1st Edition

Understanding Audience Engagement in the Contemporary Arts

By Stephanie E. Pitts, Sarah M. Price Copyright 2021
    248 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    248 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Drawing on unique multi-arts, multi-city scholarly research, Understanding Audiences for the Contemporary Arts makes a timely and urgent contribution to debates about the place of arts and culture in contemporary society.  

    The authors critically interrogate the challenges of access, diversity, privilege and responsibility in contemporary art. Asking who benefits from, pays for and consumes the arts, the book highlights fresh, forward-thinking audience and organisational attitudes that show the potential of live arts engagement to contribute to engaged citizenship. Complemented by comparative global analysis, the cutting-edge insights in this book are relevant for interdisciplinary researchers across audience studies and beyond.

    Enhanced by a new framework for the understanding audience engagement, the book is relevant to scholars, policymakers and reflective practitioners across the spectrum of arts and cultural industries management.

    Chapter 7 of this book is freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license here.

    1. Introduction: Who Goes to the Contemporary Arts?  2. Understanding Audiences: Research Methods and Approaches  3. "But is it Art?": Defining the Contemporary Arts  4. Cities for the Arts: The Importance of Place in Arts Engagement  5. Art forms, Venues and Audience Decision-Making: Navigating the Cultural Ecology  6. Routes to Engagement in Contemporary Arts  7. "It’s Okay Not to Like it": The Appeal and Frustrations of the Contemporary Arts  8. Making Sense of the Contemporary Arts: Programme Notes, Gallery Panels and Arts Talk  9. Uncomfortable Questions in Contemporary Arts Practice and Research: The Formaldehyde Shark in the Room  10. Audience Development and the Future of the Contemporary Arts: Learning from Audiences



    Stephanie E. Pitts is a professor of music education at the University of Sheffield. Her research and teaching interests are in musical participation, concert audiences and music education and in the qualitative research methods used to understand people’s uses of music in their everyday lives. 

    Sarah M. Price is audience researcher and member of the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC). As both an academic and a freelance audience researcher, Sarah has conducted audience research projects collaboratively with numerous arts organisations, including a Collaborative Doctoral Award with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Her research interests are in the value of arts engagement, understanding audience behaviour and patterns of attendance, and the role of academic research within the arts industry.

    'A refreshing, eye-opening insight into gaining, growing and nurturing audiences for contemporary culture. As artists and arts organisations, too often we fall back on tempting people to attend who already know and love our artform. This study has thrown a light on a whole community that thrives on the new, the challenge, the experience of our boundary-breaking work. Understanding Audiences for the Contemporary Arts demonstrates if we are bold, responsive and collaborative in our engagement with our cities, we will thrive alongside that community.

    Everyone: every artist, every programmer, every curator, every marketing manager, every gallery assistant – and yes, every Executive Director – should read this book.'

    Seb Lovell-Huckle, Executive Director of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, UK

    ‘Stretching across disciplines, arts organisations and regions, the qualitative research insights in this book offer valuable new answers to some of the most urgent questions which preoccupy arts makers and their audiences today.’

    Helen Freshwater, Reader in Theatre & Performance, Newcastle University, UK