Deb Vaughn

We get asked to “tell our story” all the time in the arts. Who are you? Why do you value this work? What is it that you hope to accomplish? How will you get there?

Funders demand it from grant applicants. Legislators require it of state agencies, lobbyists, and constituents. Individual artists have to do it to justify their work.

Even as a working professional, being able to concisely “tell the story” of what I do all day is an important skill, especially at family reunions, when Crazy Uncle Dave asks: “Now, what is it you do again?”

But rarely do any of us do it well. We get so wrapped up in the desired outcome of telling our story that we forget: the best way to achieve that outcome is to tell a compelling story. It’s as simple as that.

At a professional development training earlier this month, hosted by SpeakeasyDC, I was reminded of what it actually takes to TELL A STORY.

The facilitators asked us to think of a time when the arts impacted our lives.

We started by telling the story out loud to someone else (writing or typing your story will activate the “mean writing teacher” that sits on your shoulder, bogging you down in grammar and punctuation and sentence structure. Keep it verbal and keep going). This helps you and your listener determine which points are memorable and which are expendable.

Then our partner told the story back to us. See how it is no longer MY story, but THE story? That’s what we’re going for: finding a universal truth that the listener can connect to their own life. That’s the whole point to a good story. And when pitching a project to a funder, isn’t that your goal? Read the rest of this entry »

While Brunswick Acres has taken a significant lead in the KRIS Wine “Art of Education” competition thanks to a creative student-made music parody, it’s not too late for your favorite school to jump into the top 16 schools by using the following tips…

1. 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.

2. Go digital: Create a website, blog, or YouTube video about the contest—be sure to include the reasons why you need their vote! Collaborate with other students, families, and community members, and assign every person a specific role (ex. videographer, writer, editor, designer).

3. Break out the art supplies: Make posters or fliers to distribute around your town. Drop them off at your local library, beauty salons, and supermarkets.

4. BEEP, BEEP, BEEP: What’s that sound? Your daily reminder to vote! Set a daily alarm clock on your watch or cell phone to remind yourself to vote and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Just be sure to set the alarm for a time of day you won’t distract others—and when you’ll be near a computer to vote! Read the rest of this entry »

Jonathan Tuchner

If you visit Tate Modern during the next few days, go down the ramp and turn right into The Tanks. On the opposite wall you will find images and notes celebrating thirteen years of the Unilever Series at the Turbine Hall.

It is a quiet celebration; a gentle place to reflect on what has arguably been the most significant arts and business partnership over the past decade or so. Many will forever recall the glow of Ólafur Elíasson’s The Weather Project, the thrill of Test Site by Carsten Höller, or the structure of Rachel Whiteread’s 2005 Embankment. Unilever’s money made all this happen.

Tino Sehgal’s These Association is the final work in the Unilever-sponsored series, which has attracted almost 30 million visitors over the past dozen years. Unilever says “It was planning a change of direction in its sponsorship programme, which is more focused on sustainability and the environment.” Where does that leave the arts?

Between 2000 and 2012, Unilever provided £4.4 million sponsorship in total, including a renewal deal of £2.2 million for a period of five years which was agreed in 2008. This is big money for arts partnerships and it created huge public interest and media profile for Unilever.

Unilever has had a long and important relationship with the arts over many years. This has ranged from the creation of the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight through to in-house amateur dramatics in the 1960s and an astonishing programme called Catalyst which ran over much of the last decade using the arts to inspire and engage their staff.

Their relationship with Tate began when Niall Ferguson was in charge and I recall him early on saying it was his passion for art that drove the investment. Clearly there was passion but what was the business case? Read the rest of this entry »

Two years ago I went on my first trip to Toronto and fell in love with the city and their all-night arts event Nuit Blanche. Projects like Kim Adams’ Auto Lamp made me vow to come back again:

It was a good resolution!

This year, I made my way up on September 28, driving 5.5 hours from Pittsburgh with my bike on the back of my car. Toronto is a bike-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes, bike racks, and bike shops. Once I parked my car on Friday night, I did not see it again until it was time to drive home on Sunday afternoon.

Many of my trips tend to be a bit of a busman’s holiday, and this one was no exception. I had a list of Nuit Blanche projects to see as well as some permanent pieces commissioned by Jane Perdue through the Percent for Public Art Program. Biking gave me the chance to avoid traffic, explore more of the city than I could have on foot, and enjoy the fantastic fall weather.

