Michael Killoren

Michael Killoren

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

When it comes to supporting the arts in America, we know that there are as many different strategies as there are communities.  At the core of all of them, however, is the local arts agency (LAA).  Broadly defined as an organization or program that works to foster and support the entire arts industry within a community, LAAs can take many forms—public or private, full time staff or all-volunteer operations, standalone or functioning under the umbrella of a different agency, and beyond.  No matter what shape they take, LAAs seek to support all of the arts for all of the people within a community—a key component of our mission at Americans for the Arts.  That is why we have, in close partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, chosen to undertake the 2013-14 Census of Local Arts Agencies.  This comprehensive survey is designed to benchmark the financial health and programmatic trends of the richly varied, highly diverse, and extremely important work of the nation’s 5,000 LAAs and the communities that they serve.  The data collection will commence in early 2014, so make sure you keep an eye out for our dedicated LAA Census webpage, coming soon!

Here to answer some of our burning questions about the survey—why it is so important, what we hope to learn, and how we plan on using the data—are two of the driving forces behind its conception: Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research & Policy at Americans for the Arts, and Michael Killoren, Local Arts Agencies and Challenge America Director at the National Endowment for the Arts. (Note: an abridged version of this interview was published in Arts Link, the quarterly membership publication of Americans for the Arts.)

Americans for the Arts Research Dept (AFTA Research): The NEA has made a significant investment in this research. Why is this work important to the agency?

Michael Killoren: A thorough understanding of America’s support system for the arts is incomplete without knowledge of the role of Local Arts Agencies, nationwide.  We have current, comprehensive data on federal and state investment in the arts – this study will complete that picture, and help the American people better understand the role of LAAs in the nation’s arts infrastructure, as well as their contributions to the cultural vibrancy of the nation. Read the rest of this entry »

Halley Shefler

Halley Shefler

The school year is still new, so it’s a great time to look ahead and plan ahead. Remember that your academic and performing or visual arts choices in high school should serve your longer-term goals as you prepare for college and beyond. Keep in mind that no matter what decisions you’ve made, or are about to make, you may want to refine your selections as you develop and grow. Stay focused, and at the same time, stay open to exploring new areas at all times!

Senior Arts Students — Get guidance, plan auditions, prep portfolios. Stay on track with admissions requirements by working with your guidance counselor. Let your counselor know where you want transcripts, score reports, and letters sent, and provide any necessary forms much earlier than the actual deadlines so your counselor will have time to send in the forms. Now you can finalize your audition material or portfolio pieces to best reflect your skills.

Senior Parents — Decide on early decision. Review options for early decision and early action to determine if this is the path you and your student want to pursue. Help your child complete the college list by adding application and financial aid due dates. Take a road trip. Identify the top colleges on the final list, and visit those schools. Schedule any interviews that can be completed on campus or with college alumni. Also remember to attend college fairs, and gather as much information as possible.

Junior Arts Students — Build your list of potential colleges. Start by identifying the criteria that is most important to you about college such as academic majors, size, location, cost, and/or special programs. Weigh each of the factors according to their importance to you. Then list the schools that fit your criteria, and develop a preliminary ranking of those schools. You should attend college fairs and college nights and speak with college representatives who visit your high school. Search your top college options online, and based on your findings, either expand or narrow your list. Also, if you’re in the performing arts, it’s a good time to assemble your resume with a headshot. See how the college consultants at ArtsBridge approach arts specialization.

Junior Parents — Stay on schedule. If your child is taking the PSAT, make sure the date is marked on your student’s calendar as well as yours. Remind him/her to prepare for the test and to try some practice questions. At the same time, you can help keep this from being a high-pressure situation by planning for a fun treat after the test. Step on campus. Schedule a day trip to visit nearby colleges even if it’s not where your child will apply. The idea is to explore different types of schools. Start a discussion by asking about which characteristics your student either likes or dislikes about those schools.

