Technology Driving Arts Attendance, Engagement, & Fundraising

Posted by John Eger On January - 8 - 2013

John Eger

In the last decade alone, any business without a web presence—without an online, interactive website—was simply, not in business. Or wouldn’t be for long. The government and nonprofit sector soon learned their way around the internet too.

Now the Pew Charitable Trusts, specifically the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in a major survey covering 2007–2011 and involving 1,256 arts organizations, reported that: “The internet and social media are integral to the arts in America.”

The survey found:

  • 81 percent of the organizations in this survey say the internet and digital technologies are “very important” for promoting the arts.
  • 78 percent say these technologies are “very important” for increasing audience engagement.
  • 65 percent say digital technologies are “very important” for fundraising.

There seemed no question that web presence was “important” or “very important” although not everyone is persuaded—yet—that an internet strategy is a priority. Those reporting also felt that such technologies “disrupted much of the traditional art world” by changing “audience expectations, put[ting] more pressure on the arts groups to participate actively in social media and in some circumstances, undercut[ting] organizations’ mission and revenue streams.” In fact, 40 percent believe that “attention spans for live performances” are being negatively impacted. Read the rest of this entry »

500 Artists, Gardens Celebrate Florida’s 500th Birthday

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 17 - 2012

On Easter Sunday 1513, Ponce de Leon landed his three ships on the eastern shore of the peninsula where I live.

Claiming the land for Spain, he named the place La Florida, (for the Spanish word “flor” or flower) because of the lush landscape and because of the day the explorers arrived, Pascua florida, Easter.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of this encounter, I am working through the Florida International University College of Architecture + The Arts to develop FLOR500, a participatory art, nature, and history project that encourages participants to explore Florida’s natural wonder:

Indeed, I wanted to create an art project that allowed our inhabitants to understand the multicultural origins of our state, its fragile biodiversity, and its threatened coastlines. So I took the father of the Fountain of Youth mythology and his historic milestone as a point of departure to explore ways of rejuvenating “the Sunshine State.” Read the rest of this entry »

Creating, Collaborating, Connecting with Art, Activism, and the Internet

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 5 - 2012

Xavier Cortada

At the end of the last millennium, when the internet was young, I installed two webcams in my studio and invited people watching me out in cyberspace to share their ideas in a chat room. I would incorporate their views into the murals I was creating in my “webstudio.”

Back then, I was painting collaborative message murals to address important social concerns in different locations around the world (AIDS in Africa, child welfare in Bolivia, peace in Northern Ireland gangs in Philadelphia).

The collaborative murals mattered because I wanted to amplify people’s voices, share their concerns. I wanted to expand the circle of participants beyond those I could reach in person. The webcams and the webstudio were my way of trying to expand beyond geographic boundaries. Back then, I think the farthest I got from my Miami studio was Atlanta.

Since then, technology has developed to a level where online and human interaction has revolutionized communication to an extent unimaginable when I first created that early project. Art making can have exclusively online manifestation, reaching millions in space and time. It is indisputable that one can also build a sense of community online—ask Facebook.

We have even created realms where we can have second lives fully inhabit a completely virtual reality. And that is good: I find participatory art projects that engage individuals locally across communities to be address global concerns very powerful. 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 »

Testing, 1, 2, 3: Measuring and Improving Your ROI

Posted by Katryn Geane On November - 15 - 2012

Katryn Geane

While sitting in the second row of seats looking at heat and confetti maps of sample websites, I was reminded of the number one reason I love attending the National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC): all these smart people are sharing information that I get to go home and use, and everyone else will think I’m a genius.

OK, maybe not that last part, but how lucky can we get with colleagues who are willing to help us out like this? I’m as much of an internet nerd as the next new media manager, but it seems that there’s a new resource or tool every week that promises to track, update, monitor, and help you do something with your website, and I can’t be the only one who doesn’t have oodles of extra time to be cruising the internet testing new tools.

In the measuring and improving your ROI session, Caleb Custer and Dan Leatherman presented a metrics-driven and scientific method-inspired “try, learn, think” cycle for testing and implementing changes to an organization’s website.

By using tools they introduced as well as now old standards like Google Analytics, they urged us to “prove the user’s expectations right and they will feel more in control” (paraphrased from Jakob Nielson) and therefore happier with their experience with your site.

Plunk, Clue, Crazy Egg, and others were offered as options for testing user interface, and there were resources for tracking links, segmenting visitors, optimizing landing pages, and then even more about email layout and design, A/B testing…and so on, and so on…and more. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Organizations and Community Management

Posted by Kevin Clark On October - 5 - 2012

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 »

Arts Technology: How Do We Know We Should Add The Next Best Thing?

