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Cultural Consumption: It’s all about experience

Margaret Weisbrod Morris, Rotarian and Chief Executive Officer of Lawrence Arts Center, presents findings from the 2017 Culture Track report.

Margaret Weisbrod Morris, Chief Executive Officer of Lawrence Arts Center presented the Culture Track 2017 report. Culture Track was launched in 2001 as a longitudinal study of cultural habits in the United States. After September 2011, researchers observed the dramatic impact the event had on American culture. The study is used to help institutions know how to position themselves to best reach and engage with their target audiences.

Weisbrod Morris explained that the study was originally only conducted every seven years. However, technology changes have speed up cultural change. The survey was updated to being conducted every four years and is now conducted annually.

“I’m sharing it because it contains some of the foundational thinking we use at the Arts Center for how we serve the community and what we consider.” said Weisbrod Morris. “It also shows why the arts are so critical during times of political upheaval.”

The 2017 survey collected data from 4,035 respondents representing the demographic makeup of the United States. At the same time, 2017 responses were heavily collected from residents of the Midwest and South. Weisbrod Morris explained that with changes in cost of living, “cultural consumption is becoming more concentrated” in these areas.

“Technology has radically shifted our whole paradigm on what we think of as culture. It has democratized what is considered to be ‘culture.'” While the definition of “culture” may be in flux, Weisbrod Morris argued that “its value has never been greater.”

In comparison to 2014, which Weisbrod Morris explains as a time of cultural consumers being “locusts,” gobbling up any opportunity available to them, we are now “experience omnivores.” This change in expectation and purpose challenges organizations to plan in a different way to engage with old and new audiences.

Organizations typically follow one of two approaches: Singular focus or Portfolio approach. The Lawrence Arts Center follows the portfolio approach, keeping their interests and opportunities broad. “At our core we are a community space with arts as our means.”

With all the factors the Lawrence Arts Center considers when determining programming and exhibits, a key element is evaluating the “mood” that the opportunity will inspire.