The wider appeal of culturally specific programming?

Katie Windsor discusses recent audience research work that she has undertaken with The Mosaic Rooms

Before Christmas, my colleague Jacqui and I undertook some audience research at The Mosaic Rooms; an art gallery in West London exhibiting contemporary culture from the Arab World. Through two facilitated discussion groups, the gallery aimed to understand more about their current and potential visitors in order to increase/widen the appeal of their offer.

Although this is an incredibly complex topic, the key take-aways from the research that may be applicable to the wider sector were:
  • Interest in culturally specific programming is not necessarily driven by how people identify themselves ethnically but may draw on wider interests and experiences.
  • Even for informed audiences, offering a range of contexts and a layered approach to interpretation can deliver different ways in, or alternative routes to understanding, and support deeper engagement.
  • Messaging about the permanent offer, in addition to promoting temporary shows and events, can be helpful in growing repeat visits and sustained relationships with audiences.

1 back to square one A StaggjpgCaption: back to square one (2017) Pascal Hachem. Part of the exhibition The show has a long title I don’t recall any more at The Mosaic Rooms, 2017. Photograph by Andy Stagg, courtesy of The Mosaic Rooms.

Headline findings

  • No discernible difference was evident between the responses of participants who identified as being from an Arab background and those who did not. A high level of consensus existed across both groups in terms of what they were looking for from their engagement with The Mosaic Rooms.
  • The reasons for attending were largely related to interests which were not necessarily driven by ethnic background but by an interest in Arab arts and culture generated by wider experiences, and an appetite for learning opportunities.
  • Although most aspects of the visit experience were rated highly, participants felt that it could be improved by the gallery offering an additional interpretation to accompany the exhibition programme. Participants commented that this would help them to appreciate the work more, build a more meaningful experience, and deliver the learning opportunity that many look for from a visit, for example, quotes from the artist about their work or from the curator about why this artist was chosen.
  • Offering more information would also make the gallery’s shows more accessible to those without an existing understanding of the Arab world and how an artist might be responding to it; in terms of both historical and contemporary cultures, events, and debates.
  • Participants were also interested in why the gallery was there, suggesting that a permanent display giving a brief history and outline of the gallery would be a welcome addition.
  • The research also indicated that increased marketing of 'extras', such as the bookshop and café and the extensive events programme, were likely to provide strong incentives to visit.




Katie Windsor - Learning and Participation Consultant

Photo Credits

Header Image:
Caption: left under (2017). Pascal Hachem. Part of the exhibition The show has a long title I don’t recall any more at The Mosaic Rooms, 2017. Photograph by Andy Stagg, courtesy of The Mosaic Rooms.