Outside In: Arts Organizations and the Changing Cultural Audience


Significant and dynamic changes in the ways in which audiences define, seek out, participate in, and share cultural experiences have resulted in a major disruption in arts organizations’ understanding of and connection to these audiences. In this context, the imperative for arts organizations to clearly communicate their distinctive role and relevance in a competitive market environment has never been more essential for building and sustaining audiences and cultivating the “replacement” audiences of the future. 

The shift from a generative, one-directional dynamic, wherein the arts organization acts as sole arbiter and presenter, to one in which active engagement and interchange between organization and audience defines the cultural experience, has created new expectations and challenges the very definition of culture. Navigating this changing landscape has become a defining concern among cultural programmers, marketers, planners, and funders.

This course will enable students to utilize the most recent market, demographic and attitudinal research to analyze newly emerging cultural consumers. One of the foundational tools to be used in this process will be LaPlaca Cohen’s “Culture Track,” the largest ongoing, national survey of cultural audience trends and behaviors. Building from the “outside in,” this understanding of the external environment will provide a foundation from which to assess new approaches and best‐practice models of new cultural experiences and audience development initiatives.

Merging research‐based theory with practice, the course will expose students to a number of case studies and hands‐on assignments. Wherever possible, the case studies will be experienced through presentations from and discussions with the cultural leaders behind them, enabling students to develop a tactile and in-depth understanding that would not be possible though didactic material alone. Students will read a range of current articles and essays on current movements in the cultural world.

This course fulfills the Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry (AII) WAYS requirement.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Arthur Cohen

Arthur Cohen is CEO and co-founder of LaPlaca Cohen, the nation’s leading strategic marketing and communications firm serving the unique needs of cultural organizations. He consults to organizations throughout the world, working with management, Board members, collectors, foundations, sponsors and educators on audience development, communications and strategic planning issues. Cohen also oversees LaPlaca Cohen's ongoing research project, CultureTrack, the largest ongoing study tracking the shifting attitudes and behaviors of cultural audiences in the United States. He is recognized as instrumental in advancing the field of cultural branding and organizational vision development through his professional, academic, and lecturing activities. These include speaking engagements to cultural professionals throughout North America, South America and Europe.

Cohen serves as an Associate Professor at New York University, where he teaches Cultural Branding—a course he created for NYU's Visual Arts Administration program at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development for graduate students in that program as well as MBA students at the Stern School of Business Administration. 
He has also guest lectured at a number of leading colleges and universities including Columbia University and Yale University.

Cohen is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (magna cum laude with Distinction in the Major, 1982), Harvard Business School (MBA 1988; President of the Marketing Society) and attended the London School of Economics (concentration in Philosophy, 1987). 

Prior to co-founding LaPlaca Cohen, he served as a consultant to a number of major museums; public relations consultant to Giorgio Armani; and Communications Director and later acting Deputy Director at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Previously, he held brand management positions at Procter & Gamble and Gillette. Arthur is the Vice Chairman of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, and a Board member of: the American Federation of Arts; the Architectural League of New York; The University of Pennsylvania/Institute of Contemporary Art; and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. He also serves on the Modern and Contemporary Collections Committee of the Harvard University Art Museums, and the Visiting Committee of the Center for Experimental Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He lives in New York City and Cape Cod.