Friday, July 30, 2010

Enter Stage Left: Social Media

I read a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald online about how our Aussie friends are leading the arts world in use of social media. (Yes, they are even further ahead that we in the United States.) The article is very informative, and had me thinking of all sorts of possibilities just within the small cirlce of community theatres of which I am familiar.

As an actor, I can't say I approve of the idea of letting audience members tweet during the actual performance. (Though I applaud the patron for seeking official permission to do so.) The idea behind the practice is however, a solid one; if arts organizations such as theatre companies and galleries begin to embrace the proper use of social media, they increase the chance of drawing in those people on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler) who are not otherwise engaged in the arts.

I think those of us that participate in the arts have to resist the temptation to build fortresses around what we do. As an actor I know and respect the 4th wall during a show, and we can't have people running in and out of the National Gallery of Art without rules and regulations to protect the treasures therein. But I think we sometimes take the notion too far, and the arts end up being something placed upon a pedestal, to be patronized by the intellectual elite and the financially well-off.

In the end, the arts experience should be the exact opposite. It should be the property of and resource to the entire community in which it resides, if not all people, everywhere. One work of art or one symphony may not speak to an individual, but the accumulative works that constitute the arts as a whole should be a human reflection and reaction to the world and society. A cornucopia of interpretations on the collective spirit and history of same through time. If that is to be true, we must make all aspects of the arts more accessible to everyone.

And the arts must recognize at times the changing nature of the world in which it finds itself. If the arts community wants to reverse the disturbing trend of younger people, (and those of lesser means) flocking away from theatre, symphony orchestras and galleries, then it must begin to open up to such people as they open up to one another. With frank but surprisingly (sometimes) probing use of various social media. They need to make what they make more personal, and less institutional.

Instead of simply tweeting, "Picasso Exhibit Open 9AM to 9PM M-F Until August 15", how about posting about how the exhibit was put together? Tweet about how hard it is to get the works for the show. Post some pictures on your Facebook page of the arrival of the works. And (shock of all shocks) maybe even ask those out their on social media what they might suggest for your exhibit.

Apply the same idea to theatre. Or any of the arts categories that have allowed themselves in the last decades to be (incorrectly) dismissed by many as "luxuries" or "perks". (Do you really think football is any less of a luxury? But their PR is doing just fine.)

Not that this isn't happening in the Art communities in the United States, (as the article mentions.) But for some reason we seem less quick to embrace these methods within our arts organizations. But if we are to change the thinking of many Americans about the arts, the arts need to change their thinking about social media.


Jamie said...

As someone who is in the arts, you are likely going to hate my take on this / how I react to the arts, but here goes. First, I am certainly not "well versed" in the 'arts', but have been to over 50 Broadway shows and spent a semester in London studying West End Theater. I love theater and music and all that comes with it. The way I make the arts personal to me is by finding lines in a show, lyrics in a song, or even paintings or an exhibit at a museum and I either record, write myself an email, or (this is the worst) take a picture (no flash!). When I get home from wherever I have been, I 'tweet' ot 'blog' or email friends or FB about what I have seen, the effect it had on me, how I felt connected to it, WHY others should see it, etc. Truthfully, I have stopped using social media to promote the arts as much as I used to / should, but I haven't seen anything in a long time that I thought was worth talking about...

Kris said...

I find you ALWAYS simply have remind people, the audience and the actors, to spread the word. Never assume they will, no matter how much they love the performance. It's always worth stepping out there and asking them to spread the word.

Art & Enterprise said...

I really enjoyed this post. I believe in making the arts more accessible.

Ty Unglebower said...

Art, I am glad you enjoyed the post! And Kris you are right, the word needs to always be spread, social media or not, but those involved in the matter how big the company thinks it is or how popular they think the show will be in its own right.