Audiences for the contemporary arts: Exploring varieties of participation across art forms in Birmingham, UK

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Gross, J. ; Pitts, S.E. (2016)
  • Publisher: University of Wales

This article provides an overview of the key findings of the research project, Understanding Audiences for the Contemporary Arts, a collaboration between the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC) and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG). The project investigated the experiences of audiences for ‘contemporary’ work across art forms (craft, dance, music, theatre and visual art), and helped develop a collaborative network of contemporary arts organisations in Birmingham. This article provides an account of the distinctive research design employed during the eight months of collaboration in Birmingham and a summary of the project’s six main findings. The paper indicates the implications these findings have for organisations presenting contemporary work and how they might widen and deepen relationships with audiences. It concludes by suggesting the need to move beyond the prevailing vocabularies and conceptualizations of audience ‘access’ and ‘barriers’, and for researchers and cultural organisations to instead address the varieties of participation and the possibilities of ‘cultural citizenship’.
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