How do you utilize the arts to foster civic identity, cultivate tourism, and brand your city, town or neighborhood?
Four arts leaders. Four diverse markets. Four distinct audience segments. While the cities and circumstances may differ, their authentic and creative approach to problem solving, consensus building, and collaboration did not. Here are their key insights and takeaways from last week’s 2013 Americans for the Arts Convention.
Andrew M. Witt, St. Johns Cultural Council (St. Augustine, Florida)
“Be real. Find the asset in the community that is going to be of interest to someone not in your community and sell that in a realistic way. The worst thing that can happen is to not meet (customer) expectations. If you don’t, they’ll tell 10 people; if you exceed expectations, they’ll tell 2 people. So you have to deliver on the promise you made.”
Learn more about the work of the St. Johns Cultural Council here.
Robert Vodnoy, Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony (Aberdeen, South Dakota)
“The lesson in all the different stories that I told you is: the general impulse of the community is to have civic pride and not want to touch the stories that are problematic. Or to sanitize them. But I think the cultural tourist is more interested in the whole story. So I think the challenge is to get the civic identity to embrace its complete self, and not to walk away from what is actually a rich story just because it’s a little ‘icky.’ It’s a tougher story, but it’s a much more interesting narrative. Embrace the dark side.”
Learn more about the Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony here.
Cookie Ruiz, Ballet Austin (Austin, Texas)
“In Austin, until the time when we were under duress, we had a tendency to argue with each other. After our cultural planning process, we realized an advocate voice was really better when it was a more cohesive voice. So this last time, instead of turning on each other…we really bonded together. And we have maintained those relationships. That’s been a good lesson for us and has really changed the way we’ve done everything.”
Learn more about CreateAustin, the city’s community cultural plan here.
Laura I. Zabel, Springboard for the Arts (St. Paul, Minnesota)
“The common thread I’ve heard is the need and the power of working across sectors and understanding what other people value in your community. Build the connections…and the social capital. Lead with how the arts and culture can support the goals of a city or neighborhood, fill a need or address a challenge. That is going to be a much more effective and ultimately sustainable way of working than just approaching it from what we, internally as an arts community, think we need.”
Learn more about Irrigate, Springboard’s artist-led, creative placemaking initiative here.