Education 8: Importance and development of audience

Authors: Nevena Kereša and Sanja Farkaš

Taking into consideration that available data on participation of audience in cultural and artistic activities indicate that considerable part of European population does not sufficiently participate in those activities, the development of audience has become one of the most demanding challenges of the entire European cultural sector.

The development of audience implies strategic and interactive creative process with the objective of inclusion of individuals and community into full experience, enjoyment, participation and evaluation of art.

Objectives of development of audience:

  • Preservation of cultural and linguistic diversity
  • Providing assistance to cultural sector and creative industries for the purpose of realization of their social and educational mission and fulfilment of their economic potential 
  • Increasing contribution of the mentioned sectors to sustainable and inclusive development 
  • Capacity building of cultural organizations and stimulation of transborder activity 
  • Stimulation of intercultural dialogue, social inclusion and promotion of cultural diversity 

Benefits of development of audience:

  • Cultural (wider audience, education…)
  • Economic (new sources of revenue)
  • Social (empathy development, meeting different social communities, social activism…)

The development of audience can reduce risk of occurrence of social conflicts. The studies show that participation in cultural life contributes to psychological health and it has much stronger impact than other parameters, such as earnings, place of residence, age, sex or vocation. In that sense, the development of audience contributes to revitalization of society and aids self-realization of individuals.

Why get included in development of audience and why now?

The audience debate is not a novelty. Art community has always been a part of an engaged society, a critic of its environment, dealing with complex issues, reviewing our comfort zones and thinking about values and solutions.

Continuous development of audience is necessary because the world changes rapidly. New technologies, more educated population, higher competition of free-time activities, demographic changes, decrease of public financing share — all of it contributes to uncertain future of cultural organizations.

In the past, cultural institutions were founded to increase and sustain national pride and, on a practical level, to act as intermediaries between artists and their audience — as “guardians” of what the public could and should see. Currently, we move towards multidimensional and interactive world, thanks to technology, largely. It changes the way we create, distribute and monetize cultural content, at the same time offering a potential for transforming audience from passive onlookers to creators and active users of cultural content.

Social networks largely contribute to this. They change social expectations and behaviour. People want higher level of interaction and dialogue, the feeling of participation in all aspects of life. Apart from enjoyment, the cultural participation brings creativity to an individual, as something of the utmost necessity for the educated society.

There is a direct link between active audience and active citizens. The cultural participation increases the probability of wider participation into a political life as well. Art provides people with the possibility of expression, giving them a voice in which to tell their stories in. Culture plays a crucial role in any democratic society. 

Phases of development of audience:

  • Upstream participation — it is applied prior to program performance, the audience participates in elaboration of the plan for a desired event, it creates program together with directors, organizers and producers
  • Downstream participation — occurs after an event through direct dialogue, the audience expresses its opinion and impressions and gives proposals for strengthening and improvement of future program 

It is important to find out “who attends” as well as “who does not and why”. It is a great challenge to reach those that are still not audience and fight against impediments for cultural work. In order to develop audience, art community has to leave its own “comfort zone”, and work in public spaces, out-of-ordinary places, develop partnerships with other sectors, schools, hospitals, local initiatives and institutions.

nuArs Session No.1 in Varaždin synagogue

Good Practice Example Development of nuArs Vision and nuSynergetic Initiative in Varaždin

How is the one to start with no references, no space, no audience and no name, and waiting for better times to come is simply not an acceptable alternative? Many questions and a lot of criticism of the existing condition are in your head. You see that there is a lack of good collaborations, quality-like cultural programs, education, youth training and employment  in your environment, as well as of active community participation in its own development.

Your only choice is to begin — take that first step and give it your best.

nuArs is a vision of joint action and collaboration of people who, inspired by music, increase quality of life in their local community.

The first experimental project nuArs Session No.0 was carried out in 2015 in the City of Varaždin. Former Varteks factory weaving facility, with the area of 6 000 m2, for a while became a comfortable sitting room, which was brought to life by newly founded nuSynergetic Orchestra and guest Elvis Stanić and their soul, jazz and funk remakes and original compositions. This show was performed completely independently, at its own expense and with assistance of more than 60 volunteers. Rections of the audience or those that heard or read about it in the media were extraordinary — the invested efforts paid off.

“It is an incredible feeling when musicians stand half a metre away from you and you feel that they play just for you.” 

“After last week City Assembly session, I am not sure whether these two events even occurred at the same time and in the same city at all.”

“Extraordinary Instruction for Life for all Those that Might Suspect Spirit of Times”

Why nuArs Session caused delight and how was the audience developed? Some of the reasons were: originality, surprise, professionalism and quality, unusual place of performance which indicated potential for use of abandoned spaces, interdisciplinary collaboration of musicians, architects, designers, photographers, technicians and other interested citizens, limited number of spaces in the auditorium, targeting of potentially interested people and personal calls. 

After the first successful presentation of nuSynergetic initiative to public, Association nuSynergetic, that works on promotion of cultural creativity and development of innovative art practices, was founded in 2016. The Associations works on educational processes, enhancement and increase of awareness level about culture, as well as on revitalization process of abandoned spaces. The ensuing projects nuArs Session No.1 and nuSynergetic Orchestra ft. Varaždin Musical School confirmed that their success was not an accident.

Active participation and collaboration of local community in creation of cultural content is a key determinant of contemporary art practices. The audience is created by participation of society.

nuSynergetic Orcestra ft. Varaždin Musical School


European Audiences: 2020 and beyond — European Commission


Cover photo: ŠGZ Olinta

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