Karen Girty, Senior Director of Marketing and Media, New York City Ballet, talks about increasing access to your brand through marketing and media at the Lasky Symposium, 2014.
Sebastian Chan, Senior Director of Digital and Emerging Media for the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum talks about 'Digital' at the Lasky Symposium, 2014.
In our last thinking group, we discussed what participants want to experience in a cultural event, what they ideally do afterwards, and what prevents that ideal scenario from taking place. The responses were wide ranging, but commonalities included the desire to be immersed in a novel experience, wanting to remain psychically within that experience after it had physically concluded, and frustration with how the busyness of life precludes full enjoyment of cultural experiences.
Participants’ thoughts are below:
What is it that you desire from a cultural experience?
- (It) somehow changes my approach to my life.
- To learn and be exposed to new ideas.
- Experience rigorously crafted artistic experience.
- Share in a collective experience that leads to enlivened dialogue and reflection.
- Expanded life experience and thoughtfulness.
- Transformation. Hope that by entering an alternative cultural space, my understanding of my own life and, therefore, my life, will be positively altered.
- To sit in a shared space.
- To have the opportunity to think about an experience and it’s effect.
- To think differently.
- To relax and relieve tension.
- To be inspired.
- To gain insight so as to join conversations around a piece of art work.
- Enter a different world and space.
- Want to be “moved” emotionally by the beauty of a work, or the weirdness that makes me think and talk about it, Or the entertaining, uplifting fun.
- I want to be consumed in thought.
What, ideally, would you do after a cultural experience?
- To talk and reflect on the experience
- Seek out more information about the performance
- Read all of the books, troll youtube, social media, trying to answer the question, is this something I want to keep in my life in the long term?
- Read reviews.
- Go home and write- either about the work, or poetry, or prose, usually just for myself and not for public audience.
- Grab a drink or take a walk and talk about the experience
- I often take notes during the experience, and google questions or ideas that arose during the performance.
- Eavesdrop on other audience members in the subway.
What are some barriers that prevent you from your ideal cultural experience?
- A miserable experience before, during or after the show that I want to immediately forget.
- The experience of seeing art is itself work, which can pollute the experience of seeing art.
- Not having additional information readily available.
- Email / life overload.
- Get busy and forget the experience or the desire to perform additional research.
- Lack of time.
- Having to leave the theater instead of being permitted to linger.
- Forgetting a note pad.
- Lack of available content online.
We explored several questions with the "Focus on the Message" thinking group, including 'what is art' and 'what is the value and utility of art'. Here are our responses:
- Art is a sub category within the field of expressive possibilities. It is self-defined and articulated, and subject to critical reception. Art is a coherent intervention in a system of ideas. In intervening, and in teaching others how to intervene, art is a utopian gesture that permits the expression of and movement towards a more just, more beautiful world.
- Art is something that people create which communications something: inspiration, beauty, clarity, sense-making, movement, change; art makes you experience the best and the possibilities of life (utility). It provides understanding, levity, pleasure, happiness (value).
- People need a means for self-expression or recognition of themselves / their lives, and they can get that in a performance. There are some things that cannot be expressed with words and that is why we need music and dance. Everyone needs joy, connection, beauty in their life, which they get with art(s). Everyone needs to be taken out of their everyday existence - people enjoy getting to experience / learn new things and that happens with the arts.
- Art is what the individual finds creative in their life, regardless of what it is; it determines their personal culture. The value of art: entertainment, enlightenment, diversion, joy, experience, personal growth.
- Art is a thoughtful, crafted, and in someway, embodied experience. The utility of making art includes pushing one's boundaries around the perceived possible, teaching creativity that may be used toward innovative problem-solving in work and in life. The utility of observing art includes research into problem-solving techniques, inspiration, and relaxation. The value of observing art includes cultural exchange and developing social currency. The value of making art includes emotional outlet, building social skills, and developing the habit of applied problem solving.
- Art increases human effectiveness, capacity, and intentionality. The value of art is how it makes you feel - elevated, relieved, inspired, moved emotionally. The utility of art is what those feelings enable you to do - sadness / depression is relieved, so I can think, work, respond more effectively. I feel more open, so I can listen, solve problems, show empathy, and help others create new things. Heightened emotions enhance the intensity of my commitment, desire to achieve, and willingness to share.
We asked members of our thinking groups to list actions they take to free their thinking and shift their perspectives. Here is a comprehensive list. We hope it will provide ideas and inspiration for you.
