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From the Guest Editor

Back to Issue | February 2021

Crystal Ball Gazing: What’s in Store for Performing Arts in 2021?

2020 was an incredibly challenging year for the performing arts, as the pandemic brought the sector activities to a standstill. In order to keep up the momentum, several artists took to digital platforms, while several were unable to do so due to lack of resources and technological knowhow. The situation however sparked innovation and conversations like never before, forcing artists to introspect their relationship with art, and rethink the way they created and delivered it.

The constraints of the pandemic also changed the way audiences engaged with and consumed the arts. The traditional consumption patterns of “seeking” live artistic experiences in physical spaces, almost switched instantaneously and a plethora of artistic content was being “pushed” to audiences, offering them a great degree of flexibility in consumption choices, akin to switching channels on a television. There was also an increased exploration and discovery of art forms by newer audiences.

The pandemic also amplified the need for laying out policies and systemic arrangements to support the arts sector during distress times. However, several independent foundations were engaged in massive fundraising initiatives providing monetary support to artists, especially from rural areas across the country to help sustain their livelihoods. Also few online festivals and performing arts productions were made possible with support from corporate sponsors and long-time patrons.

With the pandemic lifestyle here to stay for months, what does 2021 hold for the performing arts? Here is my crystal ball gazing of potential trends:

1. Hybrid events with digital in the forefront: Large events are unlikely to commence this year, hence 2021 will see more hybrid events with digital in the forefront. As we move forward through the year and into 2022, it will not be about physical vs digital, but digital becoming more an integral part of artistic presentations and audience experiences.

2. Listening to Audiences: More than ever before, 2021 presents an opportunity for the arts sector to build new audiences. The digital medium has democratised the engagement between artists and audiences. Artists and arts organisations have the opportunity to actively “listen” to what the audiences want and slowly but steadily build deeper connections with them through meaningful content and relevant experiences.

3. Artists as Producers: Artists have become and will continue to be producers of digital experiences. There seems to be an increased interest and opportunity in art-based short films, documentaries, and artistic presentations created for Over the-Top (OTT) platforms, which will be explored in 2021-2022.

4. Digital Revenue Generation: Adoption of fundraising and revenue generation models through digital mediums such as pay-per-view, crowdfunding, sale of digital artefacts etc., will increase, enabling artists to create new work or revive their professional pursuits; as well as support productions and events to resume in a hybrid format.

5. Arts Learning & Appreciation: Art enthusiasts and arts students will continue to look for new learning experiences. There lies immense potential for arts educators to build innovative arts learning programmes through digital and hybrid models. A huge opportunity particularly exists for building arts appreciation programmes that enable discovery of, and experiencing the arts.

Ramya Rajaraman

Founder & Director, ArtSpire
Ramya is an arts entrepreneur and strategic communications specialist. A performing arts connoisseur, she founded ArtSpire in 2016 to provide marketing, management and strategic consulting services for the arts and culture sector. Instagram: @teamartspire

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