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ArtsBoston partners in arts and culture reopening survey

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
ArtsBoston partners in arts and culture reopening survey
A mural by Deme Phive for Hubweek 2018. Moving art events outdoors could be a way to more safely experience culture in the wake of COVID-19. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

Uncertainty is the name of the arts and culture game as Boston proceeds with the phased reopening that began the week of Monday, May 18. How successful the reopening is will dictate how and when arts institutions are able to reopen their doors. In an attempt to arm the arts community with as many tools as possible, ArtsBoston has become the regional partner in the COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor (AOM), an international study run by WolfBrown of audience attitudes about returning to the cultural sector.

“We’ve been in conversations since the pandemic started around what kind of information are we going to need to know to help people feel safe and welcome back in arts and cultural spaces,” says Jen Falk, senior director of operations and external affairs at ArtsBoston.

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ArtsBoston is acquiring such data by sending out audience surveys to their contact list as well as the lists of 15 partner organizations around Boston, including ArtsEmerson, Company One Theatre and others. Survey questions ask audiences when they may feel comfortable back in spaces like theaters or galleries, and what tools would make them more at ease, for example, increased cleaning processes and social distancing guidelines.

The first survey was deployed on May 15 and data should be dispersed this week. A summary of the findings will be distributed to the arts community for guidance in moving forward. The survey will continue over the next six months to gauge audience comfort level as the reopening continues.

ArtsBoston was intentional in selecting partner organizations with diverse audiences to survey. “We really wanted the cohort to be representative of the genres and size and scope of arts patrons here in Boston,” says Falk.

The parameters for partnering required a substantial e-mail list for dispersing the survey, which left some of the smaller organizations run by people of color off the list. They will still receive the results of the survey, and Falk says ArtsBoston has discussed a POC-focused study.

Dawn Simmons, artistic director of The Front Porch Arts Collective, a company focused on serving and telling stories of people of color, says diversity across the board is crucial to the survey’s success.