media platform to use. He confirms the findings of the Pew report, explaining that with one billion and 500 million worldwide users respectively, Facebook and Twitter are a good place to start—their demographics are wide, and “can be used to reach consumers in nearly every industry” (para. 3). Another report by Pew Internet called “The Demographics of Social Media Users” (2013b), shows that users of Pinterest tend to be women, adults under the age of 50, white, and college-educated. Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram tend to be used by adults age 1829. African-Americans are more likely to use Twitter and Instagram than other platforms, and Latinos are more likely to use Instagram (p. 2).

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Thus, organizations might also find it useful, especially if staff resources are slim, to choose two or three social media sites that not only reflect their aims for engagement and how their specific programming will lend itself to various platforms, but those that resonate with their target and current demographics. Yet one more option is the relatively new site, Ning (, n.d.). Although only 1% of survey respondents in the Pew Report reported using Ning (2013a, p. 26), it poses an intriguing level of functionality. Launched six years ago, the company provides a service for businesses to create their own personalized, visually customizable social networks.

Unlike Facebook, organizations that use this platform do not have to pay to promote their posts. Additionally, it has built-in email broadcast capability, optional mobile site design, and analytics features. Importantly, the platform allows patrons to sign in using their other social media accounts. While this service has a monthly fee, it offers a highly flexible option for larger organizations with a dedicated web design and/or social media staff person.

Part Two: Technological Innovations in Programming The Audience Involvement Spectrum


he James Irvine Foundation, in collaboration with consulting firm WolfBrown, released a report in 2011 called “Getting In On the Act: How Arts Groups Are Creating Opportunities for Active Participation.” This report looks at participatory arts-making in over 100 art organizations worldwide. Of interest to us here is the Audience Involvement Spectrum (p. 4), a framework that posits five stages of arts participation. The five stages are: spectating (passive, or “receptive” engagement); enhanced engagement (possibly “enriching,” but not actively engaging the audience in creative expression); crowdsourcing (each audience member individually contributes an artistic product towards a greater, curated whole); co-creation (audience members become a part of the group performance or art creation process); and audience-as-artist (the artistic creation becomes more about process than product— here, audience members have greatest level of input and control).

As mentioned in the beginning of this report, there has been a consistent decline in traditional arts participation in the U.S. However, while performing and visual arts “spectating” may be going out of fashion, creating greater avenues for participatory arts involvement is a promising way to combat this decline. Looking at the Audience Involvement Spectrum, we can see how technology affords opportunities for arts organizations to create greater levels of audience participation with their offerings. We’ve already looked at some examples of crowdsourcing in arts organizations, such as the use of Pinterest at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History and the use of Instagram at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. In a bit, we’ll discover the ways in which some arts organizations execute opportunities for co-creation and audience-as-artist arts participation.

From “Getting In On the Act: How Arts Groups Are Creating Opportunities For Active Participation” (2011, p. 4)

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Extending the Engagement Experience Through Technology Use


he Seattle Art Museum (SAM)’s Deputy Director of Education and Public Programs, Sandra JacksonDumont, has spent much of her tenure at the SAM addressing arts participation in innovative ways. In a recent interview (Macklin, 2013), Jackson-Dumont states that she “curates experiences.” This seems to be the new way to conceive of creating programming; rather than an arts organization leader simply choosing objects or performances for audience members to spectate (following the traditional prescriptive model), many are instead designing an experience around an artistic theme or concept, which is often participatory to at least one degree beyond the “spectator” category on the Audience Involvement Spectrum.

Jackson-Dumont responds, referencing SAM’s three physical locations: “I would love to have conversations with people about how technology can be the fourth site of SAM…really thinking of it as a place-making mechanism, which is, I think, at the core of our work” (Macklin, 2013). More and more, arts organizations are using web content, as well as technological augmentation of in-person activities, to make technology another “site” for their organization.

