One of the best questions that came out of an AAM conference session on “Reaching Latino Audiences” reflected on the accelerating pace of change of the American population. The question was from a white woman who was clearly tuning into these issues. Her question was something like: "Given how the population around us is changing so quickly, what does this mean for the future of mainstream culture in America?"
Well, the next day, we got a taste of the future. Dan Yaeger of the New England Museum Association, Jennifer Caleshu of the Bay Area Discovery Museum (and one of our 2010 Reach Advisors Fellows) joined Susie and me for lunch at a roving Korean taco truck. Started by a Mexican cook and a Korean cook, the Kogi trucks (there are four, total) have managed to turn the Los Angeles culinary community upside down by blending cultures and taking it to the people. (They park at places ranging from office complexes in the suburbs to parking lots in Koreatown during the day, to bars and bowling alleys at night.) This may not be everyone's taste, but it's grown well beyond a little 'niche' business. I'm guessing that these guys have built up a business approaching the $10 million/year mark, with a tiny fraction of the cost structure of most restaurant organizations serving at that culinary standard. They’ve also triggered a lot of knockoffs up and down the West Coast (e.g., Punjab Burrito in the SF Bay Area).
The audience for this specific truck ranged from Hispanic families to Korean mothers to white guys in ties. I was only half-way kidding when I started off saying that this was a taste of the future of mainstream culture in America. As I travel extensively across the country, I'm seeing that the last two years or so have ushered in a dramatic acceleration of a multi-ethnic presence in mainstream America. I used to notice this in only a very small number of cities, but now, it's to the point where in most metro areas, it's starting to feel curiously odd when I'm not seeing it. In some of our continued research on Generation Y (young adults under 30 years old), we're certainly seeing an increased attitude that ethnically homogenous environments are considered "old school" and "not real world"...even among young adults that live their physical lives in a homogenous community.
We'll continue to track the trajectory and potential implications of this attitudinal shift in ongoing research and sharing snippets along way in this blog, but for those wanting to dig deeper right now, there are a few good resources worth consideration:
- In the AAM's continued effort to identify changes that will shape the future of museums, the Center for the Future of Museums released their latest report on Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums at the annual conference. This report cogently explores the implications for demographic change, and the disconnect with traditional patterns of museum visitation. (Also, go to the CFM blog for their latest post, which also talks about the Kogi trucks!)
- Salvador Acevedo of Contemporena served on the same AAM panel that prompted the question on the future of mainstream culture in America, and he did a nice job at recapping some of the key points raised in the panel on the National Arts Marketing Project website.
- If you want a copy of our slides that laid out some of the key points in Salvador's summary from “Reaching Latino Audiences,” just email james (at) reachadvisors.com.
- And finally, when I got back from the conference in LA, I whipped up some kimchee tacos for my half Korean, half Irish/Italian kids. They loved them. Just email if you want the recipe.
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