Making the arts relevant and meaningful
Given that we know why people engage with the arts, John Holden discusses how arts organisations can actually increase public engagement in the arts. In the context of positive shifts in policy and changes in the way we judge and measure the quality of the arts, he looks at the need for greater collaboration and suggests that steps to increase participation should include the consideration of issues such as class, education, the media and demand.
We have mainly been looking at the supply side of the equation, but we need to look at demand. It is only by working with the trends in society that we can improve the confidence which the public has in the arts.
First, we need to do much more with education and learning. If level of education is a key determinant of participation in the arts, then we need to ensure we are working with nurseries, schools, universities, public libraries and any place where formal or informal learning is taking place. Arts organisations will have to increase their capacity to meet the desire of people to learn.
Second, mass broadcast media is still very important and we need to start from where people are. The vast majority of people still get their arts from tv. Four million people watched Leonardo in 2003, about the same number who visit the National Gallery in a year.