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We decide what art means: Revitalizing audiences' authority

Thesis type
(Project) M.A.L.S.
Date created
Facing stagnant average audience attendance and inequality in governmental support, how can British Columbian arts organizations survive and thrive? Research has shown that audiences have become increasingly disconnected from their meaning-making processes during arts and culture experiences (Brown, 2013; Scollen, 2008; Sedgman, 2017). The literature has also demonstrated that meaning-making experiences could increase the audience's desire to attend and advocate for others to attend arts and culture events (Brown, 2013; Gwillim et al., 2019; Prendergast, 2004). My research focused on my participants' experiences at a suite of outreach activities (talkbacks, lectures, digital content, workshops, etc.) which I call information sessions. I was interested in their descriptions of the relationship between attending an information session and their decisions to attend and encourage others to attend arts and culture events. I was also interested in their suggestions for improving information sessions and their perceptions of the barriers to attendance faced by their communities. Using a social constructivist framework, I conducted a thematic analysis drawing on guided journal entries and semi-structured interviews. My findings showed that meaning-making value was a motivational factor in my participants' decisions to attend arts and culture events, share their experiences with others, and encourage others to attend. In addition, participants articulated how improvements to the physical, financial, and content availability of information sessions and arts and culture events could overcome attendance barriers. These findings are useful because revitalizing audiences' authority as meaning makers can recentre their importance in the development of arts programming that provides value and overcomes barriers to attendance. This potential for revitalization could position information sessions as a crucial contributor to the long-term success of the British Columbian arts and culture sector.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: McCarron, Gary
Member of collection
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