Defining, and Scaling, Our Terms

Posted by Andrew Taylor On December - 5 - 2012

Andrew Taylor

Before we can have a useful conversation about taking cultural enterprises or community arts efforts “to scale,” we need to define what we mean by that. “Going to scale” usually means serving more people in more places with the same service structure. But that can happen in a number of ways.

First, a single organization can successfully increase its reach or impact by expanding. Second, other individuals or organizations can replicate successful projects or programs to serve more people in more places, while the original organization remains much the same. Finally, you can scale through a hybrid of the two approaches above, where a successful program provider creates a “franchise” to license or sell or support multiple instances of the same program.

In the commercial world, scalability of a project or business has mostly to do with economics, and the interplay of fixed and variable costs (sorry, we have to go there…but I’ll be brief). It all begins with the fixed investment required to build the project or process…how big the machine or system or service network needs to be to launch.

After that, it’s all about incremental revenue. Projects can scale if the incremental revenue from additional users is large enough to surpass the fixed costs quickly, and leave them in the dust (the customer pays you $10 and they only cost you $1, for example). When incremental revenue is slim (customer pays you $10, but cost you $9 to serve), a project can’t capture its fixed costs quickly, can’t surpass those fixed costs dramatically, and therefore can’t scale very well. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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.