Cardiff, Wales’ comprehensive multi-art form venue, Chapter, is one such example (Chapter, n.d.). While the venue has a wealth of location-based programming (film screenings, music and dance performances, visual art exhibitions), as well as neighborhood services (a community garden, arts classes), it has several web-only opportunities for engagement. Chapter’s website hosts a “Bee Cam,” a live stream of bees’ activity in the two hives Seattle Art Museum Website, 11/29/13: in the venue’s community garden. The effect of this is twofold: one, it educates viewers about bees and how they contribute to the garden; and two, it allows geographically distant viewers to connect to the physical location in an immediate and more personal manner. Chapter also has a robust podcast series that contains interviews, music, and literature readings. Finally, the less-serious but nonetheless engaging “Beer of the Month” webpage a l l o w s u s e r s to vote on their favorite beer—all of which are served at the venue—via a multiple-choice online poll. While such activities may not rank high on the Audience Involvement Spectrum, they do certainly allow for audience members to continue engagement between visits. Interviewer Hanson Husein, speaking about the ways that content available on SAM’s website extends the experience for museum-goers, says, “SAM is a museum, about educating, about curating art, but it’s also, in its own right, a media organization. You actually have the ability to take all of the content that you own currently, put it in a place that’s useable, and make that your channel…and use “Bee Cam” Photo from http://www.chapter,org that to continue engagement…”

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Similar examples within music venues include the Baltimore, MD’s 8x10 Club (8x10 Club, n.d.) and Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium (Shea Stadium, n.d.). Recording engineers at both venues record every live concert that occurs within the walls of each. At the 8x10 Club, patrons can purchase and take home recordings on a USB flash drive immediately following the concert; at Shea Stadium, each concert is archived on the venue’s website, which hosts hundreds of recordings listenable via Soundcloud.

An example of technologically-assisted art cocreation from the realm of theater performance can be found in Syndey, Australia’s Windmill Theatre 2012 production, Escape From Peligro Island. In this “chooseyour-own-adventure” play (Kruckenmeyer, n.d.), audience members used hand-held controllers to vote on the direction of the play’s action at predetermined intervals throughout the performance. Results immediately appeared on Audience Artwork Co-Creation a large screen behind the actors, who then adjusted o-creation and audience-as-artist are the the plot accordingly. two categories that are the furthest on the participatory end of the Audience Involvement (Photo from “Escape From Peligro Island,” Spectrum. Some organizations tap the talent au/show/escape-from-peligroand eagerness of their patrons by engaging them in the island ) creation of art. Again, looking to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, patrons regularly co-create art in activity Although not specific sessions at monthly community 3rd Friday events (Santa to a venue, the Toronto Cruz Museum of Art and History, n.d.). One such activity Symphony worked with was the Songs of Summer Collaborative Playlist, which composer Tod Machover occurred at the August 2013 3rd Friday. Patrons created from the MIT Media Lab to a summer song-inspired collage the size of a CD booklet develop a “A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer page and gave these to the museum. and City” over 2012-13 (A Toronto Symphony, n.d.).


(Photo from “A Toronto Symphony: Concerto For Composer and City,” http:// )

Photo taken by author at Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History’s “Santa Cruz Music Night,” August 16, 2013

Museum staff then scanned each page, created a PDF “CD” booklet, and created a Spotify playlist containing all the songs. The playlist and booklet were then housed on the museum’s blog, and the link was shared with participants. Together, participants co-created an artwork that was then accessible long after the event’s end.

Residents of the concerto based on Machover’s prompts, and submitted them to him via Youtube, Soundcloud, Facebook, or email. He wove these submissions together with his own composition, and then once again solicited input from residents to help structure and form the finished piece. Benefits for co-creating art of this nature may include bringing community members closer together and this, by extension, may create social capital. For arts organizations, co-creation also means giving patrons a feeling of ownership over their contribution, and it stands to reason that this increases customer loyalty to the venue or organization. If participatory art continues to gather steam, future studies perhaps similar to those reviewed in this report could reveal what effect these programmatic changes have on organizations’ attendance numbers.

