Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance Releases 10 Key Findings on Cultural Engagement

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Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance Releases 10 Key Findings on Cultural Engagement

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance today released a new report on emerging trends in cultural engagement in the region. Entitled Research Into Action: Pathways to New Opportunities, the report is based on five consumer studies conducted over the last two years. The report offers specific insights into how the region's diverse population engages with the arts and provides 10 key findings for cultural organizations looking to build stronger audience connections.

“Despite the economic challenges facing cultural organizations, our research still reveals excellent prospects for  expanded audience participation,” said Peggy Amsterdam, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance President. “Steps to success will be different for every organization, but the focus needs to be on engaging people in a meaningful and personal experience.”

Highlights of the research include: 

  • The importance of non-white audiences: African-Americans and Hispanics report the highest level of cultural activity a compelling finding as virtually all population growth through 2020 in the region will come from non-white residents. 
  • The importance of children and families: Adults with children have more active creative lives than those without children, but less than half see arts organizations as “children-friendly.” 
  • “Our bucket is leaking.” In 18 of 20 cultural disciplines, Greater Philadelphia's attendance levels are above the national average, but in a study of 17 cultural organizations, 2 out of 3 new patrons did not return to any of those cultural organizations the following year. 
  • Role models are powerful: Adults who report having had mentors inside and outside their families were twice as culturally engaged as those who had no role models.

“Pew is proud to support the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance's efforts to increase cultural participation in our region,” says Greg Rowe, Director of Culture Initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts, which funded the research. “Fact-based studies such as Research Into Action: Pathways to New Opportunities provide cultural organizations the knowledge they need to adapt to the changing demands of consumers and find innovative ways to deliver high-quality art and heritage programs that appeal to a broad range of audiences.”

Research Into Action: Pathways to New Opportunities compiled findings from five market research studies conducted over the last two years, looking at regional demographic trends, audience behavior patterns, and the cultural activity of all residents in the Greater Philadelphia region.

The “top ten” findings detailed in the report are:

  1. Philadelphia scores well in cultural participation compared to the national average.
  2. The “bucket is leaking,” with 2 out of 3 patrons not returning to institutions in the following year.
  3. Personal practice (including creating music or dance, painting or drawing, and sharing photos, music or videos online) is a gateway to attendance.
  4. People of color are engaged and their numbers are growing.
  5. Families matter.
  6. Role models are key.
  7. In a cluttered environment, marketing is multi-channel, and likely to stay that way.
  8. Product is the primary motivator.
  9. Social connection is a huge, underutilized opportunity.
  10. Service is key to easing participation and reducing barriers.

The five studies in Research Into Action sought to answer several critical questions for cultural leaders, marketers, and allied professionals. The five studies are listed below in bold along with the questions they sought to answer. 

  • What are emerging patterns of cultural practice? The Cultural Engagement Index (WolfBrown, March, 2009), an ongoing assessment of cultural engagement in the Philadelphia region which broadly defines “engagement” to include a wide range of curatorial, personal creative practice, and audience-based activities. Based on a region wide survey of over 3000 residents. 
  • What will Greater Philadelphia's population look like in 2020? Demographic Trends & Forecasts in the Philadelphia Region (Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, May 2008, Commissioned by the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative), a demographic analysis and forecast of anticipated socioeconomic shifts by the year 2020 in Greater Philadelphia's population, population characteristics (age, sex, race, ethnicity, household income and household type) and employment. 
  • How does our region's level of cultural engagement compare nationally? Culture & the Arts Survey (Penn Schoen & Berland, December 2007), a national longitudinal study of attitudes and behaviors of cultural audiences, with a statistical “oversample” of regional residents that allows us to compare local and national patterns of cultural consumption. 
  • How do people migrate between cultural organizations? Paid Patronage in Philadelphia: Migratory Trends & Growth Factors (Target Resources Group, April 2009), an analysis of transactions at 17 regional cultural organizations over a five-year period that outlines patrons' migratory patterns (i.e., when they began and ended paid patronage, and how patronage lapsed and was reactivated over time). 
  • Who and what influence the decision to participate culturally? Engage 2020 Focus Groups (Maureen Craig, May, 2009), results of 12 meetings with regional residents from various demographic and psychographic segments that explored—in residents' own words—their thoughts, feelings and ideas about cultural participation.

Complete findings, information on public presentations this fall, and the full report are available on the Cultural Alliance website,

The Cultural Alliance and The Philadelphia Foundation will be jointly announcing a new grant program that will provide support for projects that embrace the key findings in the report. Details will be available on October 1st at and

This report is part of the Cultural Alliance's broader Engage 2020 initiative, which seeks to double cultural engagement in Greater Philadelphia by 2020. Engage 2020  focuses on three key strategies: conducting groundbreaking research on emerging trends in cultural participation; providing seed capital and marketing support to cultural organizations for innovative planning and product development; and developing consumer focused marketing services such as the online event calendar & the ½ price ticket program, Funsavers.

Engage 2020 and this report are sponsored by a lead grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, with additional support from The Wallace Foundation and The Philadelphia Foundation. Design, printing and distribution of the Research Into Action report was underwritten by Harmelin Media.

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