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Cultural Clutter

Angelina Arts Alliance News Release - February 25, 2015

Contact: Tracy Pinkerton, Executive Director - 936-633-5234

Every two years the Texas Commission on the Arts presents a conference in Austin. I always find it fascinating to see what kind of artistic endeavors are being cooked up in the “weirdest town in Texas”.  Austin artists are engaging with their community like never before with everything from placing pianos all over town, (like sidewalks and parks), and encouraging folks to play them--to working with waste management employees as they demonstrate the synchronicity of their trash trucks, like a choreographed dance, complete with live orchestra.  Which leads to an interesting question; what do you see as a cultural event? During the conference we reviewed a study by a New York based research firm LaPlaca Cohen. The study was done in 2014 and surveyed 4,026 people from all 50 United States. It tracks the ever-changing attitudes and behaviors of U.S. cultural consumers. It’s no surprise that they found today’s audiences to be overstimulated, hyper-connected, overcommitted, self-focused—but curious.  Surely social media has a lot to do with all of the aforementioned.  I know I can get sucked into the Facebook vortex with the best of them. But the interesting portion of the study asked people what they considered to be a cultural experience and how often they attended.  They broke the groups into four segments: Millennials (age 18-29), Gen X (age30-49), Boomers (age 50-69) and Pre-War (age 70+).  Here’s what they found: The Millennials were the group that attend cultural activities most often—twice per month. Then Pre-War, Gen X, and the Boomers. So what does today’s audience consider a cultural activity? 79% of the participants said visiting a national or state park is a cultural experience. 66% said it was attending a broadcast of a live performance at a movie theater. Both our local theaters in town, Cinemark and Carmike, present operas, ballets, museum exhibitions and live broadcasts in this manner. I have attended many of these events and find it to be a fine cultural experience.  64% said they consider street art a cultural activity.  And the food and drink experience? 64% said it’s a cultural activity.  56% included seeing an independent film at a theater. And here’s the really interesting response; 51% said watching non-commercial television--like Great Performances or Masterpiece Theater on PBS. And, there’s a new trend that people see attending a sporting event as a cultural activity. Many stadiums have fun activities for kids to enjoy if they get bored watching the game.  I guess when you spend $1,000 on Cowboys tickets, and they lose, you can at least say you and your family had a cultural experience, right? We will be presenting “In the Heat of the Night” by L.A. Theatre Works at the Temple Theater this Saturday—a unique cultural experience. I encourage you to attend. OK, I’m old-fashioned--but there’s nothing like a live performing arts experience. Something that enlightens and enlarges your world, challenges you, and truly brings our community together. 

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