Posted by Ron Evans On October - 3 - 2012

Ron Evans

2012 has been an awesome year so far.

It seems to be the year that the majority of arts groups have hit the tipping point on understanding online marketing, where they now feel really comfortable experimenting. Or perhaps executive directors are feeling more comfortable giving the ok for experimentation.

Either way, the collective knowledge level has risen substantially, and that is allowing us to have deeper, higher-level conversations as a sector. It’s a wonderful thing!

There is a dark side to this experimentation that I am seeing pop up more and more—organizations will launch a new marketing channel, get busy with other things, and then forget about them. But these new, forgotten channels still pop up on search engines, patrons go to them, and then are disappointed to find no recent updates. That can easily send the wrong message to your patrons.

I’m all for experimentation—it’s ok to try out something new, and you should be—but in the case where a new channel is abandoned, it can really dilute the brand. I recently worked with an arts organization that had twelve—count ‘em TWELVE—Facebook pages. And they only knew about seven of them.

Most of them were set up by well-meaning volunteers, or now ex-employees, and if you did a search on Facebook for this organization, you wouldn’t know which page was the “real” page. We heard reports from audience members who were very confused about which one to connect to.

Starting a new marketing channel is like owning a new puppy. Photo by Indiana Adams.

I like to think that a new marketing channel is like getting a new puppy. That puppy needs attention—it needs to fed, watered, played with, and cleaned up after. It’s a big responsibility, and you should really know you want one before you get one.

To continue this metaphor, you may want to borrow a friend’s puppy first to get to know the lay of the land before deciding if that new puppy is the best for you.

It is easy to be attracted to the “newest, greatest thing” in regards to social media or other online marketing channels. And if you’ve got the time, set up a new account and play around. Read the rest of this entry »

Rohit Bhargava

For Nate Dern, the unlikely path to acting micro-stardom would come from a simple three-letter catchphrase that most people would barely consider a word.

As the artistic director of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York and a sociology PhD student at Columbia University, Nate had spent years auditioning for different roles. In late 2011, he landed a gig acting in a national commercial for AT&T Wireless called “Responsibilities.”

In the ad, a manager-type character dishes out unexpected responsibilities to his team because with their new Blackberries, they can “do more faster.” He tells one worker to upload more pictures of her baby to YouTube. He tells another to make sure and check in everywhere he goes on Foursquare. And he tells the character played by Nate Dern to keep updating his fantasy team – to which Nate replies “huh?”

It’s a funny ad and rapidly went viral on YouTube racking up several hundred thousand of views in a matter of hours. The source, however, for the majority of the early traffic was a site that no one would have expected: Reddit.com.

Reddit is an online link sharing forum mostly used by geeks talking about technology. So why was a community for techies driving hundreds of thousands of views of a funny AT&T ad?

It turns out that one of the active members of that Reddit community was Nate Dern—and as the commercial first aired, he posted this simple message on the community:

“Hi Reddit. After three years of auditioning, I booked my first commercial. I say “Huh?” in this AT&T spot. Just wanted to share.” Read the rest of this entry »

Site-Specific Dance and Social Change

Posted by Rachel Engh On April - 10 - 2012

Rachel Engh

The first time I saw site-specific dance was in a park in New York City’s Chinatown. While dancers climbed on tables and scaled fences, older local men who looked to spend much of the day in the park continued to read newspapers, staying still while the dancers moved around them.

I remember wondering, how do these men feel as we, the audience members and the dancers, share their space? Did they see us as intruders? Did the choreographer want the audience members to think about the relationships between the local men and the dancers?

It is hard to know unless a choreographer facilitates dialogue, and thankfully, Heidi Duckler does just that.

By bringing dance into public spaces, site-specific choreographer Duckler also succeeds in bringing social issues out into the open. Duckler is based in Los Angeles and leads the Heidi Duckler Dance Theater (DHHT), a company she has fostered since 1985.

In her work, Duckler inserts dancers into public spaces from washing machines in a laundromat to Los Angeles City Hall. The audience is a critical part of the experiences and Duckler works to engage audience members in dialogues about art, civic engagement, and social issues.

In one of her most recent pieces, Expulsion, Duckler brought together ideas of migration and displacement to examine the theme of “home” (you can check out the Project Profile dedicated to the performance on Animating Democracy.org for more information).

