Engagement Now More Than Ever

Today’s blog post is written by Kevin Patterson, Senior Account Executive, PatronManager.

Over the last two years, I have written numerous posts on how arts organizations can improve the relationships they have with their patrons. I have spoken about going above and beyond to provide a memorable customer experience, engaging individuals on a “patron journey” resulting in a deep and personal connection between customer and organization. As I sat down just over a week ago to write my monthly blog post, I opened up my laptop — nothing coming out.

You see, the day’s events had begun with 11 lives lost in a community in Pittsburgh. A single gunman had entered a synagogue while its congregation had come together to experience a communal spiritual connection that takes place on a weekly basis in synagogues, churches, mosques and other religious houses of worship across our country. Pittsburgh is a place that I gladly called home for five years. My daughter was born there. I share a personal connection with the Pittsburgh community.

Our society is fundamentally built on how we choose to engage with one another. Unfortunately, our willingness to engage has been reduced to taking sides and shouting in ideological debates, unwilling to listen to those who might believe differently because “they are just simply wrong.” Though technology and social media have done much to connect us, it has done just as much to silo us off into like-minded groups creating echo-chambers.

This is a time in our nation’s history where we need the arts more than ever. My call to you, as a member of the arts community at large, is to renew the role you have to play in your community by engaging more deeply with the people in it. It is through the communal act of viewing a performance, an exhibition, or event that we have the opportunity to take our noses out of our technology and experience something together.

Use your work to create and foster dialogue. During my years working in opera, those opportunities to connect with my organization’s community through various productions and, perhaps more importantly, our education programming and outreach, brought a great sense of satisfaction. We collectively felt as an organization that we had done our part to open the hearts and minds of those in our community to new ideas. By presenting works touching on issues such as mental health, poverty, bullying, spiritual beliefs, and many others, we were able to create an environment where people engaged in a dialogue with others. And if there’s one thing we need more of right now, it is opportunities for dialogue in our communities.

As each of us processes this and other recent tragedies, let us all remember that we in the arts have the power to engage, inspire, and transform our communities. It is too easy to place blame on our leaders and wage a war of words, accusations, and hate. Only by coming together in our individual communities, engaging in thoughtful dialogue over difficult issues, can we change and strengthen them. Let us actively work together to engage with those who are different than us. Through our work on our stages, in our galleries, and in our communities, let us commit to doing our part to improve our corners of the world so that we can live together. We cannot afford to fail in these efforts. Your patron journey is your communities journey.

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