An Audience of Everyone is an Audience of You

I was teaching my class at Baruch recently, when a student approached me with a question about a project they were working on for me. It was a program about viewing art through conversational, with key tips from their point of view.

I asked them who their intended audience is.

“Everyone,” they said, brightly.

“Interesting,” I replied. “So the audience is actually you.”

“Waiting alone” by Nasir Khan Saikat is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

An audience of “everyone” is an audience of “you.” It’s often an artist’s view of programming: put forward my own genius, and ultimately others will come. And, in some cases, they may be right: other “yous” will probably want to join in. But the pool is likely small. And similar. And approving. Or, failing that, at least on a similar wavelength. For the creator, this usually feels good. Because it’s safe.

And safe doesn’t bring in new audiences.

As administrators in the culture space with an eye towards growth and sustainability, our job is to push our creatives into unsafe territory. When we focus on new audiences, we need our creatives to consider the wants and needs of visitors in addition to their own. Where are the intersections between what they want, and what we want? What part of their lives can we reflect? What needs can we fill? Where do we bring relevance?

For the artist moving into administrative roles, this is scary. It can feel like a betrayal of mission and creative impulse. It might even feel like pandering. (And, in truth, it can be, but that’s a different topic.) Yet, making these connections while staying on mission is the new job. And every change should be scary. Because “scary” likely means that you are doing something new.


Today’s curiosity: when are you actually programming for yourself?

New Blog, Who Dis?

Welcome, folks. Nice to have you here. If we haven’t yet met, I’m Ethan, a culture explorer, facilitator, “museum guy” and experience hunter. I’ve been doing odd things in the culture sector for the last decade, from actor, to tour guide, to museum consultant, to professor, to whatever-the-hell this was.

For the moment, I’m working with organizations to be smart about talking to audiences, building experiences and communicating better. Whether it’s a museum, a corporate group or a bunch of people who want to drink some beer, I’m creating unique experiences over short periods of time that educate, entertain and change.

I’m hoping to document some of my ideas about culture programming here. Right now, everything seems to be around audience development and interpretation – or, basically, talking to people and making them feel included.

Expect well-formed thoughts, explosions, and completely off-tangent blustering, too.