Melbourne’s White Night is now in its second year, with over 550,000 people converging on the CBD. We experienced White Night; exploring Melbourne’s laneways, the Jazz concerts along Bourke Street, the multi-sensory Midden, acknowledging the Wurundjeri as our traditional owners of the land, as well as the effects on display in Alexandra Gardens. We definitely had an enjoyable evening, experiencing the artistic talent that was on display.
In terms of sheer numbers, White Night was clearly a success, building on the 300,000 that attended the inaugural event last year. But did it achieve its aims?
The purpose of Melbourne’s White Night was to encourage people to engage with the arts. This was achieved on the night itself, with people viewing the displays, but how deep is this engagement and will it continue after the event?
The atmosphere of the 2014 White Night was different to the inaugural year. Anecdotally, we saw many attendees viewing this year as a night out, rather than an opportunity to experience art.
Understanding the purpose of an event, allows us to consider how success can be measured. If the aim is to encourage ongoing engagement, then attendance numbers for the event itself is not going to give us an accurate answer. Instead, there is a need to consider whether someone is more likely to attend art events in the future, and to see whether this intent follows through with action.
It would appear that White Night, has become a festival with an art component, rather than an arts festival. Most telling, was the lack of information of Melbourne’s established art facilities on the White Night Program or website.
Surely if the intent is to continue engagement, then existing venues, from the National Gallery through to independent art theaters should be highlighted. While art centres, were prominent in last year’s event, they were hardly a feature in this year’s White Night.
While there were definite positives, and the attendance numbers clearly form a great headline, there is a need to understand the core purpose of the event. It is important to remember that an event is a marketing tool and its effectiveness needs to be measured to ensure it achieves its aims.
The numbers alone do not tell the full story, how many of the attendees to White Night will increase their participation with the arts?