A while back I was leaving the office, waiting for the elevator. A woman in a hurry was also waiting. As we entered the elevator, she said she was running late and asked if she’d have time to make it to Broadway for a 7pm curtain. It was 6:30 and I assured her she would. (I don’t think I look particularly friendly, but strangers talk to me all the time, out-of-the-blue, or ask me directions. But I digress, that’s a whole other blog entry.)
Back to the mounting drama. “What are you going to see?” I asked. “The Miracle Worker” she said, “ I’m meeting two kids who I’m taking to the performance.” I asked how old they are. She said 12 and I said what a perfect age and it’s going to be so thrilling and meaningful for them. She heartily agreed and said the kids’ parents don’t regularly let them see plays, but this one, because of its story, was important to see.
The elevator opened abruptly, the woman flew out. I reassured her one more time, wished her good luck and a great time, and in a startlingly commanding New York shout, she quickly hailed a taxi and was off like a flash. I kinda wished I was one of those kids as I certainly remember the first times I was taken to the theatre.
There are a lot of fine studies out there that point to the fact that if kids are exposed to the arts early on, they become hooked for life. Kids’ tendency is to move away from attending performing arts and visiting museums in their late teens or early twenties, but as they become settled in their lives and careers in their thirties and forties, they return. How lucky those kids are to have someone in their lives to expose them to new ideas, nurture their interests, and just to have fun with.
Okay, so bring it home. What, as branding professionals, are our roles? Well, for one thing, tomorrow’s arts attendees absorb information and learn differently than us Boomers, Xers, or even Yers. Interactive websites and social media are good examples of how to engage younger attendees (and older ones too!) on their own terms.
There’s a lot of hand-wringing in the arts now about who will be tomorrow’s attendees, and to be sure, it’s a concern. But here’s where the rubber meets the road: take your kids, your nieces and nephews, your cousins, your cousins’ kids, your grand kids, and your friends’ kids to a museum or a performance. Seeing the expressions on their faces and seeing their little brains grow is well worth the investment.
* Pablo Picasso