Community Input Survey

IMG_6492 copyApril 2016

We conducted an online community input survey from August 2015 through mid-March 2016. This survey was one component of our extensive community engagement over the last year. We also convened the Medford Arts and Culture Summit in November 2015, participated in Mayor Burke’s transition team for Cultural Affairs and Recreation, and gathered input from community members at numerous public events.

All of this feedback confirms what we experience regularly in our work—there is a lot of enthusiasm and energy right now in the community, a willingness to try some new things, and an eagerness to make Medford an even more vibrant place for arts and culture.

Our survey asked 10 questions. Some of the results, based on answers provided by 144 unique respondents, can be briefly summarized as follows.

Our Audience

  • 91% of respondents indicated that they lived in Medford. 4% indicated Somerville, and a handful of respondents indicated other communities.
  • Regarding the age of respondents: 37% were between 25–40 years old;  35% between 40–55;  20% between 55–65;  8% older than 65; less than 2% younger than 25.
  • 44% of respondents indicated they had children under the age of 18. The majority said that they did not have children under the age of 18.

We asked survey takers how many arts or cultural events in Medford they had attended within the previous 6 months. 27% said zero events, 49% said 1–4 events, 18% said 5–9 events, and 6% said they had been to 10 or more events.

We asked about social media usage: 85% of our respondents use Facebook, and about 33% use at least one of the following: Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. Other social media platforms did not score as well, suggesting that our primary audience is not currently found on them. 8% of respondents indicated that they used no social media.

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— A local potter demonstrates wheel throwing during West Medford Open Studios.

The responses to the remaining 5 questions of our online survey require more explanation.

Programs

We received a range of answers to an open question about the survey taker’s favorite arts or cultural events in Medford within the last 2 years. Two events in particular were cited more frequently than any others: West Medford Open Studios and Circle the Square. One or both events were named by more than 50% of respondents, who said that they especially appreciated their fun, interactive, and community-building qualities.

We asked about desired programs, and provided 10 possible choices as well as a field for open responses. According to our survey results, the community most wants to see more public art, live music, and arts festivals, which were the top three choices. The results are shown as follows in descending order for cultural programs according to what percentage of all respondents selected them.

71% = Public art
69% = Live music
60% = Arts festivals
52% = Arts/crafts marketplaces
49% = Art exhibits
47% = Theater/drama
44% = Classes in art, music, dance, photography, writing, etc.
40% = Talks and exhibits about Medford’s history
32% = Literary events
27% = Dance performances
13% = Other

Public Art

Medford’s 2011 Open Space and Recreation Plan calls for the “Inclusion of public art in the City’s parks and open spaces.” Believing there to be an opportunity to bring new public art to the city, we asked respondents for input on where in Medford they wanted to see public art. 75% of our survey takers elected to answer this optional question, which allowed answers for first choice, second choice, and third choice. The top five results were: Medford Square, Dugger Park, Playstead Park, Veterans Memorial Park, and the Condon Shell. It should be noted that all of these places are located along or nearby the Mystic River.

The map below shows the top 10 preferred sites using red circles. You can enlarge the map by clicking on it.

Public art sites weighted input copy

— The survey’s top 10 sites for public art are indicated by red circles, sized proportionally to rank.

Issues

We wanted to know more about what the community considers to be important issues related to arts and culture in Medford. Our earlier public engagement had given us information about relevant issues that we were able to incorporate into survey choices. Respondents were limited to their top 3 selections among the provided choices, and were given an option for a free response as well.

The number one issue related to arts and culture in Medford, according to our respondents, is revitalization of the city’s squares and business districts. This issue was selected by 61% respondents, an outcome which was twenty percentage points higher than the second ranked answer—state and city funding for the arts, at 41%. How to find out about events and programs ranked as the third most important issue. It would be interesting to explore further how these three issues are related to each other, and how the remaining issues might be addressed in ways that could contribute toward revitalization efforts.

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Our final survey question simply asked for additional feedback related to community needs, interests, and aspirations regarding arts and culture. Exactly half of our respondents elected to answer this open question. While it is difficult to generalize from such diverse answers, some common themes included:

•  the importance of better marketing for Medford’s events and programs
•  the need for paid staff in City Hall to contribute to arts and culture
•  the need for more engagement of aspiring artists and performers
•  the desire for more performances at the Chevalier Theatre and the Condon Shell.

Taken together, these survey results will help the Medford Arts Council to set some goals for the coming year. We will be working to integrate the survey results with other community feedback so we can develop Local Priorities for our upcoming grant cycle. We also will begin planning additional summits and new initiatives that will allow us to contribute more directly to making a difference in Medford.