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Research shows Christchurch people value the arts more than ever

26 Sep 2013

This content is tagged as All Artforms .

NEWS

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Christchurch people value the arts more than ever, with a quarter saying they appreciate the city’s culture more than they did before according to the key findings of new research recently commissioned into the audiences for the arts in Christchurch.

The Christchurch Arts Audience Development (CAAD) Steering Group, who commissioned the research, was set up in 2012. The group is representative of many of Christchurch’s key arts genres and has the aim of creating a platform for all of the city’s arts organisations to better engage with their audiences.

Organisations represented on the steering group are: Canterbury Museum, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch Arts Festival, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, NZ IceFest, SCAPE Public Art, The Body Dance Festival and The Press Christchurch Writers Festival. 

“We all felt, after the past few years, that it was important that we sat down around a table and played our part in creating a positive future for the arts in our city”, says Jane Leighs of SCAPE Public Art and spokesperson for the Christchurch Arts Audience Development Project (CAADP). “We’re all working with changing situations, uncertain venues and limited budgets. That’s nothing unusual in the wider Christchurch context.

Our focus is on the collective health of the arts, because none of us, even the larger institutions, can stand alone in creating a city with a vibrant arts culture. We want to understand how we can create an arts environment that local people are proud of and enjoy, and one that sets us apart from other destinations for visitors. 

The people sitting around the steering group table are also all Christchurch residents. We believe in the city, and don’t want to do a half-hearted job. So we’ve commissioned international strategist Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, who specialize in arts audience development, to conduct the research that we required in order to give us the information we need.”

Morris Hargreaves McIntyre are a UK based company who have offices in Australia and New Zealand and have been working closely with Creative New Zealand to develop New Zealand wide audience development strategies. 

They have used information from their Christchurch research, and related it to nationwide research from Creative New Zealand’s Audience Atlas, to conclude six key findings: 

Most residents have resumed some cultural activity since the earthquake

85% of the population has been culturally active since the earthquake. This compares with a baseline rate of 95% nationally in New Zealand.  There is a missing 11% (approximately 48,000 people) who were culturally active before the earthquake but are yet to resume that activity.

The breadth and frequency of that cultural activity is much reduced

Whist 85% of the population have done some cultural activity, the frequency and range of that activity is lower. There are three apparent reasons for this reduction:

  • a significant reduction in provision

  • the dislocation of established habits

  • audiences making earthquake-conscious choices (eg 41% less comfortable in larger or older buildings)

Levels of Engagement have now fallen below the national average

42% of culturally active New Zealanders are actively engaged*. In Christchurch this ratio is 35%.

New cultural offers, new patterns of activity and new audiences are emerging

With arts organisations adapting their provision and staging both established and new kinds of work in new venues and settings, audiences are responding by forming new patterns of attendance.  This is particularly true for ‘pop-up’ events in vacant spaces and outdoor events.

There is a groundswell of opinion that supports and values arts organisations

The disruption, dislocation and reduction in cultural provision has prompted an upsurge in how residents value Christchurch’s cultural organisations and cultural offer. Over a quarter (27%) say that they appreciate Christchurch’s culture offer more than they did before.  Some 38% say that they are attending cultural events in order to feel part of the community and 41% say that they want to attend in order to support local arts organisations and venues.

The potential market is huge, as is the potential crossover of audience

Although the scale and scope of attendance are still far from recovering to their pre-earthquake levels and patterns of that attendance may be permanently altered, even as volume rises, the levels of potential interest in art forms, organisations and venues remain very high.

Stage one of the project was funded by Creative New Zealand.  A second phase of activity, where a multi-genre strategy will be created has been supported by Canterbury Community Trust and Steering Group Partners, and will be undertaken in the remaining months of 2013. 

“The Canterbury Community Trust is excited to be funding this project as we recognise the benefits of rebuilding the rich artistic and cultural fabric of our community to provide a legacy for future generations of Cantabrians,” says Mrs Chambers, Chairperson of the Canterbury Community Trust.

“We applaud the collaborative nature of this programme, which will promote understanding and engagement of audiences across a multiple of arts disciplines.  A strong arts and cultural base in the city is essential to the restoration of the heart and soul of Christchurch.”

The final stage of the pilot activity for the CAAD Project will be undertaken in 2014, when, from the research and strategy activities, the steering group will be approaching the wider arts community in Christchurch to take part in the delivery of activities to engage with audiences.