As part of the A LOT series, sponsored by the Arts Council for Long Beach, Duckler looked for material for Expulsion by soliciting stories from community members. Each piece is performed in a vacant lot in Southern California. Read the rest of this entry »

To Discount or Not to Discount

Posted by Jeff Scott On March - 9 - 2012

Jeff Scott

In an earlier blog entry, I made note of the fact that so many theatres were turning to discount sites such as Groupon and Goldstar to sell tickets and help fill the house in the face of audiences who are cutting back on their entertainment budgets.

In that writing, I commented that perhaps tickets were priced too high to begin with, if selling them at half-price had become such a necessity to get people in the door. In the past week, I personally have received almost half a dozen calls or emails from discount sites wanting to feature my company, so it seems worthwhile to explore these discounts in a little more detail.

One of the biggest downfalls that I’ve read about these discount services is that lack of returning customers. The idea is always pitched as, “if you can just get the people in the door with a discount, they’ll see how much they like it and come back at full price.” Maybe, unless they simply can’t afford it. This might be particularly true of younger audiences, whom we seek to fill the place left by our older patrons, but who may not have the disposable income to become regular patrons.

One suggestion would be to continue to incentivize these customers. They first came because of a great discount, so it stands that they may return for another good deal, though perhaps just 25 percent off instead of 50, as a way to ease them into being full-price patrons over time. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop the Patchwork (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On January - 25 - 2012

Kristen Engebretsen

Our patchwork approach to providing arts education has gotta stop!

I recently read an article about a school that won a $25,000 contest by HGTV to redesign their arts room, and it actually left me upset. Why, you ask?

The short answer? I’m tired of the band-aid approach. The stop gap measures.

It’s the same reason I had to stop watching Oprah’s Favorite Things and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. For every deserving person that is honored on these shows, I know someone who is just as needy and just as deserving.

As I watched the following video about makeovers, I couldn’t help but wonder if that money could be put to better use:

What would I do with $25,000? Read the rest of this entry »

So Many Resources, So Little Time

Posted by Jessica Wilt On January - 20 - 2012

Jessica Wilt

As an arts administrator, I’m constantly bombarded with information coming from all directions every minute of every day.

With endless emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds, I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed.

Having the “let’s get organized!” attitude that a New Year brings, I thought it might be nice to highlight some of the good work our colleagues are doing in the field with a condensed resource guide.

Which makes me wonder: Has anyone designed an app for this yet?

Arts Education Listservs: Two of my favorites are Kristen Engrebretson’s Arts Education Roundup from Americans for the Arts (an exclusive benefit of membership – join here or ask to be added to the arts education listserv if you are a member), and Arts Education Partnership’s ArtsEd Digest. The Center for Arts Education, Education Week, and Public Education Network’s weekly NewsBlast are also great sources of information.

Blogs:  It seems everyone is writing a blog these days! Who should we be reading? Americans for the Arts’ ARTSBlog and Artsjournal.com are terrific resources. Richard Kessler’s Dewey21C and Art Education 2.0 are good ones too. Read the rest of this entry »

Co-Authoring Meaning

Posted by John R. Killacky On September - 8 - 2011

John R. Kilacky

Online social media has radically transformed news coverage. Tweets, Facebook posts, and amateur videos were essential in the coverage of the Arab spring, Japanese tsunami, bin Laden’s death, and Hurricane Irene. Public radio and local newspapers are now multimedia companies, crowdsourcing listeners and readers in co-authoring content.

Arts organizations, surprisingly, are behind the curve. Audiences today are drawn, not merely to a performance, but to an arts experience in which they participate. The experience does not begin and end at the performance curtain, but long before and after: at home, in the lobby, online, and sharing with friends.

Word of mouth has always been potent for box office, so it is essential that the arts marshal the power of online participatory media. However, this calls for a paradigm shift in thinking about what cultural participation means for audiences, live and viral.

At social media workshops, the conversation still defaults to using these platforms as a one-way transactional marketing medium: pushing out more marketing messages. Totally wrong! Read the rest of this entry »

Top Technology Trends: What You Need to Know Now

Posted by Amelia Northrup-Simpson On March - 14 - 2010

Amelia Northrup

In this tough economy, most of us have encouraged ourselves and others to look ahead to brighter times.

But, what exactly lies ahead in the next year for us? How can we make the most of our future? One thing is becoming clear—technology has something to do with it.

Last year, technology influenced our field tremendously. We saw ticketing software evolve, we saw organizations start to develop mobile apps, and the rise of crowd-funding with sites like Kickstarter, the list goes on.

Technology is moving at the speed of light, and innovation is around every corner. So here are some insider tips to get you ahead of the curve on the top trends poised to take off in 2011: Read the rest of this entry »