Get to Know Your Audience: A Human-Centered, Data-Driven Approach

To communicate effectively, it really helps to know who you’re communicating with. As an arts marketer communicating on behalf of an organization, audience research is one of the most important tools we have to understand who our audiences are and what they want.

The Case for Comprehensive Marketing Planning; and/or, Know Your Consumer—or Else

Comprehensive marketing planning will help you know your consumers better, which will help you maintain deeper connections and relationships with them. The process, while rigorous, provides the best way forward to understanding all the issues surrounding marketing efforts.

The Arts Experience and Reducing Audience Churn

If you could attract neophyte audience members and get them to return by buying them a glass of wine, wouldn’t you do it? And if it was even easier to get them to the next step, becoming regulars—say, all it took was greeting them by name—wouldn’t you do that?

Taking Down Practical Hurdles

Try taking a youngster to a museum. It’s not easy. Where will you put the stroller? What about the crackers and the Cheerios? Such practical thoughts, and others like them, run through the minds of people who are interested in participating in the arts—but haven’t yet committed.

The Road to Participation: Countering Misperceptions

Reviewing theoretical and data-driven research, along with practical experiences from arts organizations over the past 10 years, The Wallace Foundation and its partners have developed a much better understanding of the reasons people choose to go, or not to go, to an arts performance or exhibition. The decision is not a simple case of yes or no.

Getting your Priorities Straight

Every new season at a performing arts organization is like a road trip to a new destination. We’re experienced enough after taking these trips for years to know how to prepare and what to pack. But since the trip changes every year, there are still plenty of adventures (and challenges) to be had. 

The Room Where It Happens

The individuals who are in the room when decisions are made can make all the difference to the following weeks and months of labor to build brand, engage the community, and develop future audiences.  Here are a few helpful hints for you to make the case why marketing should be “in the room” to influence positive outcomes.

The More Arts Marketing Changes, The More it Stays the Same

While the arts marketing landscape changes, and the methods are changing with them, some things will stay the same. This week, read tips, thought-provoking questions, and “lessons learned” from a broad range of professionals in our arts marketing blog salon. 

Equipping Artists to be Community Leaders

I joined our new staff member in a meeting last week with a prospective grant applicant. We were discussing his interest and desire to get a new keyboard for his work as a musician. This young man humbly presented himself as he shared his professional and educational background that more than qualified him to apply for the developing artist grant we administer. Our new staff member did an excellent job reviewing the grant guidelines and preparing him for the process, but as the meeting was wrapping up, I saw that something was still missing.

“May I share an observation with you before you go?” I asked. “Sure,” the artist quietly replied.

Experiential Education for the Future of Arts Leadership

Often, the pathways to job positions at the highest levels in the arts field are not very clear. The Diversity in Arts Leadership internship (DIAL) helps ensure undergraduates interested in leadership at arts organizations gain the skills, networks, and experience needed to assume leadership roles in the arts. Each intern in the Americans for the Arts’ DIAL Internship has displayed a combination of passion for the arts, some experience leading meaningful projects, and self-identifies as being from a background traditionally untapped for arts leadership. The DIAL internship then provides the platform for competitively selected undergraduates to explore nonprofit careers in the arts, taking the arts practices they love and combining them with meaningful experiences in business and leadership. While most internships can be considered experiential, the DIAL internship is a ten-week experience.

Meant to be Mentors: Who is Right for Your Circle of Support?

They say, “It takes a village to raise a child," but the need for a community of support doesn’t end after adolescence. As you move into adulthood, you have the opportunity to expand your village and seek out those who inspire you to join your team. But, before you welcome someone into your circle, you should learn what motivates them. Do they genuinely value the importance of sharing knowledge with the next generation, or are they driven by ego and status? If you are lucky enough to find a mentor who wants to see you succeed for purely altruistic reasons, welcome them with open arms and do everything you can to keep them close.

Feel the Turn

Dennie Palmer Wolf, mentor: I have half a century of work in the arts field behind me: successes, publications, and big, noticed projects, right along with my full share of mistakes, disasters, and misjudgments. When I speak nowadays I claim my white hair as a badge of office and call myself a “crone emeritus.” I started down that “remembrance road” and then thought, “For what?” Better to pass it on actively—why not mentor a next generation of leaders?

