What do you picture when you think of a “cultural experience”? The white walls of a museum? The high ceilings of an opera house? The flashing lights of Broadway musical marquees?
In reality, the image Americans have of a cultural experience is dramatically more diverse, according to the 2017 Culture Track report—the seventh iteration of the national tracking survey of cultural audiences, due to be released tomorrow. For many respondents, going to the park or eating at a food truck counts as a cultural experience, while attending a museum does not.
“It’s clear that people don’t know or really even care about what is a cultural attraction or activity,” said Maggie Hartnick, managing director of LaPlaca Cohen, the cultural agency that developed the report. The report looks at the attitudes of cultural audiences rather than the larger population, tallying the responses of thousands of Americans who self-identified as having participated in one of 33 broadly defined cultural activities. The study also tracked the changes in those attitudes over time among a smaller set of respondents who had participated in a more limited number of activities.
Below, we spotlight seven findings from the study that could have major consequences for how traditional cultural hubs like museums think about audience outreach, development strategies, and cultural participation in the 21st century.