Nuit Blanche started at 7:03 pm on September 29 and lasted until sunrise on September 30. This is a sleepless night of a diverse crowd of tens of thousands of people. There were over 150 projects to explore in three zones. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

In celebration of National Arts and Humanities Month and the annual Americans for the Arts tradition of Creative Conversations, my colleague Ally Yusuf (Founder & Moderator of #ArtsMgtChat) and I are co-hosting the first national Creative Conversation on Twitter!

The Creative Workforce in the Post-Recession Economy is open to everyone and takes place today (October 17) for one hour starting at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT using #NatCC12 as the hashtag.

Come share in 140 characters or less, your thoughts, resources and stories about your view on this fascinating topic. We all either know someone or are someone who has been professionally affected by the recession. Whether you are a staffer, freelancer, consultant, employer or recruiter—you probably have something to add to the dialogue.

(Editor’s Note: For a quick primer on how Twitter chats work, check out this ARTSblog post by Kristen Engebretsen.)

As an arts leadership and professional development researcher and advocate, I’ve been profoundly concerned about the effects of the recession on our nonprofit arts workforce. In response, I established the Art Career Cafe which has both a website with job listings and resources as well as a Facebook page to provide an interactive community.

Since its launch in late July, we have over 200 Facebook group members. Many members are young arts professionals with degrees in arts management looking for full time work; others are freelancers who have chosen a less traditional but equally viable path to a creative career. Read the rest of this entry »

Bill Rossi

One two three, one two three, one two three…Nate was in a groove, the ensemble was cookin’, and Miles Davis’ tune All Blues had never sounded better.

As the lead drummer, Nate stayed with that simple beat, rode it out to the end, then finished in perfect time. He beamed as the audience roared in appreciation, and if you hadn’t known him you would not have believed that one year ago he’d been unable to count rhythmically or sit still for more than five minutes.

But those who’d known him—who had seen his eyes light up at that first simple beat and watched over the year as he learned to focus, to listen, and to succeed—we knew what had happened. Nate had found himself through the arts.

The challenges Nate once faced are growing more common every day. Attention deficits, oppositional defiance, and incidents of youth violence and suicide have increased as our society has become preoccupied with materialism. As our focus has gone off taking care of our kids, the opportunities for to them to discover and express their voice have diminished. As ARTSblog readers know, the arts can fill this need.

I believe it’s also evident that any modality which can cause healing can also mitigate or even prevent illness. Unfortunately, our culture has segmented the arts, commercializing them into a “privileged” position. Perhaps we could learn from other cultures.

In many other cultures, the arts serve as a cohesive fluid in which the community operates. People get together informally through music, dance or song to relax and enjoy themselves and each other, with the performance aspect of art secondary to a self-participatory way of being together. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Witt

We are often so busy with our organization’s day-to-day programming, administration, fundraising, advocacy, and the need to establish some sense of work life balance, we forget or just don’t think about what we have to offer and learn with our peers.

Serving on one of the Americans for the Arts Advisory Councils is both a blessing and a curse (or a challenge or opportunity in biz speak).

There are 5,000 local arts agencies in the Americans for the Arts universe, or as Bob Lynch refers to them/us—arts enabling organizations. I never really thought about being an arts enabler but we are just that. Our job as administrators is to help the field grow and prosper, in our communities, our state, and our country.

And as we help the field, we also help ourselves by learning and sharing from the grassroots to the grass tops. Stop for just a minute and reflect on how you learn and how you have put that into practice.

What did you pick up at the Annual Convention, National Arts Marketing Project Conference, or a statewide or regional arts meeting? What came out of a one or two hour session in a breakout or at the bar or restaurant? Pretty valuable, eh?

Now just think what if that one or two hour session turned into a day and a half or longer and not just once a year but almost every month. And now what if those conversations were not scattered among 50 plus colleagues, but among a smaller group of 12-15.

Then there is time for to you share best practices—yours and others, address those tough personnel (hey we all have them don’t kid yourself) issues, political issues, fundraising tips, and even talk about real arts and culture policy development. Wow, when was the last time that happened!

Do yourself and your organization and your community a favor and serve on an advisory council. It’s worth every minute and every dollar you spend. But do it for the other 4,999 organizations and colleagues as well as for you.

Nominations close October 17. Nominate yourself or a colleague. You won’t ever regret it—personally and professionally.

Marla Sincavage

About 18 months ago, my boss informed me that they had decided to shut down the New York City branch of my division and, as the saying goes, “my position was being eliminated.”