Sanuja Goonetilleke, mentee: I am lucky to have had multiple mentors in my life. Each is a double reminder: first, I am not alone and second, I have a responsibility to the world to pass the torch on. This is not only the torch of mentorship, it is also the torch of doing the work that my mentors have done and continue to do. It is more than knowledge; it encompasses showing up (with a smile), making an effort, pushing oneself to do one’s best, and keeping faith with what gradually becomes our shared work.

The Power of the Third Space

Jessica Nuñez, mentor: Youth Development is essential in creating this concept of the third space—not home or school, but one that youth select on their own. Designing a safe space creates a collaborative learning environment that produces innovative ideas, lasting friendships, and strong ties to the institutions and organizations that provide these programs. I am a result of that mentorship and of the many opportunities the Explorers Program provided me.

Samantha Joseph, mentee: The word mentor is defined as “an experienced and trusted adviser,” and having a mentor who is a woman of color trust who you are and your abilities, regardless of your background, is something invaluable. Mentorship is more than being there for someone—it means you see them for who they are and help them achieve new heights; and lucky for me, I had the chance to experience just that.

Cyclical Mentorship in Action: Crafting this Toolkit

While helping with research for Americans for the Arts’ Emerging Arts Education Leadership toolkit, I was able to find the true potential in the reciprocal exchange and cyclical mentorship of arts leaders in the field. Originally, I came to this project as just an artist and, therefore, a believer in the power of the arts, but I knew very little of the landscape and infrastructure of support for the arts in my region or my nation as a whole. I lacked that knowledge of how to create coalition as an arts leader, how to inspire others to action in the best way, or that there was even a cycle of mentorship that could tap into. Through this project, I realized how many resources and how much support there really is (and how much support there can be) for the intersections of identity and culture within arts education programs in America.

Embracing Cyclical Mentorship and Our Commitment to Arts Education

Over the past two summers, I have had the unique privilege to work with three incredible mentees through the internship program here at Americans for the Arts. With all three of these individuals, I worked hard to impart much of my knowledge about arts education, the nonprofit arts sector, the inner working of Washington, D.C.’s advocacy infrastructure, and much more. However, it was through these unique relationships that I also learned from them and grew as a person; we were engaging a process of cyclical mentorship. Often, we approach the leadership pipeline in the field as a departing of knowledge from the older generation to the younger. This process, though utilized effectively in the cultural sphere, leaves much to be desired. As we work together in the field, we must be aware of our own advancement in the pipeline and how we are interacting in relation to other operating alongside us. 

Happy New School Year

New beginnings are a good time to establish changes, take risks with new ideas, challenge the status quo, and support and celebrate your community of arts education and educators. Since it’s a new year I’d like you to consider two topics: Advocacy and Leadership. What is your role as an advocate for arts education? Who do you know that has taken a leadership role impacting the quality of arts education? What are you doing and saying as an arts educator or arts education advocate to support quality programs—and access to them—for every learner from our pre-school children through adults? How do you use your voice and share the story that motivates others to understand why arts education is essential for all learners?

Americans for the Arts Partners with the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking to Develop the 2018 National Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit

Monday, August 13, 2018

Americans for the Arts will join NCCP as a Regional Partner to provide input on content; local insight to the Maryland, District of Columbia and Northern Virginia area; marketing support; and funding connections for the upcoming summit Oct. 5-7 in College Park, Maryland. 

Pushing the Possibilities for Diversity in Arts Leadership

In 2018 the Arts & Business Council of New York (ABC/NY) is expanding on the success of its 25-year-old Diversity in Arts Leadership internship by approaching a new challenge area in the career continuum where we can grow and share our expertise. DIAL Labs is a summer 2018 pilot series that will engage professionals 5 to 10 years into their arts careers to include senior-level mentor pairing, interactive expert panels, and culturally-relevant programming. This program is not just about earning promotion into senior leadership; it is an intentional investment and exploration into the longevity, inclusion, and retention of an increasingly diverse arts leadership. Together, as an arts field in NYC and beyond, we will expand the network of executive opportunities for arts professionals traditionally untapped for senior leadership.

