Sometimes They Just Want To Go Home

I was perusing the tweets of those at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC) while thinking about a comment made by the director of the local arts museum wondering why people were leaving a fundraiser so early.

This was the exact opposite situation from one apparently expressed by Alan Brown at the NAMP Conference who wondered why arts organizations were so quick to chase people out after the event was over.

The live and silent auction were over and no one was going to be asked to donate more money. There was plenty of food and alcohol to consume, a cigar and brandy station had been set up in the newly renovated alley for those who wanted to parttake. There was plenty of art to look at, including an amazing new installation and the artist was on hand to chat with.

They had only expected about 75 people to attend and more than 130 showed up so there were plenty of people with whom to mix and mingle. (And one of the other attendees remarked to me that there were a lot of new faces at the event so it wasn’t as if the conversation topics dried up.)

And it was only 8:30 pm on the Saturday night of a three day weekend.

By 8:45 except for the staff and volunteers, the place had pretty much cleared out.

So when I saw Sara Leonard tweet quoting a speaker at the conference saying, “Create the value your audience craves,” I wondered what might have been lacking that might have kept everyone hanging around a little longer.

The auctioneer had to ask for quiet a couple times during the auction because people were too boisterous so they were clearly having a good time.

Perhaps what the audience valued was an organization that ran an efficient fundraiser that showed them a good time and got them out before 9:00.

Maybe as Alan Brown suggests, everyone was used to being chased out and left of their own accord. Or maybe, as one off the museum staff suggested, the community likes to get to bed early.

I feel that I must make a bemused observation that clearly one needs to appeal to a younger audience not only to sustain support for the arts long term, but to find some people willing to stick around and keep the party going for you in the short term. (which I mean both literally and figuratively.)

Whether it be fund raisers or performances, it isn’t enough just to have a fun after-event party in order to attract younger audiences, the content of the main event has to be of some interest because there are plenty of bars and dance clubs where they can go instead and circumvent the boring part.

But the truth is, sometimes it isn’t anything you did. Audiences just want to go home and that is an enjoyable evening.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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