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raditional arts attendance, particularly in the arena of fine performing arts, is dwindling. However, arts organizations have the opportunity to leverage technology, meeting the public’s desire to be more deeply engaged in the process of arts participation. In essence, arts organizations can tap into the activities that their patrons are already engaged in— sharing and remixing of online content, for example—and adapt their approaches to programming accordingly. This does not mean there must be a radical departure from the tried-and-true methods of patron engagement, such as watching a performance or looking at art in a museum gallery. But, as shown, technology has afforded exciting new opportunities for increased patron interaction with the art, be it through co-creation, or extended engagement with initially location-based work. Additionally, social media usage is a necessity for arts organizations, and organizations should recognize the capacity that social media platforms have to enable conversation about, and add content to, arts programming. These tools put more power in the hands of patrons than perhaps has historically been the case. For now, at least, the new engagement paradigm requires that arts organizations be willing to relinquish a bit of curatorial control, and empower their audiences to select and develop certain aspects of their arts experience themselves.

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References 8x10 club. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.the8x10. com/index_content.html

Brown, A. S., Novack-Leonard, J.S. & Gilbride, S. (2011). Getting in on the act: How arts groups are creating opportunities for active participation. The James Irvine Foundation. Retrieved from stories/pdf/grantmaking/Getting-in-on-the-act- 2011OCT19.pdf

Chapter. (n.d.). Retrieved from DeMers, J. (2012, September 28). What is social media marketing, and how can it help my business? Audience Bloom. Retrieved from http://www.audiencebloom. com/2012/09/what-is-social-media-marketing/

DeMers, J. (2013a, May 6). How to determine which social media media network fits your business. Audience Bloom. Retrieved from http://www.audiencebloom. com/2013/05/how-to-determine-which-social-media- network-fits-your-business/

DeMers, J. (2013b, September 24). The top 7 social media marketing trends that will dominate 2014. Forbes. Retrieved from Hack the museum camp day one. (n.d.). Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Retrieved from https://vimeo. com/70161874

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., (2013). The NMC horizon report: 2013 museum edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Kruckenmeyer, F. (n.d.). Escape from peligro island. Retrieved from Machover, T. (n.d.). A Toronto symphony: Concerto for composer and city. Retrieved from Manklin, S. (Producer). (2013, May 8). UWTV Four Peaks. Rockin’ the Seattle art world with Sandra Jackson-Dumont. Retrieved from watch?v=sCSZvbO-22I&feature=share&list=PL16B6B9F5C0C7C9E5&index=14

Mulcahy, K. (2006). Cultural policy: Definitions and theoretical approaches. The Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, 35(4), 319-330.

National Endowment for the Arts. (2013). How a nation engages with art: Highlights from the 2012 survey of public participation in the arts. (NEA Research Report #57). Washington, D.C.: NEA Office of Research & Analysis. Retrieved from Ning. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Northrup-Simpson, A. (2013, October 7). What audiences expect from arts marketers: Four technology must-dos. Americans for the Arts ARTSblog. Retrieved from

NPower. (2006). NPower’s technology guide for nonprofit leaders: A mission support tool for arts and culture. Retrieved from pdf/npower_arts_and_culture.pdf On the boards tv. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.

Pew Internet. (2013a, January 4). Arts organizations and digital technologies. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from Arts-and-technology.aspx Pew Internet. (2013b, February 14). The demographics of social media users--2012. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from Social-media-users.aspx Pew Internet. (2013c, August 5). 72% of online adults are social networking site users. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from social-networking-sites.aspx PICA 2013 trailer. (n.d.). Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. Retrieved from https://vimeo. com/65266673

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Rossman, J. R. (2008). Programming approaches. In Carpenter, G., & Blandy, D. (Eds.), Arts and cultural programming (pp. 37-49). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Santa Cruz MAH on Pinterest. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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Thomas Campbell work in progress: Day one. (n.d.). Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Retrieved from

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The New Engagement Paradigm: Media Strategies in Programming and Marketing for Arts Organizations  

With a focus on participatory strategies, this report explores social media and technology usage in arts organizations, both through marketi...

The New Engagement Paradigm: Media Strategies in Programming and Marketing for Arts Organizations  

With a focus on participatory strategies, this report explores social media and technology usage in arts organizations, both through marketi...