Stay with me . . .
I have a friend, nicknamed "O". We have been friends for over a decade now, ever since college. I have some other friends, Chris, Ryan, etc. But the thing is I really only know them through "O".
So in this situation, my friend "O" is the hub . . . he is the person that connects a group of people together.
I think "O" and I will be friends for a long time, in part because of our relationship and in part because of all the connections I make to other people through him.
So what does this have to do with the arts?
In all this talk about declining audience, diminished subscriptions rates, low paid actors and overpriced tickets . . . I think we may have missed the point of the arts.
We keep talking about finding ways for people to connect with our particular art form.
But people don't want to connect to art . . . they want to connect to other people.
So instead of a theatre company seeing their performance on stage that night as the point of the evening, perhaps they should just see themselves as the hub . . . as the thing that connects all the people in the audience to each other.
Now I know many artists would hate to see it that way. I mean the arts are about the artists right? People pay good money to see directors and musicians and dancers!
I'm not so sure any more.
I think what people are willing to pay for is to be connected to other people.
And maybe one of the reasons that the arts is struggling is because we insist on being the focal point of the whole process.
Think about movies for a second. Have a look at this. It is the fan site for the upcoming Indiana Jones movie.
Is the point of the site to glorify Harrison Ford? Is the point of the site even to sell tickets to the movie?
The point is to allow Indiana Jones fans to connect. Will that help ticket sales? Of course it will. But that's not why it is there.
If you run an artistic organization I want you to consider this. When is the last time you actively tried to connect your audience members?
Not to your actors.
Not to your dancers.
Not to a playwright.
To Each other?
Think of what could happen if, for example, instead of just having ushers leading people to their seats, your dance company had people in the aisle introducing patrons to other patrons?
At that point your company becomes more then a place where people just watch what happens on stage. It becomes a second home. It becomes a gathering spot.
It becomes a hub.
Here's what I think . . . in the future the arts organizations that thrive will be the ones most skilled at turning their audience from an unrelated group of people into a community.
People want to connect to each other.
How is your art form helping that to happen?