In my role as marketing director of a midsized theatre, I get a daily report with updates on subscription sales, single ticket sales, etc.
I'll admit that "checking the numbers" isn't my favorite part of the job, but it is an important part of the gig.
Yesterday, the numbers told me that this season had achieved it's subscription renewal goal. (Update 9/10/13, it has now beat the financial goal by 3%.) Obviously that's good for business, but it isn't unprecedented. In a way, it's like any other season.
Except it wasn't.
I'm biased, but I'm comfortable saying that the season is one of the most diverse seasons produced by any season of our budget size (around 4 million per year) and standing within the field.
Now, I'll be honest, I have grown a bit tired of the "diversity and the arts" conversation. Maybe I'm a jaded old man now (at 36 years old) but I truly believe the following:
1. Any form of diversity is valid. Age, geographic, racial, gender. It's all good.
2. Any arts organization that seeks diversity with an authentic and sustained effort will get there eventually. They may need a little help and a little guidance, but things will work out.
3. Any arts organization that doesn't want to embrace a more diverse audience/staff/board/whatever should NOT feel forced to do so. They should just be allowed to perish like any other creature that is slow to evolve.
So I've gone from a bit of a hell raiser to someone who is ready to help those who want help and comfortable ignoring those that don't. (Note: If you want help diversifying your audience, email me. I'll lend a hand if I can.)
Having said all that, I think it is still worth noting that an art organizaton of some size and status can roll out a diverse season without the world falling apart.
The subscribers didn't run away. They embraced it. Now of course that isn't the whole battle. There are still plenty more tickets to sell. But one of the main reasons that some in the arts say they avoid diversity is because of the fear that some meaningful section of their audience will run away.
"We love it, but we can't sell tickets for it" they cry.
Maybe that's true.
But maybe it isn't.
Could an arts organization of any size, at any location, of any type, duplicate our success?
Of course. They could exceed it.
The future awaits all of us. The opportunity is there.
If you want it, there are people ready to help.
If you don't, it's all good. But I don't envy your future.