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Simple and effective audience surveying

Andy Grodecki shares the approach they’ve taken to audience surveying at the Arts in the Olives Festival, as an important part of understanding their value… 

You have driven an hour-and-a-half south of Brisbane through Beaudesert into the beautiful Lost World Valley because you heard about an amazing arts festival from a friend. You persuaded a couple of friends to get up at 6am on a Sunday morning to be there in time for the 9am start of an art workshop. You all have about $100 in your pockets to spend on good food and artisan stalls. This is a typical visitor to the Arts in the Olives Festival held each year on Mothers’ Day. I know this because I gathered the evidence by surveying visitors to the festival.

This year’s festival, organised by the Beaudesert and District Community Arts Project (BADCAP), included 20 adult art workshops, 7 free children’s workshops, over 20 good food stalls, a market of about 40 artisan stalls and attracted over 2000 visitors. Who are all these people? Why do they come? How do they know about it? What do they think about it?

These are the sorts of questions we have after each festival. As part of the review we identify what worked well, any areas for improvement and how we should shape and develop the next festival. The answers to these questions also help us report on and acquit funds and advocate the value of the event to current and potential sponsors.

For the first five years BADCAP relied on incidental feedback from workshop leaders, stall holders, volunteers and visitors. We knew we were travelling well, but really needed something with a bit more rigour – we needed to survey our visitors. BADCAP has a clear vision of presenting a very relaxed atmosphere with limited intrusion into the visitor’s experience and we were keen not to bail visitors up with a detailed survey sheet to complete. It needed to be low-key, quick, easy to complete – yet reliable and if possible, fun.

We decided to look for an online survey program that would aggregate data directly into a spreadsheet, to reduce error and save us the time it would take to manually collate data from written survey forms. However, the festival’s idyllic location is out of mobile range – so using a direct online survey form was not a possibility.

After reviewing a wide range of free or low-cost online survey options that could also operate offline, we eventually identified QuickTap Survey. It allows you to design and test your survey online before downloading to an iPad App for offline surveying. Once you are done and back online, you upload the data for analysis.

We decided to only use one iPad with one surveyor to minimise chance of repeated approaches to the same visitor. I wandered through the Festival with the iPad and randomly approached visitors to complete the survey. All those approached were keen to help and whe

n offered the iPad almost all respondents completed it themselves. The interaction with the visitor usually triggered conversations about the festival which in itself was useful, but this also limited the number of people I had time to survey.

The survey told us where our visitors were from, their age group, how long they were staying in the Scenic Rim and whether this was their first visit, how they found out about the festival, how much they expected to spend, their festival highlights and suggestions for improvement. With their consent, we also gathered contact details for promotion of subsequent festivals and other events. Our key learnings about surveying apply whether you use a smart device or not: think carefully about what you really need to know and keep the questions repeatable, simple and unambiguous.

The data has given us much a clearer picture of what our festival achieves and the value it creates. The feedback provided clearly affirms that visitors value the sense of place, the creative opportunities, the atmosphere and the highly social and cultural experience. While there were limited suggestions for improvement, those provided have given us some clear areas to focus on in the future. With our long-term local community and business partnerships and the results of two years of surveying, we can confidently say we demonstrate a strong community of arts.

 

 

Andy Grodecki works full time as a science communicator where he has curated two public Art-Science Exhibitions. In his own time his arts practice is in visual arts (painting and drawing) and as a vocalist in two choirs. As an arts worker he has been a long-term President of BADCAP. Andy is on the Exhibition Assessment Advisory Panel for Scenic Rim Regional Council and has served four years on Scenic Rim Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) Committee (2010-2014).

The Arts in the Olives Festival is a major arts festival and cultural tourism event for the Scenic Rim. It has received funding over the years from the Jupiters and Community Gambling Benefit Funds, RADF as well as in-kind assistance from Scenic Rim Regional Council and some local sponsorship. By far the biggest contributors to the event have been the owners of the host location and the in-kind contribution from the event partners – the community and tourism businesses of the Lost World Valley.

BADCAP has also overseen a major Artist-in-Residence sculpture project for Scenic Rim Regional Council as part of the 150 year commemoration of the arrival of the Australian South Sea Islanders, soon to be installed along the Mt Lindsay Highway at Gleneagle. In 2008, BADCAP convened the Beaudesert International Sculpture Symposium with support from the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, Logan City Council and Scenic Rim Regional Council.

Images: courtesy of Andy Grodecki

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