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Home / Blog / Communities / New Festivals Toolkit Supports Audience Development & Engagement

New Festivals Toolkit Supports Audience Development & Engagement

Lisa Simmons, Program Manager

Four performers in Native American dress on a stage sing and play instruments
Kingfisher Singers performing at Pocumtuck Homelands Festival. Photo courtesy of PHF.

In 2019, as part of Mass Cultural Council’s commitment to support the sustainability and viability of festivals in Massachusetts, our Festivals Program embarked on an innovative pilot program led by ArtsBoston, that focused on audience development. We enlisted 10 festivals to take part in the year-long Festivals Audience Lab. This cohort included:

Over the course of the year, the cohort met monthly learning new approaches to develop and sustain audiences. Along the way we learned that festivals are often passion projects with limited staff and resources but with big energy around celebrating arts and culture on a large scale. Through the Festivals Audience Lab we provided guidance around social media, data collection, web design, and advertisement models. From this shared learning, we aimed help festivals deepen the engagement and development of their audiences.

As we approached the 2020 Spring/Summer festival season, COVID-19 hit. The festivals in the cohort as well as the 100+ Mass Cultural Council had funded were either cancelled or redesigned to be online offerings. In response to the pandemic, the Festivals Audience Lab shifted its focus to audience engagement and ways in which to keep a festival top-of-mind when in-person participation was not possible.

Detail from Festivals Toolkit

With the help of our cohort and ArtsBoston, we were able to develop a Festivals Toolkit, an online resource for festival and event producers. This toolkit is intended to help organizations build and sustain audiences through creative and innovative marketing practices, and utilizing data to make efficient and tactical choices around audience engagement and development. It includes sections on:

Explore the Festivals Toolkit


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