Arts communication series: Opportunities (part 1 of 3)
Before our audiences step in to galleries, before they visit the box office, before they purchase their tickets online, or gather around to watch a gamelan ensemble or listen to a spoken-word performance, before all of that, they probably already have an idea of what they’re going to think about it. The literary critic Stanley Fish calls this an “interpretive act” and claims that what someone knows before they encounter a text informs their interpretation. Fish is not without his detractors, but let’s use his ideas to start our discussion with the premise that the response of an already-biased audience plays a significant role in shaping what an arts experience means.
This translates into a bit of extra work for arts communicators. Going beyond creating attractive brochures and launching digital media campaigns, arts communicators have to become adept delving deep into the audience’s psyche and extracting relevant information that become practical content creation strategies.
And there’s no doubt about it: the audiences are changing. We have a diverse, dynamic population in Singapore with individuals representing numerous cultures, traditions, religions, and languages. There are new consumption habits with which we have to contend. Audiences demand more in some areas, and less in other areas. Amidst all this, conversations about belonging, home, culture, privilege, and society are becoming more visible and audible. There is an increasing number of arts professionals in Singapore, thanks to the expansion of arts-based education, leading to an growth in literary events, community theatre and music ensembles, and friendly arts experiences that cater to people with varying levels of knowledge and experience in the arts. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are offering opportunities for new models of corporate partnerships with arts organisations, adding depth and dimension to the landscape.
Arts content is the great mediator between audiences and arts events. It presents opportunities to build trust with audiences, to educate, inspire, inform, and entertain. It has the potential to encourage audiences to participate more fully and deeply in the arts, and to understand the arts as an important platform for identity formation, social dialogue, and individual enjoyment.