Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Commissions First Major Study of Boston's Cultural Audiences

Culture Track 2014: Focus on Boston Finds Bostonians Participate in More Activities—from Museumsto Musicals—and Boston Millennials and Gen Xers are More Engaged than National Counterparts

BOSTON, MA (September 26, 2014)—Today, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), revealed the results of an in-depth study of Boston’s cultural audience, Culture Track 2014: Focus on Boston, to an audience of the region’s cultural leaders. Revealing new insights into the unique characteristics and tendencies of greater Boston’s cultural audiences, the study results offer data that is meant to inform strategic planning and ensure enduring growth of regional arts and culture institutions. Commissioned by the MFA on behalf of Boston’s cultural community, this is the first city edition of Culture Track—the largest ongoing national tracking study of cultural consumers’ ever-changing attitudes and behavior, developed by the cultural strategy, design and advertising firm, LaPlaca Cohen. The study, Culture Track 2014: Focus on Boston, found that compared to audiences nationwide, Bostonians are more culturally engaged, more curious, more informed and more open to new cultural experiences. They are also more scheduled, more stressed, and more likely to view inconvenience as a barrier to participation. For Culture Track: Focus on Boston, LaPlaca Cohen partnered with the research firm Campbell Rinker,to survey 1,238 Boston cultural consumers earlier this year. Measuring everything from demographics to attendance to media usage, the findings explore the evolving needs and desires of Boston’s cultural consumers and present a new understanding of its unique community. Issues that rose to the surface include: expansion of what “culture” means in a complex world; rise of mobile activity; increasing importance of cultural activities to young audiences, including the desire to socialize with friends; and growing use of social media.

“This study—commissioned by the MFA—gets inside Boston’s unique cultural mindset, which is deeply informed, engaged and unique. We expect that it will help as we build and diversify our audiences in the future,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “It’s a privilege for us to share the findings with Boston’s cultural community.”

The full, 141-page Culture Track 2014: Focus on Boston study can be found at

  • Topline Deck: LaPlaca Cohen presentation of the study
  • Supporting Data: Comprehensive research behind the study
  • Video: Presentation by Arthur Cohen, CEO of LaPlaca Cohen (available within the next week)

By comparing the Boston market to the greater US cultural landscape, the study analyzes the region’s uniquely plugged-in and open-minded audiences. For example, 78 percent of Boston audiences participate in at least one cultural activity per month, versus 69 percent of national audiences. In Boston and across the nation, survey respondents look to culture as a way to seek entertainment and enlightenment, but a higher percentage of Boston’s younger generations also view culture as a way to escape every day stress and rejuvenate.

“The MFA is a leader in thinking deeply and analytically about their audiences,” said Arthur Cohen, founder and CEO of LaPlaca Cohen. “This study furthers their commitment to this field, and supports the type of long-term planning that is critical to any cultural organization.

The MFA’s Culture Track 2014: Focus on Boston follows the June release of ArtsBoston’s “The Arts Factor 2014 Report,” which analyzed how the region’s nonprofit arts and cultural sector transforms lives, builds stronger communities and strengthens the local economy. Among many important findings, The Arts Factor noted that Greater Boston has more arts and cultural organizations per capita than any other US Metro Area (50 organizations per 100,000 residents), and that enough people are welcomed by local arts and cultural institutions every year to sell out Fenway Park 488 times.

Culture Track: Focus on Boston Key Findings

More, More, More

Bostonians are avidly experiencing everything. They participate in cultural activities more frequently than national audiences––averaging 1.79 cultural activities per month, compared to 1.42 nationally––and sample a wider variety of activities. In fact, Boston audiences are more likely to participate in almost every type of cultural activity across the board. The greatest differences between national and Boston audiences are in the number of people who, at least once a year, participate in musical theater (+10 percent for Boston audiences), dramatic theater (+9 percent), children’s museums (+9 percent), science museums (+8 percent) and art museums (+8 percent) with the city’s most popular destinations (by discipline) being the MFA, the Museum of Science, the Citi Performing Arts Center and Faneuil Hall.

Both national and Boston audiences are defining a much broader range of activities as “culture.” Bostonians are more inclined to think of “culture” as including national, state or municipal parks and memorial sites; art, craft, design and furniture fairs; public art; food and drink experiences; popular music concerts; attending or watching a live or recorded lecture or talk; seeing an independent film in a theater or at home; listening to public radio; and watching non-commercial television.

Active Audiences

The top three reasons that both Boston and national audiences make culture a part of their lives are: entertainment and enjoyment; spending time with friends and family; and expanding knowledge and understanding. National audiences reflect a “cultural participation sandwich”— Millennials (18-29) and Pre-War (70+) are the two most culturally active generations. Boston audiences, however, lean younger, with Millennials still in the lead, but Gen X (30-49) overtaking Pre-War for the number two spot. Some motivators vary greatly across generations––4 in 5 Boston Millennials attend cultural activities to escape stress and rejuvenate, compared to only 1 in 2 of Boston’s Pre-War generation. More than their national counterparts, Boston Millennials hold a deep, even “traditional” view of the role of culture in society; like Boomers (50-69) and Pre-War, they believe that the primary roles of cultural organizations are to educate, contribute to the greater good of society and conserve and take care of art. In fact, more than 4 in 5 Millennials visit the MFA, Boston at least once per year. However, almost half of millenials won’t attend if it means going alone.