Sophomore Arts Students — Practice with the PSAT. Taking the PSAT as a sophomore will help prepare you for the real thing next year. It also allows you to release your name to colleges so you can start receiving information from them. Also review your courses with your guidance counselor to make sure you’re enrolled in the classes you need to prepare you for college.

Sophomore Parents — Take your kid to the fair. It’s a good time to start checking out college fairs and possibly meeting with school representatives that come to your area. Encourage your child to get a feel for the college search by attending one fair, and if ready, a session or two with representatives at school. It may also be a good time to start a preliminary list of potential colleges.

Freshman Arts Students — Plan for the next 4 years. Prepare to lay the foundation for your high school career. This is the time to establish your academic and extracurricular credentials and begin to explore options for further education and a career. Your guidance counselor is there to help you make sense of your college and career options. As soon as you can, set up a meeting to talk about your plans for high school and the future. Your counselor can help to make sure you’re enrolled in the appropriate college-prep classes.

Freshman Parents — Plant the seeds now. Encourage your child to start exploring career goals so that courses can be chosen to complement those goals and serve as good prerequisites for college. Sit down with your teen and the course listings to agree on an academic plan for the classes your child should take in high school. Lay out preliminary plans for extracurricular activities as well, allowing flexibility for new interests to develop. Naturally, you’ll want to consult with the school guidance counselor to help with all of the planning.

Students of the arts get a head start on college consulting. Learn all about ArtsBridge college counseling and see how former college deans of admissions are able to offer specialized guidance to bring out the best in every high school student of the arts.

The monthly planning guide for visual & performing arts students and can be viewed at http://artsbridge.com/artblog/

 

Jody Ulich

Jody Ulich

Here’s the truth about cities: we are all competitive.  How many top-ten lists do you see every year—Most Livable, Most “Green,” Best for Families?  We all want to be on that list, and no one wants to end up falling short.  That’s why data can be so impactful for the decision-makers in a city, and it is precisely why economic impact studies are not new to the Fort Worth-area arts community.  Yet despite our long history of participating in different regional economic impact studies, we—like so many others across the country—saw our arts funding at risk and decreasing every year.  It became clear that in order for the numbers to be truly valid to our city leaders, we needed a study that reflected solely information from Fort Worth.  Those past reports—as robust as they might have seemed—never quite belonged to us, and never gained the traction we hoped that they would with decision-makers.

That is when Americans for the Arts came in with the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV ™ report, and we started to see an important shift in the thinking.  We stepped out to ask for the economic impact of Fort Worth, and only Fort Worth.  Americans for the Arts delivered and the Fort Worth community listened. We presented those findings throughout the community to business leaders and citizens – then finally to the City Council.    The Americans for the Arts data release was perfectly timed, coming out a month before our city budget was set in 2012.  Yet even then, the council still reduced the budget.

Fortunately, during that council meeting, our mayor stood up and said, “We have to stop this; we have to figure this out.”  She made a pledge to put together a task force of citizens to solve our shrinking budget, and true to her word, she put a very even-minded task force together.  Some were arts-supporters; some were business leaders who were not so sure city money should go to the arts.  Over the subsequent five months, the group went over our economic impact findings with a fine-toothed comb.  During that time they studied and talked to people in our community.  And they looked, too, at the graph showing how Forth Worth stacked up against other cities for arts funding: it didn’t look impressive.

So after months of studying the numbers presented in the Economic Impact Study, analyzing support in other cities, and listening to citizens, arts supporters, and arts organizations, our city council listened and responded—to the tune of $1.1 million, doubling our funding from last year.  It goes to show: personalizing your numbers makes a difference, and it never hurts to get the competitive fires burning, either. Read the rest of this entry »

Katy Rubin

Katy Rubin

Today I’m writing from my desk in Brooklyn, as the founder and artistic director of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC (TONYC). TONYC, 2+ years old and growing, partners with local communities including homeless adults, immigrants and LGBTQ homeless youth to create and tour original plays inspired by real‐life struggles. Our interactive performances engage audiences in creative problem‐solving and transformative action.

