Over the past 15 years, we have found individual depth interviews to be one of the most valuable sources of information for arts administrators and board members of cultural organizations. Interviewing is, by definition, a dynamic, unpredictable and participatory activity. The process of interviewing people yields valuable information that you would not get if someone else conducted the interviews and wrote a report for you. There are several different types of interviews, including oral histories, evaluation interviews and focus group interviews. For this type of research, we recommend using a structured topical interview as the primary means of gathering data. The overall topic of the interview is the audience member’s feelings about the arts experience. The interview is structured because it is not an open conversation – by the end of the interview, you need to have answers to specific questions.
Interviewees are pre-recruited, either via email in the case of performing arts organizations, or by intercepting at the venue, which is more practical for museums and galleries. Interviews occur after the performance, or after they’ve viewed the exhibition. We recommend interviewing audiences/visitors in pairs with one person to ask the questions (Interviewer) and one to record the answers (Recorder). The key to this exercise is honing your listening skills.
Check out the Free Downloads section for more information about this type of data collection.