Developing a culturally diverse audience

Journal of Arts Marketing Issue 21 – April 2006

How to develop a culturally diverse audience
The recently published book on cultural diversity and audience development, Navigating Difference , lists well over 100 information resources relevant to arts organisations trying to develop culturally diverse audiences. Read them and you’ll come away with two clear messages. Firstly, ‘culturally diverse’ is a confusing term that can be used to mean both ‘ethnically diverse’ and its opposite, ‘culturally specific’ so many arts organisations don’t really know what they are trying to achieve by developing culturally diverse audiences. Secondly, every arts organisation needs to take a different approach to developing such audiences because their artistic work, internal culture, existing audiences, community contexts and overall goals are different. These two factors mean there can be no such thing as a simple ‘how to…’ guide. Nothing about cultural diversity is simple.
Multiculturalism is often described as ‘celebrating difference’. But social commentators suggest that it is no longer a useful concept. Several of the contributors to Navigating Difference point out that within multiculturalism people of ethnic minority origin are always defined by their ethnic origin and art by Black, Asian and Chinese artists is always contrasted with the ‘mainstream’. They suggest a new framework for programming and marketing based on transculturalism. This approach sees the arts as a space in which cultures can interact without being either obliterated or fixed and preserved. It means that programming and marketing can focus on the individuality that collective labels all too easily render invisible…
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