The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Creating Young Ambassadors September 24, 2010

The topic of creating an audience for the future is one of keen interest to me. And is to a lot of folks who know that they will eventually rely upon the youth of today to fill our theatres tomorrow.

I came across this great article from The Miami Herald that talks about a new teen ambassador program that allows teens to attend one performance per month for free, in exchange for the teens writing reviews of the show and sharing them through their social networks.

It’s brilliant on many levels. I’ll be very interested to read the follow-up story.

Read the entire story here.

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Getting the Kids In September 20, 2010

Here’s what we know: children who are exposed to the arts from an early age, will, statistically speaking, probably grow up to be life-long consumers of art.

So, if you take your kids to see The Nutcracker every year at Christmas, chances are, when they grow up, they will continue to go to The Nutcracker every year at Christmas, and take their own families as well.

We are blessed in this city with companies like Carousel, and the VAG has family programs, as well.

For my birthday last month, I wanted to see the Impressionist exhibit at the VAG. I am a lifelong impressionist lover, Degas being my favorite artist. I went with my sweetie and my seven-year-old son. It wasn’t his first trip to the VAG, and he was pretty well behaved for a seven-year-old, but a couple of weeks later, when I visited the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, I discovered Kids’ Activity Trails.

I was there to see the main exhibit: European Masters: Stadel Museum 19-20th Century. It was an amazing collection, and I got to see lots of Impressionists and whole room (Sally Stubbs!) of Beckmann.

As I was wondering through, I noticed small plates, similar to the plates that contained the name and description that accompanied each painting. These plates were hung lower, at a kid’s eye-level, and featured a large letter and a couple of questions. The Trail worked two ways: first of all, as a kind of a treasure-hunt for kids: they had to go through the gallery and find all 26 letters of the alphabet. Second, each plate had a word on it (corresponding to its letter of the alphabet) that asked a question related to the painting to which it referred. (sorry I don’t have photos, they weren’t permitted in the gallery)

I couldn’t help but think how much Michael would have loved it. It was engaging and fun for kids.

In order for us to get kids hooked on art, it has to be affordable, and there has to be something there that engages them.

Have you seen any great examples of engaging children in art recently that you’d like to share?

UPDATE: I just saw this great Editorial in The Star written by Des McAnuff, the AD of the Stratford Festival (the Canadian one), and it’s perfect for today’s blog post.

 

State of the Fringe: David Jordan August 4, 2010

Today, in the second part of my week-long series on the State of the Fringe, I interview David Jordan, the Executive Director of the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

RC:
Tell us a bit about the Vancouver Fringe.

DJ: This is our 26th year for the Fringe in Vancouver. It’s our tenth year on Granville Island. There are 83 shows and over 600 performances over 11 days.

RC: Who is David Jordan? And how did you end up here?

DJ: I came to Vancouver fresh from graduating with my Master’s degree in Directing. The Fringe was my first job here in

Image Courtesy of HereInVancouver on Flickr

Vancouver. I worked there for about a year and a half in various capacities, and then when the ED job came along, I applied for it, and here I am. This is my fifth year as Executive Director.

RC: How does this year’s Fringe compare to previous years?

DJ: Last year, there were 68 shows, so we’re up by about 20%. The trend that we’re seeing with the Fringe is that there are more BYOVs and found venues. For example, Boca Del Lupo is doing a show out of their office with an audience of 14. Someone else is doing a show on a pedicab. Origins Coffee has kindly let us use their space, and we are converting it into a 60-seat venue. We also have a professional development series: talks, and a Clown Conference. Our goal is to make Granville Island explode with theatre.

RC: How were you affected by the first round of cuts last summer?

DJ: We were lucky. We were in the first year of a three-year funding agreement. That money was originally taken away, but they restored it. So we have some time to plan and restructure. This government has systematically replaced operating funding with short-term project-based funding, so we have to seriously look at ways of running our organization with less funding from the government. As the Provincial Government proved to us over the past year, we can’t rely upon them for support.

RC: How have subsequent cuts affected you?

DJ:
Our BC Arts Council funding was cut by 60%, down to $12,700 from $32,500. Basically, by 2012 we stand to lose $70-90,000 worth of provincial funding. That alone is the cost of running our venues, which is something that can’t be cut. Our greatest challenge will be to maintain critical mass in the face of all these cuts.

RC: Despite the current cuts, it looks as if the Fringe will go ahead as normal this year?

DJ: Yes, we are in fact finding room to grow a bit. That’s what keeps me hopeful in the face of arts cuts. We were born out of needing to find a way, and we will always find a way.

RC: How about future Fringes? What kinds of plans are you working on?

DJ: Next year, there will have to be significant changes. We don’t know exactly what it will look like yet, but we have to cut expenses and increase revenues. That’s hard to do. We are a very efficient organization as it is. Maybe site specific work in MLAs offices…?  One thing we are considering is introducing tiered fee structures. Right now, all artists pay the same fee, whether they are in the Waterfront (300+) or a smaller venue of 50. We may start charging more for the larger theatres, less for the smaller ones.  Operating venues is a huge expense for us, so we are looking at ways we can create more site-specific, outdoor venues and found spaces.

RC: Final words?

