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We utilized an experiential strategy process to uncover the most important needs and desired experiences that Latinos seek in the arts.

The Connection Between Experiences and Cultural Identity

Ethnic and cultural identity are not abstract, static constructs in an intellectual mind. They are dynamic drivers of experiences that people purposefully seek out, as they provide value and meaning to their lives. Cultural identity is actualized through a series of experiences that people demand which are based on specific needs. By focusing on the type of experiences people want, we uncover the core of their cultural identities.


The needs that we identified among Latinos (in no particular order since they are equally important):

  • To connect with their own heritage.

  • To educate themselves and their family and children.

  • To strengthen family unity, including covering the needs of multiple people in the family (multi-generational groups.)

  • To be stimulated: to have alone time and to reflect, and to be entertained.

  • To nurture themselves and be creative.

  • To relate to others.


An experience is a change in ourselves. We think about the experience, we feel something about it and we’re compelled to act in a specific way because of what we are thinking and feeling. In this process, we assign a significance to the experience that goes from something as simple as feeling cold and putting on a sweater, to experiencing the wonder of a sunset and feeling like a speck of stardust in the vastness of the universe. But not all experiences are the same.

Most of us focus on and put more attention to experiences at the top of the pyramid since those are the types of experiences that make life worth living, such as harmony, beauty, oneness, duty, community, wonder, etc. As we see it, the arts evoke meaningful experiences in people.

We can classify experiences in three levels: functional, emotional and at the top we have meaningful experiences.



The Experiential Model of Unified

Arts Engagement

We assert that a more holistic way of understanding why and how Latinos engage with arts organizations is by understanding their specific needs related to the arts, and the associated experiences they look for. This study is based on the assumption that experiences in general, and meaningful experiences in particular, are the best possible framework to understand and act upon the engagement of Latinos in the arts.

Little by little we have come to realize that the true key to solve the engagement question does not rely in one of these aspects, but in the combination of all three: marketing and communications, programming/content, and the organization’s cultural competence. We call this Unified Engagement.


If an arts organization wants to create effective strategies to engage new audiences, in this case Latinos, it needs to pay attention to all three aspects of unified engagement, and develop solutions in each one and focus on how they are articulated together. Marketing and communications by itself is not going to move the needle alone, but most importantly, it needs to be well articulated and coordinated with the programmatic content, as well as with the organization’s cultural competence.

"... people, specially in the Latino community, are describing engaging with arts not necessarily around a single institution, but in informal settings. Whether it’s the cooking, the design of the space, the live music, I often experience this through the lenses of art and culture. But I’m not sure that the language we use in the arts field really resonates with the people who are doing the arts and culture-making here in the Valley."




Cultural Openness is the degree to which a person is open to expose him/herself, understand, and ultimately relate to experiences and people she or he perceives as different from her/his own.

Using an audience-centered approach and ethnographic research methodologies, Scansion aimed to deeply understand the values, motivations, and desired experiences related to cultural activities of Latinos in different phases of the cultural openness spectrum and generational brackets (Millennials, Generation X, and Boomers). Using an intercultural framework, Scansion focused on how the cultural identity of Latinos evolve and how that evolution is represented in their cultural participation. From a mix of primary and secondary research activities, Scansion synthesized a high-level understanding of Latino engagement in the arts, providing recommendations for inclusive practices and actionable insights for more effective tactical implementations.


We conducted 41 in-depth Interviews (IDI’s) of one hour each with self-identified Latinos in four California regions, 2 coastal and 2 inland: San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles metro, Riverside / Inland Empire, and Fresno.


Respondents profile:

  • Language preference: Spanish dominant, bilingual, English dominant

  • Generation: Millennial, Generation X, and Baby Boomers

  • Country of origin: US born, foreign born including a good representation from Latin American countries

  • 60% female and 40% male in each city

  • Mix of educational and income levels, and occupations

  • Active cultural participation using a broad definition (museums, performing arts, festivals, fairs, social dancing, etc.)

Research Methodology


We conducted a literature review of previous work about Latino engagement in the arts and associated communications.




36 complete digital ethnography assignments in which respondents were asked to submit their 10 best ideas of how arts organizations could further engage people “like them.” Respondents used their smartphones to submit short videos and/or still photography, and answered a few questions about each idea. They had 3 to 4 days to complete the assignment after their interview. 

We received a total of 317 entries (each with an image and an explanation) that were classified using semantic analysis. The following ideas were the most frequently mentioned:


  • Increase stimulation

  • Create Latino marketing and communications

  • Offer Latino centric programming

  • Establish partnerships with community organizations

  • Use Spanish language

  • Develop immersive, participatory experiences


Latino advisory committee provided feedback throughout the study:

  • Roberto Bedoya, Oakland Arts Commission

  • Tamara Alvarado, School of Arts and Culture in San Jose

  • Leticia Buckley, Los Angeles County Arts Commission

  • Lucero Arellano, former California Arts Council

  • Frank Delgado, Arte Americas in Fresno

  • Edgar Aguirre, Academy of Arts and Motion Pictures (Oscars)



  • Drew Oberjuerge, Riverside Art Museum

  • Elva Rodriguez, Arte Americas

  • Eric Romero, Riverside Art Museum

  • Katie Hernandez, Riverside Art Museum

  • Luis Arreola, Luchador Art Collective

  • Nikiko Masumoto, Farmer, Artist, Community Leader

  • Frank Delgado, Arte Americas

  • Leticia Buckley, Los Angeles County Arts Commission

Drew Oberjuerge | executive director

“I grew up in this area, so of course I stand for diversity, but it wasn't until this moment where you're advocating daily to trustees and to other stakeholders about what it means, that you really understand what it means to take a stand. So it's empowering and it's exciting, I'm just happy that we have this moment to stand up for really what we think it's got to change here.”


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