Despite their hunger for culture, Bostonians also put a premium on convenience and advance planning, which can be a barrier to attendance. If the commute is simple and the hours are right, they will be even more inclined to fit a cultural activity into their busy schedule.

Information Overload

Bostonians are incredibly well informed and use a wide range of sources to learn about cultural happenings in Boston and beyond. From traditional media like television and radio, newspapers and regional magazines to online outlets like email and social media, Bostonians consult a wider variety of information sources than national audiences. The vast majority of Boston audiences prepare for their visit in advance, and are more likely than their national peers to use online sources (social media, email, newspaper sites, cultural organization websites and online magazines) to plan their cultural activities. Generationally, both Boston Millennials (18-29) and Gen X respondents (30-49) rely heavily on social media, TV and radio, followed by newspapers and regional magazines to learn about cultural offerings. Bostonians are hungry for information, and not only seek out supplemental materials to prepare for an event or visit, but they use this information on-site for a more in-depth understanding of their experience (for example, Boston respondents are more likely than national audiences to use guided tours, exhibition catalogues, brochures and cultural organization websites). This desire for knowledge aligns with how Bostonians perceive culture at large: more than 4 in 5 Boston respondents state that a primary role of cultural organizations is to educate people about other cultures or perspectives, second only to providing general entertainment and enjoyment. In Boston, cultural sponsorships are admired, with 58 percent of respondents thinking highly of sponsors, and 54 percent feeling good about doing business with a sponsor.

Get Mobile

Almost 7 in 10 Boston respondents have smart phones, and of those who opt to use a mobile device on-site, about a third of them have used it to access an organization’s website. Bostonians are also more likely than national audiences to have conducted a search about an artist, school, movement or artwork. Bostonians are eager to deepen their understanding of each and every experience, and take advantage of having the internet at their fingertips (or at least in their pockets). As in the national study, taking and sharing photos are the most popular mobile activities during on-site cultural experiences. However, participation in cultural activities is not limited to on-site engagement. Boston audiences use technology to experience culture at home, although off-site technology engagement is not shared equally among art forms––experiencing culture online is much more common among the performing arts than the visual arts (in contrast to on-site tech engagement, which is often stronger at visual arts organizations).

Culture Track 2014: Focus on Boston demonstrates the vital role that culture plays in the lives of greater Boston residents. When asked to define a cultural experience, respondents described it as “enriching,” said it “opens my eyes,” and is “meant to broaden horizons.” Like national audiences, Bostonians are drawn to culture for deep, “big picture” reasons: because they enjoy it and it provides entertainment, because it is a great way to spend time with friends and family, and because it allows them to expand their knowledge and understanding of the world around them. The study and its findings can be found at


LaPlaca Cohen worked in partnership with research firm Campbell Rinker to field the national study of Culture Track 2014. The study was conducted in 2014 using an online survey with 4,026 respondents representing all 50 states. Culture Track: Focus on Boston used the same questionnaire as the national study, with a few additional questions added regarding cultural institutions unique to the Boston area. The Boston study was conducted using an online survey with 1,238 respondents from the Boston/New Hampshire DMA.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is recognized for the quality and scope of its collection, which includes an estimated 500,000 objects. The Museum has more than 140 galleries displaying its encyclopedic collection, which includes Art of the Americas; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa; Art of the Ancient World; Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Textile and Fashion Arts; and Musical Instruments. Open seven days a week, the MFA’s hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 am–4:45 pm; and Wednesday through Friday, 10 am–9:45 pm Admission (which includes one repeat visit within 10 days) is $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students age 18 and older, and includes entry to all galleries and special exhibitions. Admission is free for University Members and youths age 17 and younger on weekdays after 3 pm, weekends, and Boston Public Schools holidays; otherwise $10. Wednesday nights after 4 pm admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation $25). MFA Members are always admitted for free. The Museum’s mobile MFA Guide is available at ticket desks and the Sharf Visitor Center for $5, members; $6, non-members; and $4, youths. The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Patriots’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For more information, visit or call 617.267.9300. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

About LaPlaca Cohen

Based in New York City, LaPlaca Cohen is the only strategy, design and full-service advertising firm in the U.S. that exclusively serves the creative and cultural sector. For more than twenty years, LaPlaca Cohen has helped many of the world’s leading creative and cultural organizations tell their stories, building connections that amplify an institution’s impact on its community and the world. LaPlaca Cohen’s clients are an unparalleled roster of leading museums, performing arts organizations, architecture firms, orchestras, dance companies, corporate sponsors, foundations, and collectors. For more information, please visit