Understanding audiences in the visual and applied arts sector in Wales

26 March 2018, Chris Brown

Chris Brown is an artist, musician and co-founder of the artist-run organisation g39. In his current position of company director he is responsible for strategic development of g39 within Wales, the UK and beyond.


At g39 we’ve have had the good fortune to be working with GMV since 2016, exploring innovative ways to improve relationships with non-ticketed audiences in the arts. Our partnership was first instigated and supported by NESTA’s Digital Innovation for the Arts in Wales fund, which we used to develop our iBeholder online platform and test it out with three visual arts organisations.

iBeholder presents a range of specially created content relating to an artwork or exhibition and offers audiences a set of multiple choices through that content. We wanted to know if an arts organisation could use their set of responses to tailor future correspondence and improve audience relationships. 

Since then, the value of our R&D work has been widely recognised – we’ve since discussed a wide range of potential applications for iBeholder with several leads. At the moment we’re about to launch a sector-wide survey with GMV into the ways visual arts organisations manage and develop their audiences. 

We know from ongoing conversations in the visual and applied arts sector that there is inconsistency in what organisations know about their audiences and how well they understand them. The causes are numerous and varied, including lack of capacity, inadequate infrastructure and limited expertise.

Furthermore, there seems to be an underlying issue common to non-ticketed arts organisations across the entire sector. While content marketing has transformed the way many arts organisations connect and engage their audiences, non-ticketed arts organisations seem not to have taken full advantage of this. 

Our research for the Arts Council of Wales and supported by NESTA will explore ways to improve the situation, both for individual organisations and the sector as a whole. How confident are organisations about collecting and utilising audience data? What would they be able to do if they had improved audience insights? With GMV we’ll use this research to develop a set of recommendations for implementing new practices that in turn will generate more reliable evidence of the sector's activities, particularly relating to audience attendance and participation.

Ultimately the aim is to make the visual and applied arts sector more resilient, responsive, enterprising and profitable by using innovation in audience insight to inform programming and marketing.

If you are a visual / applied arts organisation we want to hear from you! Please take part in our survey, and if you give us your contact details we will share our findings with you.

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