Last spring, a team of faculty and students in the Pamplin College of Business Marketing Department conducted a survey of university and regional community members on arts programming as part of a research project for the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. The five-minute, anonymous survey looked at performing arts and cultural habits and preferences, overlaid with demographic data, such as age. 

The researchers learned that Center for the Arts audiences desire more engagement with the arts and more high-quality local, national, and international programming.  

The research project was led by Donna Wertalik, marketing instructor and faculty advisor to Pi Sigma Epsilon, with Kent Nakamoto, marketing department head, and marketing graduate students Lauren Prociv of Centreville, Va., and Brian Covington of Herndon, Va. Prociv holds a bachelor's degree in marketing management from Virginia Tech. Covington holds bachelor's degrees in marketing management and psychology from Virginia Tech, and after his work on this project, received a master’s degree in marketing from Virginia Tech.

The researchers and the Center for the Arts were interested in learning about community members' experiences and preferences related to arts and cultural events. 

First, a random sampling of 55,000 people living within an 80-mile radius of Blacksburg was contacted by email and asked to complete a survey. Next, articles were published on the Virginia Tech website and in the Roanoke Times' New River Valley Current asking readers to complete the survey. 

A total of 488 people responded. Of the people who responded to the email, 75 percent were married or partnered, 22 percent had children living at home, 78 percent were 45 or older, and 50 percent were women. Of the people who responded through the articles, 72 percent were married or partnered, 37 percent had children living at home, 86 percent were between 25 and 64, and 60 percent were women. 

The survey included questions about

  • The types of performing arts and cultural events the survey takers had attended over the past two years;
  • How recently they had attended one of these events;
  • How far from home they traveled to attend the events;
  • The types of performing arts or cultural events they would like to attend;
  • How frequently they would like to attend their favorite events; and
  • Their main reasons for attending performing arts and cultural events.

Results indicate that people are interested in programming that offers engagement with the arts. “One of our most important goals at the Center for the Arts will be not only to bring fabulous performing and visual artists to Blacksburg, but to involve those artists in various appropriate ways within the community and around campus — teaching masterclasses, leading workshops, taking part in an outreach event, for example,” said Ruth Waalkes, executive director for the Center for the Arts.

The results also show that there is a desire for variety, high quality performances, more children’s events, not just for entertainment value, but, again, for engagement and educational purposes. Interest in live streaming of events, poetry, local culture, and photography was also expressed.

The two top reasons people gave for attending performing arts and cultural events was an appreciation for the art of performing, and entertainment. The marketing team determined that these results indicate the respondents are interested in both the entertainment value as well as the aesthetic appreciation for the form of art they are experiencing at performing arts and cultural events. Other top reasons were emotional value, leisure activity, positive experiences with past performances, and social activity. Respondents showed a strong preference for both performing arts and visual art exhibitions.

Survey takers were invited to enter a drawing for two full-access tickets to the Vocal Arts and Music Festival, which ran June 18-July 1. Through a random selection process, Margie Sentelle, of Blacksburg, won the festival tickets.



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