Our New Research Report: The Latino Experience in Museums

LEM cover for web JPEGContemporanea is pleased to release the Latino Experience in Museums research study. Our primary motivation in conducting this study is to contribute to the field of museums and cultural institutions by deepening the discussion of audience diversification.

The fast growth of the Latino population in the United States is a well-known fact, but most museums acknowledge that this growth is not reflected among their audiences. According to the National Endowment for the Arts’s Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA, the nation’s largest population survey of arts participation trends), cultural participation among Latinos is slowly growing. For example, the 2013 SPPA report shows that 14.5% of adults who visited an art museum identify as Latinos—an increase of just 0.2% from the 2008 report. Even though there are many general demographic studies about the participation of Latinos and other minority groups in museums and the arts, there are few studies that focus specifically on the perceptions, motivations, and values of this population associated with museums and other cultural institutions.

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The Intercultural Challenge: A Disruptive Approach


The disruption that we are seeing in many industries such as energy, transportation, health care, and media is often attributed to how people adapt and incorporate new technologies into their daily lives. However, technology use is also frequently influenced by culture, as is seen, for instance, in technology adoption patterns among so-called minorities. There is a clear synergy in the changing demographics of our society and the marketplace disruption we’re experiencing. In response, a spectrum of entities —from private sector to government and non-profit agencies — are launching diversity initiatives to stay ahead of these disruptive changes.

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Change is in our DNA

url   After more than 10 years working on issues of ethnic diversity related to cultural participation, I have to say that our vision at Contemporanea has evolved quite a bit. Reflecting on all the work we have done with a multitude of clients in all these years, it is humbling to see how the field of cultural participation has changed in just a few years: we started following the old mantra of “outreach”, which is based on the idea of promoting programs/exhibits/products already created by an organization, to populations that are not typically participating, and “hoping” they would come and like what they saw or heard. We evolved from outreach and started to emphasize the business case for diversity, which complements the decades old approach of equity and social justice, in which we addressed issues of organizational sustainability and created urgency by focusing on the bottom line. We have also highlighted the “engagement” model of audience diversification, urging organizations to create meaningful relationships with their current and potential audiences, and introducing the idea that an organization has to change in order to remain relevant when society changes. For the last couple of years we have also been insisting on analyzing the consequential resistance to change, or what some authors call “immunity to change”. Looking at how we have evolved in all these years, it is incredible to see how we have changed along with our clients, proving that the only constant in this world is change (and death of course, but isn’t death a form of change anyway?)   Read more