Ruben Hernandez

Arts and the Latino lifestyle

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On the morning of June 18, administrators from most of the Valley’s major art organizations gathered at the Glendale Civic Center to learn about an important milestone  in state arts and culture industry.

What these representatives from the Phoenix Theater, Mesa Arts Center and other mainstream art venues heard is the answer to a question they had been asking for years: How do we grow our Latino audience?

Arts, Culture and the Latino Audience is one of the few in-depth studies in any United States market of Latino participation in arts and culture, and the first of its kind in the Valley.

“Everyone knew the numbers (of Latino population and spending growth),” says Myra Millinger, president of the Maricopa County Partnership for Arts & Culture (MPAC), the organizers of the morning’s presentation.

“This growing and fundamental market continues to be of great interest to the region’s arts and culture community, but it remains one of the least understood. How to develop strategies to move from a market lost to a market opportunity is the impetus for this report.”

Arts, Culture and the Latino Audience is the result of a $150,000 study MPAC commissioned that surveyed 1,200 self-defined Latinos, either through phone interviews or in focus groups. The study was conducted by Behavior Research Center, headed by Earl de Berge, and ArtsMarket, an arts consulting company.

The findings confirm what we Latinos have known all along: Latinos love the arts, and attend them with their children, or sometimes leave the kids at home for an adults arts night out. They also attend or have interest in a wide diversity of arts, and not only Hispanic culture.

The report also reveals that Spanish-speaking, bilingual and English-dominant Latinos spend $118 million annually on arts events. The analysis informs that amount has the potential to triple.

The Latino Audience provides insights and dispels myths about Latinos, defines barriers, displays dig-down analysis of the complex Latino market segments, and offers recommendations on how to market to Latinos in a culturally sensitive way.

What this unique study means to Latinos in the Valley is that mainstream arts groups like the Phoenix Symphony, Phoenix Art Museum and Phoenix Theater will get smarter about inviting Latinos and their families to pay to attend their arts events.

“It’s interesting how you need a formal presentation like this to open your eyes to the reality that’s all around you,” says Dan Schay, managing director of The Phoenix Theatre, of the revelations about Latinos and the arts. “The arts, which see themselves as social leaders, are sometimes a little bit behind everybody else in getting it.”

Schay says if used properly, this first-of-a-kind report could benefit the bottom line of organizations like his, and boost future growth.

What does this mean for Latinos?

It means that as mainstream art venues become more “Latino friendly,” more Latinos will attend, and more Hispanic children will be exposed to the arts.

It means that these art venues will consider programming to offer Latinos arts that appeals directly to them, and honors their culture.

It means that Latino arts organizations – most small now – will grow as they partner with mainstream organizations for collaborative programming and collaborative cross-marketing.

It means that marketing agencies that specialize in the Latino market will be sought by the marketing staff of art organizations to lend their expertise.

The MPAC survey also will benefit businesses and corporations who wish to bring the Latino consumer to their products and brand.

Arts, Culture and the Latino Audience will generate collaborative activities that will involve Latino artists and arts organizations as a component of Phoenix’s – and Maricopa County’s – economic development agendas.

There are about 30 Hispanic arts organizations in Arizona, from theater to dance to visual arts galleries. The stimulus from this report could result in a blossoming of Latino arts and culture in a way never seen in this region.

The Latino Audience will help create innovative arts business models and entrepreneurial principles to allow art organizations to increase revenues, grow audience and raise the quality of presentations to higher levels of quality.

High artistic standards will allow art organizations to sustain steady, long-term growth, and to cultivate an improved perception across the country and internationally that the Valley is the place to experience a vibrant lifestyle with diverse art at its heart.

Ruben Hernandez was a member of the MPAC Steering Committee for this study.

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