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Culture counts - Institute of Modern Art

IMA reflects on their experience of the Culture Counts audience surveying trial and what they learned from the data… 

The Institute of Modern Art recently participated in the Culture Counts trial to evaluate visitor experience of our exhibition Hito Steyerl: Too Much World from 13 December 2014 – 22 March 2015.

Too Much World was the first solo exhibition in Australia of the German artist, writer, and filmmaker Hito Steyerl, featuring six works from the past decade. Steyerl is a leading figure in the critical articulation of how the internet, digital technologies and images are transforming life, work and politics. Her videos offer timely, insightful and entertaining perspectives on images that swirl around us.

The Culture Counts platform enabled the IMA to conduct a visitor survey. Resulting survey data generated a report that provides useful insights into the impact of the exhibition on our audiences. The feedback will help to develop future ideas for exhibition programs at the IMA, and will assist when reporting to key funding bodies including Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Queensland. The real-time responses also allowed us to talk confidently to key gallery stakeholders, sponsors, funders and IMA Board members about the progress of the exhibition.

The three strands of ‘Peer’, ‘Self’ and ‘Audience’ assessment were an important feature of the trial, allowing the IMA to gather both professional and general opinion. Audience feedback was encouraging with 98% of respondents finding the exhibition to be better than average, and 72% having an excellent experience. Comments such as ‘One of my favourite IMA exhibitions of the last few years’ and ‘Amazing artist, well presented’ were also very positive.

We found that the majority of visitors were under 40 years old, with the largest cohort aged 20-29 (60%), which is consistent with the IMA’s audience demographic broadly. Interestingly the average scores for the dimensions of Captivation (‘It was absorbing and held my attention’), Meaning (‘It moved and inspired me’) and Local Impact (‘It is important that it’s happening here’) all increased slightly with each increase in age range.

82% of respondents had attended an IMA exhibition previously so these findings confirm the gallery has a loyal repeat visitor base. Respondents generally lived in inner urban locations, in the Brisbane CBD and surrounding suburbs, with a number of visitors travelling from Sydney and Melbourne to see the exhibition. While we are pleased with this interstate recognition, these findings also suggest that one challenge for the IMA is to identify ways of expanding our geographical reach to outer areas of Brisbane. Findings show us that Too Much World exceeded expectations for the dimension of Leverage, with Peer Assessors strongly agreeing that ‘the exhibition could attract a variety of investors’.

The survey was available for the majority of the exhibition and at all associated events and talks. Choosing to carry out face-to-face surveys using the specified link on our iPads meant conducting the survey was trouble-free. The IMA has a team of over 20 volunteers who were able to engage visitors in the gallery’s foyer. We also emailed e-news subscribers to remind them to visit this important exhibition and complete the survey.

The bespoke survey was simple for respondents to navigate, with a streamlined design. In the past the IMA has used other methods to conduct surveys and found the Culture Counts platform to be user-friendly, and more beneficial with in-depth analysis, regular communication and unique reporting. Participating in this Culture Counts trial has been a positive experience and we will use this platform again to collect survey responses.

Read blog posts from other participating organisations including Bleach* FestivalJudith Wright Centre of Contemporary ArtsQueensland Symphony OrchestraAnywhere FestivalAccess Arts and arTour.

Ally Bennett
As Membership and Development Manager, Ally Bennett manages the IMA’s philanthropic initiatives and sponsorship, specialising in developing event-based fundraising. Ally holds a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from Loughborough University, UK, and joined the IMA in 2014 after working for both the Contemporary Art Society and the Tate Modern in London. She has over five years experience in fundraising and events management, specifically with individual philanthropy, acquisition committees and benefit events. Contact:





Feature image of Hito Steyerl exhibition courtesy of IMA, 2015.