All the World's a Stage: Venues and Settings, and the Role they Play in Shaping Patterns of Arts Participation

By Alan Brown, Principal

Why will some people engage with art in one setting, but not another? For example, why will someone watch great drama on television at home, but never darken the door of a theater? Why will someone listen to classical music in a place of worship, but not a concert hall?

The term “setting” refers to the many spaces, venues, and locations where arts experiences take place, and is used intentionally to broaden the discussion beyond conventional arts facilities. Settings may be formal or informal, temporary or permanent, public or private, and physical or virtual. In the broadest sense, “setting” is a sort of meeting ground between artist and audience — a place both parties occupy for a finite period of time to exchange ideas and create meaning.

Two underlying hypotheses compel this paper. First is that setting plays an increasingly important role as a decision factor amongst cultural consumers, and therefore is a subtle, if not profound, driver of arts participation. The second is based on a wealth of anecdotal evidence: artists and arts organizations are choosing to create and present art in a wider range of settings that both animate the art and capture the imagination of audiences in new ways.

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