Back in the summer of 2010, I was working as a freelance teaching artist. One of my employers, a girls leadership initiative, was funded in part by Eileen Fisher, the women’s clothing company. All I knew then about EF was that zen-looking women wore flowy clothes in the NY Times ads that my mother and I had always admired. Then I got a call asking if I’d come up to Westchester, where EF’s headquarters are located. The EF Community Foundation had heard that the Theatre of the Oppressed course was very popular down in the city, and invited me to teach in their pilot Leadership Institute, modeled after the same program they funded in NYC. I immediately noticed a special vibe; the first day I walked into the EF headquarters, the janitor whispered to me: “I love working here: shhh, don’t tell anyone.”

I was excited about the work Eileen was doing around girls’ and women’s leadership (being an emerging leader myself, as well as a young woman). The company was similarly excited by the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology I brought, and how it connected the young women to each other and to their communities, through identifying and transforming collective challenges. At the performance I facilitated that summer, Eileen spoke about the importance of investing in the confidence and creativity of young women, sparked by the challenges she faced when starting the company 30 years before. I didn’t know yet that I’d soon be running a growing arts-and-social-justice nonprofit, and that I would sometimes struggle to find my own confidence as a young, female leader. Read the rest of this entry »

Nicholas Dragga

Nicholas Dragga

I have a love/hate relationship with collaborations. On the one hand, I think they are the greatest thing- the key to our future. They offer opportunities to further Ballet Lubbock’s mission through unique and hopefully unexpected projects to diverse audiences, act as a gateway to more arts participation on all levels, and ideally, bring in some much needed cash. When everything aligns properly, we can create something that truly is greater than the sum of our parts- something that neither we nor our collaborator could ever do alone.

On the other hand, I often wonder, “is this worth it?” This “collaboration” is a LOT of time and energy. I have to jump through so many hoops for this corporate “partner,” compromise my product, and take the time of my dancers, artists, and staff to ultimately help this business sell their products…and all for $500…or maybe even $5,000.  Ugh.

If money is what I’m after, then spending time with individual donors would be more fruitful. If engagement is what I’m after, than bringing OUR uncompromised product to the community would be easier, and often times, more meaningful. Sometimes I think these “new faces” brought in by our business collaborator see us as the hired entertainment – which may possibly do more harm than good in building our brand.

But, the flaw in my logic seems obvious. There is a distinct disconnect between my objectives and my strategies and outcomes. I was not collaborating; I was doing business with people. Of course doing business with people is a great and wonderful thing, but different than collaborating. Read the rest of this entry »

Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

Aside from the “not enough money for the arts” conundrum, “not enough time for the arts” is the second biggest barrier that most educators face in providing more arts instruction, or even arts integration, for students.  But at more than 1,000 schools across the country, this barrier is being erased thorough re-structuring the school day to gain precious minutes, hours, and even days of instructional time for students.

The National Center on Time & Learning publication Advancing Arts through an Expanded School Day offers case studies for five schools that have reorganized their schedules to provide students with more contact hours during the day and larger blocks of time to delve deeply into project-based learning.  The publication includes three key traits of extended-day schools:

  1. Educators consider arts classes to be a core feature of their comprehensive educational program.
  2. Educators organize their school day and staffing to reflect the central role of the arts and dedicate ample time to their practice.
  3. Educators value how the arts can leverage engagement and achievement in school.

In Oregon, one outstanding example of these principals is the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield.  This arts magnet charter school utilizes a core faculty complimented by professional artists to provide students with a robust experience of real-world inquiry.  A3 boasts an 87% graduation rate for their four year cohort (compared to a 68% graduation rate state-wide) and 83% of their graduates plan to attend college the following year.  You can see their sample schedule online. Read the rest of this entry »

Masha Raj

Masha Raj

We are half way through the “Art of Education” contest, and right now two schools from Washington State are neck and neck for the lead position: Cascade K-8 Community School (Shoreline, WA) and Kenmore Elementary (Kenmore, WA) each have over 2,800 votes so far!

