Scaling Up Participation: The Expansion of FIGMENT

Posted by Katherine Gressel On December - 4 - 2012

Katherine Gressel

“It’s not about putting on a show for a limited number of people to look at, and moving it from place to place. We’re building communities in which an infinite number of people can participate.” ~ David Koren, founder and Executive Director, FIGMENT Project Inc.

FIGMENT began as a 60-project and 2,600-participant interactive arts event on New York City’s Governors Island in 2007. Today it attracts an average of 25,000 visitors to the island each year over a single June weekend, and approximately 200,000 people to its summer-long artist-designed miniature golf course, interactive sculpture garden, and architectural pavilion.

Since 2010, the nonprofit FIGMENT Project Inc. has been approached by an increasing number of cities around the world seeking to organize their own events. In 2013, events are tentatively planned for Boston (year 4), Jackson, MS (year 3), Pittsburgh (year 2), Washington, DC (year 2), Chicago (year 1), Seattle (year 1), The Bronx, NY (year 1), and Geelong, Australia (year 1).

According to its website, FIGMENT “is not a ‘regional’ or ‘franchise’ structure. Each new event in a new location is unique and special, but it’s also, essentially, a FIGMENT event.”

What has enabled FIGMENT to spread so quickly, to environments ranging from big northeastern cities to the rural South, and still maintain a core identity? What kind of infrastructure is needed to support continued growth? And what are the unique benefits and challenges of “scaling-up” this type of ephemeral arts event? Read the rest of this entry »

There is No Such Thing as ‘McArt’

Posted by MK Wegmann On December - 4 - 2012

MK Wegmann

The topic of scalability, model projects, and replicability evokes the idea of franchising: perfect a process, carefully design the ingredients, control the actions of the people according to a script, create a unified brand, and BANG! you’ve done it again and it tastes the same. Thank Goodness. I want something familiar. Is art like that?

In considering whether a successful project, organization, or structure is viable for replication, one variable to consider is the role the individual artist(s) hold in the projects and organizations.

If some creative process, product, or system of program delivery is created to respond to a particular issue or circumstance, to address a problem or to inspire a particular community, what happens when that art/work gets translated somewhere else?

When the artist is the driver and initiator, how do we analyze it to understand if it can be “picked up” and moved to another place and circumstance, and be successful in the same way—with perhaps other artists and in a different community context.

Analysis can illustrate the bones of the process or structure, but to some degree, the interactive nature of this kind of work means that it is situational and may be tied to a specific artist or group of artists, and they have the right to control it. Read the rest of this entry »

Idea Sharing and Project Scaling: Tools to Survive

Posted by Laura Belcher On December - 4 - 2012

Laura Belcher

Does it ever feel like you are constantly having to start from scratch? New marketing campaigns—new collateral materials—new social media strategies—new community engagement ideas—the list could go on and on…How do we get off the hamster wheel?

One way to reduce the repetitive efforts is by sharing and scaling ideas that can translate to multiple constituencies and communities.

One of the realities of the arts field is that we are extremely fragmented across the country. It is not hard to picture the director of development in Milwaukee having the same conversation with their board about diversifying revenue as the director of development in Kansas City or San Jose or Tampa.

power2give.org is one example of an successful means to reduce duplication of efforts. Launched in Charlotte by the Arts & Science Council (ASC) in August 2011, power2give.org is a nonprofit cultural sector crowdfunding site now operating in nine other communities.

Picture a network of like-minded arts administrators from multiple communities sharing ideas, materials, proposals and challenges to the benefit of each participating organization. Also envision national arts funders being able to leverage investments across a common platform to increase scope and breadth of reach. These were the goals of scaling an idea (power2give.org) from pilot to sustainable operations.

In the new economy that we are working in, it is important for every organization to leverage all the resources available to it to increase audience involvement, to increase donor engagement and community relevance. This is important work and is what ensures the relevance of arts organizations whether they are united arts funds, local arts agencies, or cultural programming institutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the Argument in My Head

Posted by Laura Zabel On December - 3 - 2012

Laura Zabel

I believe deeply that the best solutions are local.

The work I admire most is deeply rooted in the community it serves. And it often takes years and years to know a community well enough to provide what it needs, to have the right network to make the work accessible to the people who want it and the cultural intuition to make the work resonate.