I saw this as my big chance to do something different. Just exactly what that was I had no idea; I just felt very strongly that I was meant to use this opportunity to make a career change. I had spent fifteen years working in finance, and there were things about it I liked, but I never LOVED it.

I didn’t have to think too hard to recognize that I love music. So my first logical thought (because I am a very logical person) was to look for a finance job at a music company, like Universal Music or Steinway pianos. Unfortunately, even though almost every company has a finance function of some sort, I didn’t find a plethora of finance jobs at music companies that fit my background.

But I still had this strong pull toward music, and was determined to “think outside of the box.” I must have been going on about all this to my piano teacher one day, when she said to me, “I have a friend that works at Carnegie Hall, do you want to meet with him?” Are you kidding me?? CARNEGIE HALL? As in, the Mecca of Music? YES PLEASE!!

So I met with this young man, who was very nice, and asked him on a very basic level, “what would someone with a background like mine do at a place like Carnegie Hall?” He thought development would probably be a good fit.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jenna Hartzell

When the call for applicants went out for the first ever Local Arts Classroom (LAC) program with Americans for the Arts I didn’t hesitate to apply.

I had attended the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in 2011 and returned to work thinking, “I need more.”

I felt the need to stay connected to what’s happening on a national level, but had a desire to learn more about what I should be doing as a Program Director of a local arts agency. I read blogs, followed @Americans4Arts on Twitter, and was connected on a surface level, but missed the sense of camaraderie the convention facilitated.

Enter the LAC and a chance to learn about cultural planning, making space for art, advocacy, board and staff development, fundraising, and making the case for the arts; a chance to learn with arts administrators from all over the country; a chance to absorb different perspectives and experiences of those who know what it’s like to be an arts administrator.

I say “absorb” because that was how I approached the class: to be a sponge, and absorb every concept, idea, and piece of advice I could possibly take in.

One concept that I’ve applied frequently since I graduated from LAC is one about fundraising, planning, and community:

When planning for an event or fundraiser, organizations typically take this approach:

  • Name the activity/goal/event
  • Plan
  • Execute
  • Evaluate
  • Ask: What is a success for the organization?
  • Ask: Was it a success for the community? Read the rest of this entry »

As we entered the 2012 Arts Marketing Blog Salon, I said that we were taking cues from change agents, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. All true, but we were also visited by The Giftgiver, The Cowboy, and The Court Jester.

The Many Hats a Successful Blogger Needs to Wear

More so than any label, I would say all our bloggers are Supreme Storytellers. Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Clark

Last month I attended the first XOXO festival in Portland, OR. The event was intended to bring technologists and artists together to explore new ways of working that are possible on the internet. Most of the attendees work in the tech sector, but a few brave artists decided to attend. I, for one, am very glad that they did. Artists need to be a part of this discussion.

There is a lot that the arts and technology sectors can learn from each other, about developing an audience, about transformative experiences, and about how to communicate with large groups of people. There are lessons to be learned on both sides, and I look forward to future events that can bring these worlds closer together.

A New Role: Community Manager

The role of community manager is a great example of something that we in the arts can learn from the technology sector. The job title has sprung into existence in the last few years, primarily at consumer facing tech start-ups.

These companies need to develop and serve a base of users for their products, and the community manager’s job is to understand the needs of that community, to talk to them, and to connect their needs with the development of the core technology product.

Inside the company, the community manager’s role is to speak for the users. There’s a single person responsible for understanding and representing the needs of everyone who doesn’t work at the company. Because of that structure, there’s always someone in meetings who can talk about the experience of the people you serve. And if the community doesn’t have the answer you need ready, it’s their job to find it, and make sure it’s part of the company’s process.

These structures for tech companies on the social web have emerged organically along with the companies themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Sara R. Leonard

It’s that time of year. Promotions are popping up left and right offering audiences the opportunity to “Subscribe Now!” at deeply discounted rates.

Our arts organizations are looking for audiences: new audiences, loyal audiences, committed audiences, and in some cases, any audiences. We believe in our art. We believe in our organizations. Surely all we need to do is tell people about the work we’re doing and they’ll see the value and come running, right?

Sadly…wrong.

As leaders and marketers in arts organizations, we often seem to operate on the assumption that people should and do want to attend the arts, and it is the practical matters of time, money, location, and the oft-lamented competing leisure-time options with which we must wage war in order to bring those people into our venues. But is it true? Well, on the one hand, yes!