It’s not too late for your favorite school to jump into the top 16 schools by using these following tips…

  1. Set a daily reminder. Remind yourself to vote – and encourage your friends and family to do the same. You can set an alarm on your phone, calendar, or clock – just be sure to set it for a time of day you won’t distract others – and when you’ll be near a computer to vote!
  2. Break out in song! Last year’s winner, Brunswick Acres, used a combination of video, dance, and music to urge the public to “Vote B.A. Daily.” Collaborate with your students, teachers, parents, and administration in your community – and let your musical talents shine!
  3. Go digital. If your artistic talents lie in the visual arts or in creative writing, consider working with your peers to create a blog or website about the contest. Be sure to include reasons why you need their vote!
  4. Get the press involved.  Write a persuasive letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Or invite a journalist to your school to showcase the financial need, meet the principal and art teachers, and see first-hand the energy of the students.
  5. Share, share, share! Be sure to send an invitation to all your Facebook friends to “like” the KRIS Wine Facebook page. Remind them often to vote – and do so creatively! If your son is in the school orchestra, snap a photo of him practicing, and email it to your out-of-state family members.  Please always be sure to thank your friends and family for their help!

The 2013 Art of Education contest runs until October 31, 2013. Vote now for the chance for your school to win. Remember – anything can happen in the next two weeks. Good luck!

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

Two recent articles make the case for strategic corporate philanthropy. And while the authors come at the topic from different angles, they agree that when corporate foundation or corporate social responsibility leaders align programs with causes that matter to their businesses, the investments yield many types of dividends.

Christine Park, president of the New York Life Foundation, offers the example of the impact her organization has had in addressing childhood bereavement. She notes that while as many as one in seven Americans loses a parent or sibling before age 20, grieving children are a surprisingly overlooked group. Since New York Life deals with families in times of grief, this cause resonates with people throughout the organization. As she explains, “…we practice advocacy with a lower-case ‘a’—with a focus on raising awareness, education, and public concern for issues where there is a clear and compelling need and little rational dispute as to the merits of the issue.”

Since adopting the “under-attended-to issue” of grieving children, the foundation has been able not only to invest resources (more than $13 million since 2007) in supporting grieving children, they’ve also been able to shine a bright spotlight on the topic and shape the national conversation about the needs of these children. They’ve forged strong partnerships with a number of leading nonprofits in the field, such as the Moyer Foundation and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, and fostered alliances across nonprofits in this category. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Delotch Davis

Alex Delotch Davis

Social media marketing seems to run the gamut of potential impact — from exponential success, a la Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, to screaming in the dark and bargaining for likes.  It’s tricky business.  Social media “gurus” make it sound like a science that you’re not analytical enough to understand or don’t have the time to keep up with, both of which are probably true.  Whatever your experience has been with social media marketing, here’s what I know for sure: it’s valuable, it’s not going away, and it’s time-consuming.

Allocating the right mix of platforms and the right amount of time to maximize social media can be difficult to manage for arts organizations with already stretched budgets.  However, engaging people that are not only savvy, but popular on social media presents a wonderful opportunity to expand your audience and check off social media on your marketing to-do list.

Adly, a startup that matches celebrities willing to post with consumer brands, calls this “amplifying” your content.  Rather than working your poor intern to death trying to get your twitter followers up, retweeting, posting, and sharing your little heart out – identify and engage the socially savvy in your community.  There are most certainly people in your immediate reach, who have a huge following on twitter, Instagram, and Vine (Facebook is so 2 hours ago) that can push your content out to the audience you want to reach. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Marchetta

Michael Marchetta

If you want to show customers service that surpasses their arts-related wants and needs, you need to go beyond just the standard “bricks and mortar” museum or store and create an established online presence.

Today, this means not only having an interactive website but also utilizing social media – Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and more – to their fullest potential. Tech-savvy customers can easily search and find artwork and supplies that interest them, complete with product reviews. The more venues you provide for them to discover your offerings, the better your chances for a sale or inquiry about your collection. Additionally, your online accessibility will help interested customers learn more about all of your artwork and related products and services, and it will encourage them to retain your business for future transactions.