And I also believe you can always go deeper and always have more impact.

Springboard for the Arts has been in Minnesota for over 21 years and there is still so much more to do here—more ways we can reach new communities, more partners to work with, more issues to understand.

When it comes to cultural experiences I can’t think of an arts organization that should be worried about market saturation (said another way, I think we’ve got a long way to go before we’re reaching everyone, even in our own backyards). Not to mention the great benefit to remaining organizationally small, nimble, and responsive.

And yet. And yet…I also believe deeply in sharing. I know that by collaborating and sharing models that work, or ideas that inspire, we have the capacity to do much more together than we could ever do each toiling away in our own silos. And so, at Springboard we’ve decided we want both. We are both deepening our local presence AND scaling nationally.

We’ve spent the last two years talking, strategizing, experimenting, and piloting. And we’ve decided it’s not replication we’re after—it’s movement building. Read the rest of this entry »

Hope is Vital…But Is It Scalable?

Posted by Michael Rohd On December - 3 - 2012

Michael Rohd

In 1991, I founded a theater-based civic dialogue program in Washington, DC called Hope Is Vital. It brought a group of local teens and a group of HIV+ men who were receiving services at a center called Health Care for the Homeless into meaningful, productive collaboration with each other.

For 18 months, we created and conducted performance workshops all over the metro D.C. area for hundreds of young people focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and sexuality education. We worked at schools, youth shelters, correctional facilities, hospital drop-in clinics, churches, and afterschool programs.

After a period of challenging but immensely rewarding work, we felt that our approach—our model—could be useful in other places. The group gave me a mission: take our product, which was in fact a process, and try, at the age of 25, to head out into the world and spread the word.

Pre-email and pre-cellphone, I accepted the recklessly ambitious and well-meaning, impact-based, artistic necessity of scaling up. Community by community, program by program. I spent almost seven years doing that. I learned some things.

First, do the thing

In 1993, one of the first things I did was write Madonna a letter. I asked her to help fund our idea for a national network of programs like ours. Instant scalability via pop star. She was a big funder of HIV/AIDS prevention work back in the day, so it was only a half crazy gesture. Madonna did not write me back. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Change: Grow with the Flow!

Posted by Betsy Theobald Richards On December - 3 - 2012

Betsy Theobald Richards

In the arts & social justice world, a plan for expanding impact is more than good business, it’s our roadmap for changing the world.

Infrastructure and funding for arts-for-change projects may be nascent, but as Jeff Chang and Brian Komar remind us in Culture Before Politics, creativity is the “most renewable, sustainable, and boundless of resources” with which we can capture the American imagination and plant seeds of social transformation.

Artists and cultural producers are the stewards of that renewable resource and we need to look out for and nurture their development as we plan for growth and impact.

On one level, growth can imply physical and financial increase for projects over time (bigger! more money!) but many of our leaders find themselves sleeping on couches, wearing multiple hats, under valuing their worth and staying up all night (you know who you are…) and thus, facing burn out while scaling up.

The other side of scaling up means that we can find ourselves prioritizing meetings, chasing operating support, and losing track of the nimbleness and creativity that is needed in the face of an election, a disaster, or an injustice. Read the rest of this entry »

Does Size Matter? (or Welcome to Our Blog Salon on Scaling Up)

Posted by Joanna Chin On December - 3 - 2012

Examples of scaling.

The notion of scaling up has gained currency as arts organizations, artists, and funders seek greater impact from their efforts and investments. The idea of sharing something that is effective so that the benefits can be experienced by more people is attractive, especially when something is producing good results.

One Story of Successful Scaling

A significant example of scaling up for the public good came to us just last week through a news update from one of Animating Democracy’s early grantees. Since its PBS broadcast in June 2008, Katrina Brown’s film, Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North has spawned a nonprofit, the Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery, which has engaged thousands of people from all backgrounds in honest, productive dialogues about race, privilege, and the history of slavery, based on the story of Katrina’s ancestors’ role in the slave trade in New England.

The news update cites a breathtaking array of ways the organization is reaching people—from a workshop for members of the Connecticut General Assembly and its staff to sharing the film and related work with thousands of attendees at the 77th Episcopal General Convention. Using the film’s narrative, the Center has reached across education, government, faith, and cultural sectors to make a difference on pervasive and persistent issues of race and class in America. Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.