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New Report: The Changing Face Of Culture In Boston

The Greenway Wall in Dewey Square has a new look -- a colorful mural called "Seven Moon Junction" created by artist Shinique Smith. (Geoff Hargadon via Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy)
The Greenway Wall in Dewey Square has a new look -- a colorful mural called "Seven Moon Junction" created by artist Shinique Smith. (Geoff Hargadon via Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy)
This article is more than 4 years old.

There’s a tendency to think that the graying of audiences will leave the Boston cultural scene in bad shape — après les Baby Boomers, le deluge?

A new survey commissioned by the Museum of Fine Arts on behalf of the local cultural community, “Culture Track 2014,” paints a much less bleak picture, particularly in Boston where Gen Xers and Millennials are far more engaged than elsewhere in the country, according to the report. In fact, using a broad definition of culture, both groups are more culturally active than Boomers.

Here’s how culture was defined by the ongoing study — and by the people studied: “Both national and Boston audiences are defining a much broader range of activities as ‘culture.’ Bostonians are more inclined to think of ‘culture’ as including national, state or municipal parks and memorial sites; art, craft, design and furniture fairs; public art; food and drink experiences; popular music concerts; attending or watching a live or recorded lecture or talk; seeing an independent film in a theater or at home; listening to public radio; and watching non-commercial television.”

Developed by the cultural strategy, design and advertising firm, LaPlaca Cohen in partnership with the research firm Campbell Rinker, the report surveyed 1,238 cultural consumers, covering changing attitudes toward the arts as well as strategies to engage audiences. The good news: “Bostonians are more culturally engaged, more curious, more informed and more open to new cultural experiences.” The bad, or at least more challenging news: “They are also more scheduled, more stressed and more likely to view inconvenience as a barrier to participation.”

No surprise, social media plays a much more important part in finding cultural activities, but traditional media outlets like newspapers are still important, particularly for older audiences.

Among other findings:

Younger generations are more likely to see culture as an escape from everyday stress.

“The greatest differences between national and Boston audiences are in the number of people who, at least once a year, participate in musical theater (+10 percent for Boston audiences), dramatic theater (+9 percent), children’s museums (+9 percent), science museums (+8 percent) and art museums (+8 percent) with the city’s most popular destinations (by discipline) being the MFA, the Museum of Science, the Citi Performing Arts Center and Faneuil Hall.”

“Boston Millennials hold a deep, even 'traditional' view of the role of culture in society; like Boomers (50-69) and Pre-War, they believe that the primary roles of cultural organizations are to educate, contribute to the greater good of society and conserve and take care of art. In fact, more than four in five Millennials visit the MFA, Boston at least once per year. However, almost half of Millenials won’t attend if it means going alone.”

Click here for the full report.

Ed Siegel Twitter Critic-At-Large
Now retired and contributing as a critic-at-large, Ed Siegel was the editor of The ARTery.


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