There has been a fair bit of evidence that people are not generally aware whether the place they are having their entertainment experience is a non-profit or for-profit business. An experience appeals to them and they participate. All those efforts invested in curating a balanced season of offerings may receive less recognition and appreciation than you think.
According the Colleen Dilenschneider, what the general public perceives to be an entertaining experience doesn’t align with the definition of non-profit curators/programmers either.
Leaders of cultural arts organizations tend to perceive an entertaining experience to be one that is simplified and dumbed down compared with the educational experience they offer. Participants have a much broader definition of what constitutes entertainment.
Surveying perceptions of memorial sites like USS Arizona Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the September 11 Memorial & Museum, Dilenschneider’s company, IMPACTS found that memorial sites,
Considered as a collective, they are generally viewed as entertaining! People find these sites relevant and meaningful – and thus find them entertaining. This is the opposite of what some internal industry leaders believe “entertaining” to mean!
In general, cultural organizations are seen as entertaining entities. That’s great news because entertainment value motivates visitation while education value tends to justify a visit. Moreover – as we’ve discussed – entertainment value is the single biggest contributor to overall visitor satisfaction.
If you recall my posts on the most recent CultureTrack study, one of the most consistent motivators to participation across all disciplines was to have fun. Dilenschneider has presented information before from other sources that reinforces this result as well.
Later in her post, she presents another chart showing
“Memorial sites are perceived as both educational and entertaining, again challenging the notion that “entertainment” is necessarily vapid, empty, or meaningless.”
and makes the following important observations:
1) “Entertainment” means engaging
A synonym of “entertainment” is “engaging.” The opposite of “entertainment” is disengagement. Why would cultural organizations be disappointed to learn that they are not disengaging? I posit it’s because we’ve created and promulgated the baseless cognitive bias within our industry that entertainment and education are opposing forces, and that one comes at the expense of the other. In reality, they must work together to lead a successful cultural organization.
2) “Entertainment” is not the opposite of “education”
As shown above, cultural organizations are generally seen as both educational and entertaining! An idea that one value necessarily comes at the expense of another is generally unfounded. If it were true, these numbers could not both be high at the same time – and yet they are!
Entertainment value and education value are not the same thing, but their relationship much more closely resembles that of partners than of enemies. They may benefit by being considered individually at times, but they do not necessarily function independently.
A great deal to think about in relation to how we frame our thinking about what we are doing.
One thing I misinterpreted was her assertion that “…entertainment value motivates visitation while education value tends to justify a visit.” I read that as something viewed as entertainment impels people to participate while something viewed as educational is seen as an obligation — you have to go to the opera because it is good for you.
But when I watched the accompanying video (below), I realized the perceived educational value aligns directly with the motivations found in the Creating Connection initiative. Desire to see and learn something new and different and wanting a child to learn/see something different are part of the perceived educational value.