Professional Development: Not an Add-On

When we think about partnering with schools, we’re generally pretty clear that success requires changing how work is currently getting done. We’re also (usually) clear that it’s unfair to ask people to make such a change without providing support. Within that context, professional development is a no-brainer. In arts administration and within local arts agencies, however, professional development is often considered a luxury investment. The hidden assumption in this attitude is that changing how we work is rare, or undesirable. The truth is that any arts organization operating under a “business as usual” mindset is in for an awakening—if not now, then in the near future. Local arts agencies have a responsibility to create space to support those awakenings—and a responsibility to prompt them.

Enacting Change in the Performing Arts World Begins with Changing the Conservatory Culture

Twenty-five years ago American orchestras began a conversation about what would happen to excellence in performance if orchestras broadened their missions to focus on education and community engagement. The fear, unfounded, was that excellence would be compromised. The opposite was true. Today, administrators of top performing arts organizations are begging for those of us who train artists to start training like it’s the 21st century and not the 19th. More than new skills—which is certainly part of it—this requires something more difficult: a change in the mindset of musicians. We must understand we’re all in the audience development business.

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative: Quality Arts Education for All Learners by Focusing on Educators Learning

I am exhausted after last week and thrilled about the accomplishments that happened at the seventh Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Summer Institute. Almost 70 teaching artists and pre-K through grade 12 visual and performing arts teachers spent three intense days in a collaborative learning environment. I am proud of these educators who challenged themselves on the topics of teaching, learning, and assessment. I am again reminded of the value of bringing arts educators together to form a community and delivering meaningful professional development!

It’s Time for Sustainability in the Arts to be a Priority

Content sponsored by University of Massachusetts Amherst Arts Extension Service.

Arts organizations are leaders in their communities, and they can lead by example and inspire individuals and other organizations to also do their part in reducing the need for energy, water, and fuel. In the new 6th edition of Fundamentals of Arts Management, Sarah (Brophy) Sutton and I have mapped out a step-by-step process for how to transform your arts institution into a sustainable one, regardless of scale or budget size.

Wake Up to a New Day

Notions of excellence and equity are linked and increasingly demand that we attend to both the positive and negative ways they intersect in policies, practices, and decisions. Which artists get opportunities, who gains resources, how are arts and cultural practices understood and valued by critics, audiences, and gatekeepers? Our Excellence and Equity Blog Salon explores these questions and provides guidance in the form of Animating Democracy's new framework Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change.

Arts Teachers Crave High Quality Professional Development

For the past year I have been traveling around the state of Ohio providing arts assessment professional development sessions to arts teachers, as a part of the Ohio Arts Assessment Collaborative. What we have discovered is that teachers, whether in large urban districts or small rural districts, all crave the same thing: They want to learn new skills to take back to their classrooms and to be able to connect with like-minded colleagues. They are typically enthusiastic to have a workshop in their content area with materials that they can apply immediately. They want to soak up as much knowledge as they can.

Are You as Connected as You Could Be? Introducing our Member Briefing Series

On February 8, Americans for the Arts launched our Arts Mobilization Center, which serves as a hub for all of our position papers. The Mobilization Center is available to the public and is intended to be a tool to help you advocate for the arts. Then, to help our members be the most effective advocates they can be, we launched a regular member briefing series on March 23. These are 30 minute calls available exclusively to members around a specific issue statement, topic area, or program update. During each call, Americans for the Arts senior staff members and I provide background on a given topic, then we take your questions live!

Strategies for Change Leaders

Sometimes I feel like I’m not making a difference as an arts administrator because I’m not actually creating art. Making change, however, is my time to get creative at work. It’s exciting to examine procedures from a new perspective, find ways to push limits with policy, create sincere relationships with my coworkers, be confident in my administrative choices, and feel like an agent of change in my work. Change isn’t easy, but these strategies can be. 

Author(s): The Center for the Study of Art & Community
Date of Publication: May 01, 2016

Intermedia Arts, in conjunction with Americans for the Art' Animating Democracy program commissioned this national study of local arts agencies to asess community arts activity and training opportunities. The study was conducted by William Cleveland and the Center for the Study of Art and Community. Its purpose was two-fold: to provide a greater understanding of the demand and availability of arts-based community development training; and, to investigate how the benefits of Intermedia Arts' Creative Community Leadership Institute could be made accessible for a broader range of

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