Missing Out On Culture: Large Scale Study Helps Cultural Organizations Look to the Future

Missing Out On Culture: Large Scale Study Helps Cultural Organizations Look to the Future

Summer arrives when I pull out my Hollywood Bowl tickets and eagerly anticipate the delights that accompany every event. Over the years I’ve seen an eclectic mix of outstanding performances from jazz and blues artists including Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr, and the legendary B.B. King to classical greats such as pianist Lang Lang, cellist Yo-Yo Ma as well as renown conductors including the witty Bramwell Tovey, charismatic Gustavo Dudamel and maestro of the movies, John Williams.

It isn’t just the performances that I anticipate, but the entire experience: getting there and walking through the iconic grounds, setting up and enjoying the pre-show picnic, savoring a glass of wine, chatting with my companions, watching the amphitheater slowly fill with my fellow concert goers, all while soaking up the warm summer evening. There is a sense of camaraderie with people around you, as we collectively relish the performance as much as the ambiance in one of LA’s most treasured spots.

This year summer didn’t arrive. For the first time in its 98 year history, the Hollywood Bowl canceled its season due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Hollywood Bowl Closed update

The Hollywood Bowl isn’t alone, as cultural organizations across the globe shuttered their doors in response to the crisis. Only now, more than five months into the pandemic, there are signs that venues can begin to reopen. In New York, for example, museums and other cultural organizations are opening their doors with several new processes in play, such as limited capacity, social distancing, and temperature checks.

These new rules of engagement are unlikely to be the only ones. The changes that COVID-19 has brought are far more wide-reaching, and even early in the pandemic questions arose on how cultural organizations can reinvent themselves to deepen and broaden engagement in this new world.

This is precisely the question that researchers from Slover Linett and La Placa Cohen posed, leading to an extraordinary study of scale, consisting of 10 partners, 653 participating cultural organizations, and data captured through FocusVision Decipher from 124,000 research participants across the US.

One of the early key findings from the study shows that people are looking to cultural organizations to help with four core needs: connection & processing, practical support, emotional support, and escape. The finding makes a lot of sense. If I think about my visits to the Hollywood Bowl, it’s far more than just a cultural performance. It’s a moment of relaxation, a place for human connection, a diversion from the day-to-day humdrum.  In short, it feeds your soul in every way. Today more than ever, we all need our souls enriched, along with all the other ways cultural organizations can play a role in our lives.

The unprecedented size of the Culture in a Time of Crisis study offers individual cultural organizations access not just to their direct data but also benchmarks against the broader cultural sector and organizations within their category. The organizations now have valuable insight into how COVID-19 has impacted the US population, the way that they can better serve their communities in the future, and more immediately, how they can open their doors in a way that helps people feel safe and secure.  This, I believe, is welcome news to everyone.

To learn more about the research, read the case study: Understanding Culture – The Power of a Cross-Sector Collaborative Response to the COVID-19 Crisis.

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