DJ: We did a survey with members of the community, and the feedback that we got was clear: the Fringe is necessary. Not just for emerging artists (although they are a very important part of the Fringe), but also for more established companies who have moved beyond the Fringe. Some companies want to do new stuff, edgy stuff that they maybe can’t take to their core audience, so they come to the Fringe. The Fringe’s roots come from a place of flexibility and experimentation. It’s artist-driven. And those are all things that we will remain true to as we move forward into the future.

RC: Thanks, David!

Read David’s interview with The Georgia Straight.

Read the Vancouver Fringe’s Press Release

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Repost: The “Sweet Spot” for Audience Development April 26, 2010

Everything I write about on this blog has one end goal: to help you to sell your work. More bums in seats. More CDs or paintings sold. And one way of doing that is to create relationships based on trust with your audience.

About a week ago, John McLachlan, whose blog I am really enjoying these days, put up a post called The “Sweet Spot” for Audience Development, where he talks about exactly that–how social media can allow us create an intersection of audience, artist and producer–in a spirit of interaction and connectivity.

Here’s an excerpt:

I work with a lot of artists and arts presenters and my background is as a touring artist who was booked by arts presenters. I remember what it was like to be virtually unknown, show up in a community and perform.

When you perform, you make a connection with an audience (at least you try). When that happens, you have magic and delight for all involved. When an artist opens up and lets an audience in on their art, a strong connection is made. In a sense, you become friends even though you’ve never met in person.

I’ve been thinking about how to extend that friendship to before and after the actual performance. Until recently, this was very difficult for artists.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

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Are you Idea- or Task-oriented? April 7, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Future audience,Musings,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:27 am
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I got this email from one of my clients a week ago. It said “I love how task-oriented you are.”

People’s brains work in different ways: in my experience, I find that people tend to be either idea-oriented, or task-oriented. Idea-oriented people have big ideas, and seeing scenarios in the future is no problem for them. Task-oriented folks tend to be more in the “now” and ask, “what do I need to do right now to make things happen?”

This guy? Probably an ideas man.

And that’s me: task oriented. A doer.  It frustrates me sometimes. I’m a small business owner–I should have some kind of plan for the future, right? Five-year, ten-year goals? Yeah, I got nothing. I have goals and plans for this year, but beyond that, it’s fuzzy.

However, I have an extensive to-do list already constructed for today, and most of the stuff on it will likely get done.

I write this blog in a very task-oriented way: I often share tips that include screen casts and “how-tos.” Because that’s what I value, so that’s what I tend to write.

Don’t get me wrong–Ideas people are important, and needed. I could use one, in fact. But I sometimes get frustrated with ideas people, because at some point, I have to stop dreaming and start doing. That’s just who I am.

We need each other–if you tend to be quite task-oriented, I’d encourage you to find a friend in business who is idea-oriented, and meet with them once a month. You can help them to create a plan to get things done, and they can help you with your vision for the future.

And if you are one of those people that moves seamlessly between being Idea- and Task-oriented, well, then I hate you think you’re nifty.

 

Square pegs in round holes November 30, 2009

I went to see a play last week, and had a very interesting experience, which I both wanted to share with you, and hear your opinion on.

I do publicity for the production company of Capilano University’s theatre department, Exit 22. They do four shows a year, two smaller, and two mainstage. Their most recent production was Romeo + Juliet, which just closed this past Saturday.

I thought the show was quite well done–I often think/talk/blog about how we are going to create a new generation of

Photo Credit: Damon Calderwood

theatre-goers, and this show fit that bill quite nicely. It bridged the original Shakespearean text with segments of the actors talking about the play. The actors were what they were–young–and how to address the problem of producing a play that requires older actors when you have none was one of the challenges that they met head-on. It was also sexier and more violent than a lot of Shakespeare I’ve seen. In other words, this was a play by young people, for young people.

The day I went to see it was a weekday matinee, that was mostly populated by high school students. It was a very interesting experience. The students wanted to know if they could take pictures, or video, and when they couldn’t, amused themselves by taking pictures of themselves and their friends at intermission. And they were a little noisy. This, personally, didn’t bother me, but what did concern me was that a critic was in the audience. At one point, he actually got up and shushed them. And his review was more about the noise than the play.

So here’s my question to you: are we trying to put square pegs into round holes? The tradition of theatre is that of a sacred space–and in that space, silence is demanded. For the sake of the performers, and for the sake of fellow audience members. While I do think that it’s important to show respect for others in the audience, I wonder if we are mistaking engagement for rudeness. Is it possible that the audience was engaged in the show, and that their chatting was actually them comparing notes and sharing information about what was going on?

We were watching this piece of theatre that made every effort to meet this audience where they were–their music, their dancing, their footwear. And yet, that audience wasn’t allowed to react to it in a way that they were used to.

Maybe we should have a section of the audience for teen-agers, away from the rest of the crowd. So they can text and twitter and chat without bothering anyone. Maybe we should open up the sacred space, and make it a bit more accessible.

The question I’m asking is this: if young people are the audience of our future, do we need to:

  • train them on proper “theatre etiquette”, and risk losing them because they’ll consider it to be too boring or stuffy?
  • create theatre that is so compelling that they are totally absorbed and engaged?
  • or allow them to do what they are going to do, and look at it as something positive, rather than negative?

I’m really interested to hear what you have to say.

To view some videos (a tool that we are using extensively with Exit 22) of Romeo + Juliet, visit their YouTube Channel.

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