With a good interactive website and strong social media presence, you can interact instantly with your followers to understand what artwork they want and how to assist them. Marketing online with tools like Google Analytics provides the data you need to create personalized service strategies that help you deliver relevant artwork and cultivate a high level of engagement with clients who know you understand and respect their desires. You can use the data you collect to design customized recommendations and other content for your followers, and to develop a long-term strategy for including artwork in your collection that meets your customers’ needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Steven Roth

Steven Roth

Here’s the data* – we all know it:

  • Somewhere between 60% and 80% of single ticket buyers never return.
  • Multi-buyers (including subscribers) can account for over 50% of all ticket income and more than 80% of all donation income, yet comprise around 25% of all patrons
  •  Churn numbers can exceed 80% for single ticket buyers, 20+% for subscribers, and around 50% overall

These numbers cause marketing directors to age prematurely.   Says one:  “I’ve been a marketing director for a dozen years.  There must be something I can do to increase the number of attenders.  I hate standing still. There must be something we can do to slowly increase the numbers.   Growth is very slow.  We have a high renewal rate for some packages, but I’d like it to be higher. The biggest challenge lies in one-time single ticket buyers.   There are so many each season.  Surely there is something we can do with them.  How can we identify/entice move more single ticket buyers into more frequent attendance and towards subscription?” Read the rest of this entry »

People Make Places

Posted by Carol Jones On October - 11 - 2013No comments yet
Carol Jones

Carol Jones

I live and work in a small city, the capital of a small country that has four times more sheep than people. Cardiff (www.visitcardiff.com) has a population of less than 350,000 but has a growing reputation as a vibrant city where people want to live and visit. It has, as we say in Wales, ‘hwyl’ – a complex and intangible mix of passion and sense of belonging that isn’t easy to translate but has been said to sum up Welshness in a word.

The contribution of creativity to the social and economic success of cities is a hot topic. And that’s no surprise…CREATIVITY MATTERS. It can drive economic opportunity, aid social problem solving and cohesion, generate new ways of thinking or bring together established ideas in new ways to drive things forward.

But it’s not just about economic growth – creativity can make our cities a better place to live and somewhere more exciting and stimulating to be, to work and contribute. Creative cities are also often better governed and better organized places – though perhaps it’s difficult to discern if better government produces more creativity or more creativity makes better government. (Though I know what I think.)

Either way our cities can be hotbeds of creativity – full of the buzz of arts venues, bars and restaurants and awash with architect-designed buildings. But it’s about more than that, more than being a hub for enterprise and culture even. Creative cities provide countless opportunities for everything from accidental connections to formal collaborations. And it’s those opportunities, those sparks that act as a catalyst for new thinking and innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

James Sims

James Sims

If size matters, community engagement must not, or so the current trend of Facebook advertising and it’s near white-noise moment forecasts. Now that the dust has settled on arts organizations creating social media channels, the urgency for continually increasing follower count needs to slow down and priority needs to shift to integrating content and social strategies.

Did someone in your marketing department cheer when Instagram announced that advertisements were nearing reality on the photo-sharing network? Send that person back to Social Media 101. For every step a social platform takes towards monetization, two steps are lost in the journey towards community engagement.

“Marketers believe that a good ad can divert attention, maybe even kick start conversation – a troubling proposition,” writes André Mouton. Is he wrong? Hardly. Beyond the obvious danger of over-saturation, the loss of an already somewhat tenuous relationship between brand and consumer on digital platforms is a real risk.

Breaking that relationship would mean a complete defeat of the social engagement overhaul organizations spent the last few years adopting. “Social media is in danger of becoming something like reality television – a glimpse into the lives of people we find interesting, but have little personal connection with,” Mounton adds.

