Dear CultureSource Members,

Though NCAA March Madness basketball this year was disappointing—because my teams didn't win—I appreciate the unexpected arts-related insights it stimulated.

I watched opening day of the men's tournament (March 21) during a vacation with friends at an Ann Arbor pub. As I was being served leftover green beer—yes, five days after St. Patty's festivities—I was surprised to hear bar staff anecdotally correlate the green beer and a perceived decline in students congregating at bars on previously high-traffic days: sports events and holidays.

This prompted my reflection on three things:
1. NPR reporting earlier this year asked, "So what's a club DJ to do when a lot of kids would rather sit at home and play video games instead of go out and dance? DJ Marshmello recently tried to solve that problem by making himself part of one of the most popular video games out there." His February virtual concert in Fortnite was one of the largest digital gatherings ever, with about 10 million people "attending," and currently about 34 million YouTube views.

2. Going to movie theaters and shopping centers are less routinely reasons people leave their homes as conveniences in TV streaming and e-commerce increase (so much so that rural paper mills are reopening given cardboard demand).

3. New York Times tech reporter Nellie Bowles recently wrote, "There is also a reality that in our culture of increasing isolation, in which so many of the traditional gathering places and social structures have disappeared, screens are filling a crucial void."

Does this all portend a generation of digitally native teens and 20-somethings who are less likely than their parents to come to our physical spaces to experience arts activities later in life?

On one hand, research by the National Endowment for the Arts shows downward trends in arts participation, and some organizations are responding by relying on celebrities, expensive blockbusters (relative to the organization), and perennial, though dated, crowd-pleasers.

On the other hand, people still organically congregate for vigils after traumatic national events, for protests in city streets, and for major life event commemorations. These gatherings seem like essential human activities, though as they evolve as expressions of citizenship—rapidly due to aforementioned digital innovations—we must evolve cultures of connection through our spaces to retain and grow audiences.

Can we do more to cultivate artistically vibrant digital landscapes affiliated with our organizations? Or can we intentionally promote citizenship as a core pillar of our work? I think we can, and organizations like the Brooklyn Museum, festivals like Eyeo, and initiatives like Creating Connection are offering tools and inspiration for us pondering these questions and more.

As we gain insights at CultureSource about these trends, we'll share them with you though our programs and communications. In the meantime, thanks for giving ME a place to go when I need to chill out, when I want to meet up with friends, or get inspired.

Sincerely,
Omari Rush