|Organization:||Junction City Arts Council|
|Breakdancers at rally|
For the past 37 years, Junction City Arts Council (JCAC) has demonstrated the highest level of optimism and unmatched resilience. Yet the success of JCAC cannot be attributed to government funding; in fact, it hails from the strength of the community, the spirit of the staff, the exuberance of the members, and the engaging year-round programming efforts. For example, Junction City Arts Council hosts classes and runs programs for all ages; such as the Lil Emerging Artist Preschool Class, Murder Mystery Dinners, and iCreate: A Teen Arts Council (just to name a few). Adding to this, JCAC also hosts a 30-minute artist-audience interaction time after live performances. With programs like these, JCAC is able to breathe life into its visual and performing arts community. Americans for the Arts was fortunate enough to speak with JCAC Executive Director Gail Parsons about how the Council tries to live out its mission of demonstrating “how the arts are a natural part of our lives.”
In 2010, Junction City felt the strong reverberations of the growing economic deficit. The City Arts Council was disbanded and JCAC had to take on a lot more responsibility. Since Parsons had been in the Executive Director seat since 2005, she was able to mobilize her staff as well as the community to move through these difficult times. Although it wouldn’t be easy, she knew that she had to completely shift the focus of the organization. When JCAC was publicly funded, she was more focused on pleasing taxpayers and less focused on making money. Now, Parsons’ work consists of maintaining the balance between “cultivating the arts and encouraging creativity,” while also drawing in considerable amounts of revenue. This change could make or break a nonprofit arts organization, and Parsons made it work. To increase membership and participation, JCAC began offering discounted classes for members. Next, she made the shift from spotlighting one featured artist in their gallery to showcasing multiple artists, substantially increasing foot traffic and encouraging conversation. Seeing the need to extend her reach beyond the gallery by increasing JCAC’s marketing efforts, Parsons completely reinvented her direct mail marketing plan and shifted JCAC’s focus from a monthly newsletter to a glossy catalog. The eye-catching catalog images grab the reader’s attention instead and increase visibility of the organization. The Catalog now offers advertising slots to promote local business and engage JCAC with the community. Parsons comments, “This has been by far the most productive piece of marketing that we have developed to date.”
Parsons expressed that with the help of the annual National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference, she has developed many new marketing strategies, most of which are focused around audience engagement. Specifically, Parsons says that in recent years, NAMP has taught her “there is no one single component that leads to successful marketing. It is multi-faceted and includes many components, all of which need attention.” She understands that in order to increase audience participation and facilitate engagement, you have to be creative. For instance, she had her young volunteers mime in the park as if they were playing musical instruments. They handed out flyers that said “if you want to hear the music, come to the park at 7:00 p.m.” for a concert. This type of community collaboration ultimately led to a successful event. When asked if she had any advice on how other arts organizations, agencies, or nonprofits can implement similar marketing strategies, she suggested the following:
- Partnerships are vital: The arts need to be active in the community, even as we are always looking to funding we need to support others who are also seeking funding. Partnering with other non-profits helps to put your organization in the spotlight with other good causes. Word of mouth marketing is huge, the more mouths you can get talking about your organization the better – even if they aren’t talking about a specific event.
- Don’t lose sight of your mission and what is important: As you plan your programming, take the time to analyze each and every activity that you need to market. Listen to what patrons want, not what you think they want. Listening is sometimes as simple as observing, always watch your audience. I would rather have a small, engaged audience than a sellout crowd that can’t wait for the event to end.
- And finally, while it may seem simplistic – don’t underestimate the power of fun: If you are having fun, it will reflect on your organization. People want to be a part of something fun. If you’re not having fun and if you’re not excited about an event, how can you expect your audience to be?
|Organization Contact:||Gail Parsons|