How should a brand avoid falling down the advertising rabbit hole on social media? Start understanding that everything you post on social media is, by its very nature of coming from a brand account, considered an advertisement. That innocuous photo of a gorgeous sunset over your theatre’s plaza might have resulted in ten times the number of shares a link to the latest New York Times review received, but they are both serving the same purpose in the eyes of a consumer—brand awareness. Read the rest of this entry »

Amanda Bell

Amanda Bell

I’ve been thinking a lot about how a line from one of my favorite musicals, My Fair Lady, pertains to arts marketing.  Bear with me.

Show-Me-StillFor those who don’t know it, the Lerner and Loewe musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, tells the story of famed linguist Professor Henry Higgins and a cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle whose elocution improvement becomes his pet project.  Towards the end of the play, now a proper lady with perfect pro-noun-ci-a-tion, Eliza delivers the anthem, “Show Me,” admonishing her suitor, Freddy, for saying instead of demonstrating how he feels. “Sing me no song, read me no rhyme, don’t waste my time, show me!” Eliza berates Freddy. Why have I been thinking about this? Well, what Eliza delivers as romantic instruction was actually prescient advice for 21st century arts marketing.

We’ve all noticed the shift towards the visual.  It’s impossible not to.  Web pages have evolved rapidly to keep up—the more visual real estate the better. Take Facebook as an example: People may have fought the mandatory migration to the Timeline when it first rolled out, but now that it’s here, it’s hard to remember a time when prime real estate wasn’t allotted to visuals, right?  RIP-old-facebook And as curators and purveyors of content, our practices as arts marketers have also had to evolve. Marketing once concentrated on the way we talked about our products.  Now, it’s about making that message leap off the page—or more often, device—with bold visuals.  It’s about showing our audiences what we’re made of. Images have become their own breed of storytelling. We all love our Facebook banner image, our branded Twitter page and our Youtube channel because each offers the chance to distinguish ourselves.

As a content curator for artsmarketing.org and our NAMP Facebook page, I can say with certainty that posts featuring compelling visuals or video clips attract an enormous amount more attention than those that don’t.  I consider the visuals that accompany the articles I post as carefully as the posts themselves. I have to. In a world inundated with images, the trick is to catch people’s eyes. Once you do that you have already increased your potential influence. Visuals are a language quickly understood and, thanks to mobile devices, easily shared, so their impact—and your reach—can grow exponentially. Read the rest of this entry »

Ron Evans

Ron Evans

I remember three or four years ago when the big push for many arts groups was the learn to embrace social media. Facebook was booming for both business and personal pages, and nobody wanted to be left behind. Back then, you could still get a good bang for no buck on Facebook if you created helpful, personal posts. Sadly, recent changes to Facebook tell a different story. Facebook can still be an effective visibility tool, but only if you are willing to allocate a budget to Facebook to be able to reach not only new people, but increasingly to reach the people who have already connected with you.

While I think we’ve all known that not everyone sees our posts when we post on Facebook (Facebook has an algorithm called EdgeRank that defines who will see your posts), we used to be able to reach most people for free. In May 2012, Facebook launched a new feature called “promoted posts,” which allows a user to pay money to make sure that his/her posts will reach his/her audience. For example, if you have 1000 people who had liked your page, and you want to make sure 90% of them see your post, you pay for that service. Facebook is traded publicly and they need to make money, I think we all get that. But what also seems to have happened (although Facebook denies this) is that the percentage of your connections who will see your post if you don’t pay has been reduced more and more since then. Some reports claim that as few as 16% of your connections will see a post if you don’t pay. That’s a big drop from 1000 connections – that’s only 160 people seeing your post. While these might be the “top” people from Facebook’s perspective, it sure cripples unpaid outreach potential.

But let’s forget about percentages for a minute. Let’s compare Facebook marketing to email marketing. Say I offered a new, free email marketing service. You put in 1000 email addresses and send out a newsletter. I then tell you that only 160 people on your list got your newsletter, but if you want to pay, you could reach 900 or so of your 1000 like Facebook does. Would that be acceptable to you? I want to reach all my people if I pay. To me, it sounds like a business that wouldn’t be in business too long as a free service, and questionable as a paid service. But that Facebook gets away with this shows how powerful many of us feel social media is. Read the rest of this entry »