Announcing new research to support the cultural sector through it’s biggest challenge yet

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant the closure and cancellation of every arts event in the country. Not least among the challenges is the extreme uncertainty that we are dealing with.

Announcing new research to support the cultural sector through it’s biggest challenge yet


Patternmakers and Wolf Brown will be conducting new research to support the sector with robust and responsive intelligence to inform critical decision-making and planning over the coming months.

They have support of partners the Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria, Arts Queensland and other agencies soon to be announced. Below you can read more about this work and how to get involved.

What is this about?

The purpose of the study is to understand audience attitudes and track behaviours associated with participation in arts and culture in Australia amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data collected through this study will provide a robust evidence base and identify opportunities for the sector to address the implications of the pandemic. By providing community insights for programming, marketing, fundraising and operations, this work aims to ensure the sector can adapt and recover following the worst of the health crisis.

We believe that this insight will form a key component to the sector’s recovery from this crisis and support the future of arts participation in Australia.

What topics will you be exploring?

 A preliminary list of research topics for the study includes:

  • Changing participation in live events in arts venues, public spaces, and museums and galleries, and associated activities like eating out and using public transport
  • Interest and intent to participate in future, including confidence and trust in institutions, and conditions under which people will feel comfortable returning to arts events
  • Satisfaction with actions by arts institutions about COVID-19, including customer service, donations and credit approaches for cancelled arts programs
  • Participation and level of interest in virtual arts experiences, such as live streaming of performances, virtual exhibitions and arts apps – whether paid, free, or by donation
  • How the above vary according to personal and household characteristics, including age, gender, location, household type, income level, education, work status, attitudinal outlook.

Why is this needed now?

We’re setting this study up now, so we can track how things change over time.

According to the leader of the study, Alan Brown, ‘Right now, everything depends on the epidemiological progression of the virus, and the regulations put in place to keep the public safe and to minimise health risks. At some point in the future, mandatory closures will be lifted, but this doesn’t mean that audiences will be ready to return.

There is expectation that some younger audiences might be willing to re-enter the marketplace for cultural programs earlier, while older audiences might not be ready to go out again for some time.

We believe that now is the time to start reliable stream of data collection around audience attitudes and likelihood to attend the arts now and in the future.’

Why a tracking study?

With a baseline of data, we’ll be able observe changes when they occur, and be able to identify opportunities for the resumption of programming based on a reliable picture of likely demand. We believe rigorous data collection will empower artists, arts organisations and government to make informed decisions in a highly uncertain environment.

Understandably, the sector is intensely focused on managing costs whilst keeping audiences engaged. But the financial risks will also be present on the upside of the recovery, when decisions about gearing up staff, and committing to venues, bookings and artist guarantees must be made.

How did this come about?

In response to the health crisis, WolfBrown is spearheading an international effort to monitor audiences’ readiness to plan visits to arts and cultural programs, with the goal of bringing high quality data to the sector’s decision-making about when and how it is time to resume programming.

Patternmakers will be leading the Australian deployment of the study, with support from government agencies around Australia.

Additional partners are expected to join the study in the coming weeks.

How will it work?

This study will consist of a longitudinal tracking study with multiple waves of data collection over the coming months.

Working through national and State-based funding bodies, cohorts of participating organisations will be invited to deploy an online survey to samples of their audiences.

The survey will be administered online, so that the sector can quickly access real-time access to results. The data will also be made available in an online dashboard tool, administered by WolfBrown. This will enable users to filter the results to find out how relevant audience segments are responding.

Aggregate results will be summarised in a series of Snapshot Reports and disseminated regularly through partners’ communications channels.

Where can I go for further information?

To be the first to hear of future announcements about the study, subscribe to Patternmakers’ Culture Insight & Innovation Updates.

If you would like to understand how your organisation can be involved, please contact us

Image credit: Photo by Antenna on Unsplash


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