ATTRACTING THE LATINO AUDIENCE
Esmeralda Montenegro Owen
When it comes to defining the Latino audience, we need to look at the needs, goals, and sentiment of multiple generations living in the United States. For most first and second generation Latinos, art and cultural events are not their priorities – and here is where museums and cultural institutions seem to struggle, especially when their surveys show a very small percentage of the attendees are of Hispanic descent.
According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, the largest U.S. Hispanic groups are Mexicans (65%), Puerto Ricans (9%), Cubans/Salvadorans (4%), and Dominicans (3%). These numbers are from the 2010 Census.
In recent times, there is a lot of talk about the power the Latino community is acquiring nationwide. So how can we earn their trust and have more Latinos participate in art and cultural programming?
The answer could be to form partnerships with community organization that focus on Latino issues, create an alliance with the local Spanish radio, TV, magazines and newspapers, and to identify key community members who are the movers and shakers in the area.
We have applied all of the above, and it has worked for us at the National Steinbeck Center. The increase in attendance, participation, visibility, and interest has experienced in a slow but steady manner.
With the new partnerships, I have a monthly column in the local Spanish newspaper, a monthly 30-minute radio time, and Univision promotes our events regularly in their community calendar and local newscasts. This is a new way that we have found effective in increased visibility and awareness of the museum, its galleries, programs, and of course, John Steinbeck.
When a Latino family comes in to explore the Steinbeck Exhibition Hall, for example, they are amazed! The comment usually is “I didn’t know this was here!” “This is really interesting.” We have also discovered that once the families come in to the museum, the children are engaged with their surroundings, making the parents feel proud to be a part of that learning excitement.
In terms of community partnerships, the Center has opened its doors to sponsor workshops, community meetings, concerts, conferences, etc. directed to the Latino population. A good example is the partnership with the group Partners for Peace and their eight-week Strengthening Families program (see photo). The National Steinbeck Center provided the space and staff support for weekly evening workshops geared towards building family dynamics. The instructors said the class was the best behaved and committed that they had ever experienced; their guess was that the location had a lot to do with it. The families felt special.
Join us next Monday, September 10, 2012 for a webinar that will expand on how to attract the Latino audience. I will talk about positive experiences and what has worked in our Literary Museum, hoping these can be useful to your individual art and cultural organizations. REGISTER HERE.
*Editor's note: Esmeralda will also be a presenter at the 2012 NAMP Conference for the session Break Down the Barriers: Activate Organizational Change to Gain New Audiences on Saturday, November 10, 4:00 pm -5:30 pm.
Top Photo: Flower Field, special exhibit at the National Steinbeck Center