Audience development – Best practice research

“Audience development across the arts sector” – explorative research of audience development and development of an evaluative cross-sector model for comparison of practices

Research rationale

Audience development, firstly defined by the Touring department of British Arts Council in late 1980’s (Maitland, 2016), became the emerging priority of arts organizations (Hayes & Slater, 2002). Most frequently defined as “the activity of breaking down barriers and building a relationship between an individual and the arts” (Maitland, 2000), the origin of audience development is in Anglo-American cultural spheres, slowly finding its way to the Central Europe (Waltl, 2006). The range of activities executed as part of the audience development or as recently emphasized expression “audience engagement” programmes include outreach projects, free programming, educational programmes, audiences in dress rehearsals, workshops, et cetera (Werner, 2008).

Thus, both arts organisations as well as national and trans-national governmental bodies explore and aim towards a development of a model enabling cross-arts-discipline(s) national as well as international evaluation of diverse plea of applied approaches or activities executed as part of audience development programmes.

Supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, Audiences Norway (Norsk Publikumsutvikling) is positioned as the membership organisation operating on national level, emphasizing and supporting audience development initiatives and developments across the arts sector. Apart from the existing focus on informing, organisation is particularly concerned with generation, development and dissemination of knowledge about audiences and audience development.

Thus, partnership between the academic research and governmental body accessing the arts field and audience development practices could enable exploration and development of knowledge in audience development, driven by the objective of empowering the existing academic, professional and policy attempts.

Research partner organisation: Norsk Publikumsutvikling / Audiences Norway

Note: The project is part of the Master thesis research conducted for Master of Sciences in Leisure studies at NHTV University Breda, the Netherlands.