The 2021 survey was distributed via email and social media on February 24 and was open until March 7. A total of 347 responses were received and the input, including many thoughtfully written comments, will help us make decisions as we look to reopen.  Here’s what we learned:

People are eager to come back, but they’re cautious.  About 26% indicated they are ready to attend now and an additional 12% expect to feel comfortable by spring (May/June). However, the majority of the remainder (24%) see fall (Sept-Dec) as most likely and about 20% say they do not anticipate returning until 2022 or are unsure. When asked specifically about summer (July/Aug), 29% said they were not comfortable coming and more than 41% would only be comfortable in audiences at half capacity.

When they can come back, the Arts are a priority for them.  As might be expected, for the overwhelming majority (89.5%), live performing arts events are important or very important to their lives. Most (68%) do plan to attend at the same level as before, and some (18%) may now be placing an even higher priority on the arts, as they indicated they expect to attend more.

But coming back will depend on safety.  Most people supported safety precautions, only 15.5% expressed resistance to ongoing COVID safety restrictions (masks/social distance). A number of written comments emphasized the importance of safety rules, the need to enforce and respect them. Several written comments asked specifically about vaccine requirements. (Note: there currently are no guidelines on such requirements from the county or state.)

Once we reopen, they know what they want.  In addition to live performances in the theater, the three most valued arts activities we provide continue to be outdoor concerts (78%), free cultural events (55.5%), and local music recitals/tribute shows (47%). Those three were followed by art exhibits and small performances at around 26% each. Several write-in answers noted films.

…and what they don’t want. After a year at home, interest in virtual, streamed and online events has waned. Once the theater is open, more than 47% percent say they will not be interested in virtual events and an additional 23% would only be interested “if the price is right.” Although there was some support under certain circumstances (sold out shows, people with disabilities), most write-in answers reflected pure pandemic exhaustion: “worn out on everything virtual,” “small screen doesn’t give the same satisfaction,” “need to get out of the house,” “do not have the technology,”  “appreciate your efforts but it’s like having the TV on,” and “I never want to hear about another one. Ever. Seriously.”

We continue to have active, loyal and generous patrons.  Nearly 50% of respondents attend more than three events a year; 10.5% attend more than 10 events a year. Approximately one third of the respondents are already members, donors or sponsors. Of the list of ways people might support us, “Become/continue to be a member” ranked highest at 35% and 22% said they could make a special or additional donation. Many others said they could recruit friends to become donors or attendees, buy vouchers or gift certificates, or become a volunteer.

The Arts have been missed.  71% of respondents answered the write-in question “Tell us what you missed most about the Arts.” The predominant answer was the “energy” and “visceral excitement” of sharing a live performance with others and being immersed in Art, as expressed by this answer:

“The EXPERIENCE of being part of a live show. To feel the performer, to hear their stories,
he/she being contemporaneous with the audience, hear their breathing. All of that.
And then, days, weeks, months later, the feeling of recounting and remembering
that EXPERIENCE and reliving those emotions.”

Many cited the human interaction gained through watching, volunteering, or performing. Others mentioned having something special to look forward to, sharing a night out and adding a meal downtown to the evening’s experience. Especially missed was the “joy, distraction, stress relief, and diversion that the arts provide.”

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and staying connected with us. In reviewing the data and reading the nearly 400 comments of support, praise, criticism, suggestions and recommendations, we are reminded again how fortunate we are to have such an involved and enthusiastic community helping to keep the Arts front and center in all our lives. If you missed the survey or have other input, please feel free to reach out at any time to Executive Director Chris Carter at [email protected]. We are deeply grateful for your support and are dedicated to sharing the joy of the Arts with everyone.