Understanding Audience Engagement in the Contemporary Arts: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Understanding Audience Engagement in the Contemporary Arts

1st Edition

By Stephanie E. Pitts, Sarah M. Price


240 pages

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Hardback: 9780367358884
pub: 2020-08-01
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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, policy makers and reflective practitioners across the spectrum of arts and cultural industries management.


'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 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

Table of Contents

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 Audience Engagement

5. Artforms, Venues and Audience Decision-Making: Navigating the Cultural Ecology

6. Routes to Engagement in the 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

About the Authors

Stephanie Pitts is Professor of Music Education at Sheffield University. 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 Price is audience researcher and member of the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre SPARC.

About the Series

Routledge Research in the Creative and Cultural Industries

This series brings together book-length original research in cultural and creative industries from a range of perspectives. Charting developments in contemporary cultural and creative industries thinking around the world, the series aims to shape the research agenda to reflect the expanding significance of the creative sector in a globalised world.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Museum Studies
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Nonprofit Organizations & Charities
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Museum Administration & Museology