Research from the RAND Corporation’s A New Framework for Building Participation in the Arts shows that, for people already inclined toward participation in the arts, practical barriers are indeed an issue. Strategic use of promotional and other tactics that address these barriers to participation is important as we make sure that those who are inclined to attend the arts do, in fact, buy tickets and attend. And, with any luck, your excellently designed efforts might just entice them to attend your organization rather than another.

But is that enough?

The flip side of the research tells us that practical barriers really only come into play once people decide they are interested in participating. Until people reach that point, addressing practical matters won’t have much of an effect on them. If that’s true, how are we supposed to diversify our audiences and bring new people into relationship with the arts, not to mention with our arts organizations? For that, we have to address the other barriers, the perceptual and the psychological. Read the rest of this entry »

Will Lester

In the digital age, many marketers are fond of pronouncing the death of direct mail. Yet the data is clear—the environment has changed, new techniques have emerged and smarter approaches to direct mail are getting superior results than in days gone by.

Why? It comes down to increased trust, better targeting, and integration with online channels.

Trust

The contents of the typical American mailbox have changed dramatically in the last few years. Online bill pay options, increased digital and social marketing, and the spiraling costs of postage (6 price hikes in 6 years, but who’s counting?) are some of the reasons why overall mail volume has dropped by almost 20% since 2006. These changes correspond to exponential increase in the daily volume of our email inboxes.

Recent research shows that many consumers prefer and trust mail more. Epsilon’s 2011 Channel Preference Study showed:

•    75% of consumers say they get more email than they can read
•    50% of consumers prefer direct mail to email
•    26% of all U.S. consumers said they found direct mail to be the most “trustworthy” medium, an increase from prior studies, which even includes the 18-34 year old demographic.

This makes sense, particularly when we stack these findings next to the consistently positive results TRG sees in direct mail response analysis. Mail is getting opened and getting results.

Our take? Digital communication is free or very cheap. It’s easy for anyone to send email. While many legitimate companies use it liberally, scammers are even more prevalent. Just this month I received a seemingly legitimate email from my bank requesting that I follow an embedded link. It seemed a little fishy and in fact turned out to be fraudulent. (Fear not, I didn’t click through.) Read the rest of this entry »

(Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 25, 2012 as part of Michael Granberry’s regular Dallas Morning News column.)

The Business Council for the Arts has been around for 25 years, building “corporate investment and opportunities in the arts.” It became apparent [September 25] that its new partner, Mayor Mike Rawlings, shares that mandate.

In his state-of-the-city address, Rawlings touted his “business/arts initiative” as “an opportunity to forge ‘friendships’ between small, medium and large business and local arts organizations.”

The mayor called the arts “one of the most powerful economic generators for the community,” noting that during the 2009 fiscal year, arts and cultural organizations contributed more than $1.06 billion “in economic impact to the North Texas economy.”

Katherine Wagner, the CEO of the Business Council for the Arts, calls it “a win-win situation,” applauding the mayor for believing “that every business that makes its home here and makes its money here also has a responsibility to foster the city’s culture.”

Gold Metal Recyclers, she says, is an example of a local business already committed to the partnership. It’s teaming up with Creative Arts Center of Dallas, Wagner says, to merge the materials sold by the business with the talents of those at the center. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from the Ballpark

Posted by Doug Borwick On October - 4 - 20122 COMMENTS

Doug Borwick

Last month I was minding my own business attending a minor league baseball game with friends, thinking not a whit about the arts. Then something remarkable happened.

Between innings, a young girl who had endured multiple open heart surgeries that saved her life was recognized, along with her family and doctor. She then ran around the bases as part of a program by the ball club called “Home Run for Life.”

This girl’s story had nothing to do with baseball. The program is clearly an effort on the part of the team to connect with its community. So that got me thinking…

What was the mindset that led to this promotion?

Clearly, it was about the team’s interest, for pragmatic reasons to be sure, in being seen as a responsible, caring member of the community. What really got the wheels turning was trying to imagine something similar happening in the arts.

Some of you may say that such a program would not be appropriate for an arts organization, and I am certainly a stickler for focus in adhering to the mission. This specific example is probably not a helpful model. But it’s the mindset that led to the “Home Run for Life” program that intrigues me.

What sorts of activities might come from a view of the “arts self” wanting to connect with the community, even ones that were not directly related to the arts?

After I started down that road, I began to look at the other activities at the ballpark that evening. There were fan participation activities, singalongs (including, of course, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), contests, and fireworks at the end. Many of them were silly to the point of being embarrassing. Many (most?) had little or nothing to do with baseball. I would certainly not advocate for toddler races in Symphony Hall! Read the rest of this entry »