Can Anything Appeal to Everyone?

Published in: GIA Newsletter, Vol 9, No 1 (Spring 1998)


Wolf, Keens, and Company, 8 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

Wolf, Keens, and Company published the first in an announced series of roundtable discussions, the first one titled Can Anything Appeal to Everyone? Using both paper and electronic formats, this discussion opens with a brief description of three situations which the author (Dr. Thomas Wolf, Chairman and CEO) hopes will illustrate the dilemma "How broad, how inclusive, and how popular...should the programs of cultural organizations be? Is it limiting to be narrow in one's programming? Do audience numbers in and of themselves constitute success?” After a brief introduction, three questions are posed to the roundtable's participants.

  1. Is there any arts and cultural programming that appeals to almost everyone? Should the missions of cultural organizations focus on offering programming that appeals to the broadest possible audience?
  2. Is an arts group necessarily failing if few people in the community take an interest in what it offers? What if its programs are of very high quality, advance an art form, or are intended to serve a specific aesthetic or cultural tradition?
  3. How far should organizations go to make their programs appealing? What kinds of artistic compromises, if any, should be permitted if new constituencies can be attracted to their programs?”

GIA board member Claudine Brown (Program Director, Art, Nathan Cummings Foundation), Brooklyn Philharmonic Executive Producer Joseph Horowitz, Houston Museum of Fine Arts Director Peter Marzio, and Junebug Productions Artistic Director John O'Neal then present brief comments on the three questions. Their remarks are interesting in and of themselves, but also are intended to stimulate a broader discussion on the Wolf Keens web site. As of the writing of the GIA Newsletter, comments on the web site were relatively sparse, but pithy.