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March 5, 2021

Planning for a Safe Return: What our Audience is Telling Us


Hill Auditorium Audience Filling

UMS is joining two dozen arts organizations across Southeast Michigan in surveying audiences every other month for updated insights into what they expect when returning to venues for live performances. The research is administered by leading arts researcher WolfBrown and sponsored by CultureSource.

UMS will announce its 2021/22 Season this May, and we are planning for a safe return to in-person experiences starting late Fall 2021. Sign up for season updates to be notified when more details are available.

Here is what we’ve learned from participating UMS audience members so far (data as of February 17, 2021):

Our Audience is Eager to Get Vaccinated

As of February 17, 37% of our audiences have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 22% fully vaccinated. Of those surveyed, vaccination ranges from 16% for those under 35 years of age, to 49% for participants over 65.

For those yet to be vaccinated, 96% intend on getting the vaccine. And 90% plan to do so as soon as eligibility and availability permit.

Vaccine Resources

Latest Vaccine Updates from Michigan Medicine

Request a Vaccine from Washtenaw County Health Department

Masking and Distancing Matter

In our survey, the three most important health and safety topics to audiences in thinking about a return to live, in-person performances are:

  • Mask-wearing requirements
  • Distancing requirements & how seating will work
  • Ventilation quality and airflow

A close fourth is the enforcement of all of the above. Our production and patron services staff are working with University of Michigan venues to develop clear plans and protocols that address all of these areas. We promise that we will always prioritize health and safety as we move back to in-person programming.

The Performing Arts Are Loved and Missed

When asked about long-term attendance of arts and cultural activities, roughly 90% of UMS audience members surveyed indicated that they expect to attend events at a similar or increased frequency as they did pre-pandemic.

Comments about attending the arts again include:

“I realize that in the past I took things for granted, always putting off a visit for various reasons, with the idea that a visit could always be done later. The past year has shown that that is not the case. I hope to experience more cultural activities than I did in the past.”

“Have to “restore my soul”!”

“Not being able to attend events made me realize I had taken these types of opportunities for granted.”

Digital Presentations Are Here to Stay

Two-thirds of respondents to the survey have watched at least one of our digital offerings this year, and three-quarters expect online programs to play at least some role in their cultural life moving forward. As we continue our planning for the 2021/22 season, know that we will continue to offer accessible digital presentations in addition to our in-person season.

Explore Upcoming Digital Events


Your Voice is Important to Us

If you receive an invitation to participate in an upcoming return to theaters survey from UMS and other presenters, please consider doing so! These surveys are happening across two dozen arts organizations in Southeast Michigan, allowing us to gauge perceptions across the region.

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