(print and online)
The New York Times
Harvard Business Review - explore other sectors
New York Magazine
The New Yorker
Thomas Cott's 'You've Cott Mail'
The Next Web
American's for the Arts
Cookbooks (including the stories)
Listen intently (be a journalist) to conversations / to your surroundings
Notice what people care about in their daily lives
Tune-in to MSNBC - politics and social issues
Tune-in to political debates
Tune-in to popular culture (Real Housewives of NJ, The Walking Dead, Scandal)
Eavesdrop on conversations - on busses, trains, restaurants -- join the conversation
"Eavesdrop" through social media - on Twitter and Instagram - immerse yourself in other worlds
Hire / collaborate with a specialist
Take long baths
Lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling
Hang upside-down (change your perspective)
Play with Google
Cook a complicated meal
Take a hike with a view
Stare at the ocean
Go somewhere unfamiliar (create that "new" feeling)
Take the long / scenic route home
EXPERIENCE / EXPERIMENT (with others)
Experience arts from other genres, in other cities (and outside of your organization's art-focus)
Go to cultural festivals that celebrate unfamiliar cultures and customs
Experience other cultures through their cuisine (directly or through cookbooks)
Spend time with young children
Spend time with teens / young adults
Practice value-added communication - ask others why and why not, don't accept the status quo
Visit contemporary art spaces
Go to conferences / convenings: Situation Interactive Series,
Join online groups or listservs (ELNYA, LinkedIn, etc)
Broaden your discussion groups- include people who work in technology, venture capital
Try to approach projects is if you were not working for a not-for-profit company
Reflect / investigate how modern-day editorial companies present their stories
Encourage staff - each season - to rethink our approach, so that our approach varies season to season
Complied by Jennifer Edwards
At the conclusion of the first meeting of the "Focus on the Medium" Lasky thinking group, there was excitement building around how to better serve audience members after they attend an event. We explored how cultural organizations frequently focus on leading people to a program - providing written, audio, and visual information to attract people and enhance a ticket-buyer's understanding of an artistic work. We spoke of steps taken to welcome audiences into a space or a program during an event, and unearthed a deep want and obvious lack of information about programs *after* a ticket holder has a cultural experience. We discussed the benefits to audience members and the organization, and concluded that we have the ability to extend the cultural experience beyond the walls of a venue and into the homes and lives of audience members.
The issues of lack of time to create such content arose and we agreed that content must be curated from existing sources. This led to a conversation around the need to release control over such supplemental content. Organizations' need to control the message became a point of discussion, and led to the useful comment that "the web amplifies everything, not just what we want it to amplify." Curating valuable content and offering it directly to audience members may be the most effective and strategically sound practice.
Because most of this content is available and will be transmitted to audience members digitally, we looked at some organizations that are doing interesting things in digital space. Here are a few:
Cleveland Institute of Art
--- Digital Projects
Henry Ford Museum
--- Innovation Nation
MoNA (Museum of Old and New Art)
Compiled by Jennifer Edwards
At the conclusion of our initial meeting of the 'focus on the message' Lasky thinking group, we determined that our primary goal is a lofty one: a cultural shift, akin to the outcomes of "got milk" or anti-smoking campaigns, positioned toward the general public, for the purpose of shifting public perception and value of art and culture.
We identified the need for two foci for this campaign:
- One directed internally, toward leaders of arts and culture organizations, acknowledging that many of our current messaging problems originate from within the culture of the arts and culture ecosystem.
- The other directed externally, toward the general public, most likely segmented into leaders in K-12 education, parents, universities, corporations, and advertising conglomerates. Focus: arts reintegration, art is a reflection of life - in all of its banality and excitement.
Big questions that need further exploration, research, soul-searching:
- What are we referring to when we say "art"?
- What are we referring to when we say "the arts"?
- How can we create a culture shift in relation to the arts?
- How can people in the arts educate ourselves on the public perception of art? How do we step out of our institutionalize-thinking-bubbles and learn? How can we assist arts leaders to better understand the changing world around them?
- How can we perform authentic, non judgemental interventions into both the culture of arts organizations and the culture of the general public?
- What are the risks we need to take?
Questions / observations regarding internal messaging - directed toward arts and culture organizations:
- How can we break the habit of restricting progress because of defensiveness?
- How do we effectively reconcile / change / play within a system where in the art / artists are continually seeking the new, the now, the present moment (able or wanting to be more reactive to the present and future-focused, needing to be nimble and fluid) while arts administrators / organizations are highly conservative, playing it safe, trapped in top-heavy organizational structures
- Most conversations born out of the arts world are inherently the product of “inbreeding” – and are therefore special and specific to the field, but complicated by a lack of broader, expansive thinking and understanding.
Potential partners and resources:
National Center for Arts Research
Their mission: To be the leading provider of evidence-based insights that enable arts and cultural leaders to overcome challenges and increase impact.
Read their overview and view their partners here.
The New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium just launched this initiative:
"The New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium has developed a new initiative in the arts and humanities called the New York Six Think Tank: Advocating for the Arts and Humanities. This project consists of a community of faculty, professionals, and students who are interested in reshaping the public conversation about the state of these important disciplines." Read more here.
The Ad Council
In researching how American cultural attitudes shift over the years we see that, naturally enough, a lot of those are catalyzed by mass media advertising. The Ad Council was behind many of the lasting slogans and important campaigns of the last few decades. These are the folks that came up with, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” and, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk."
How A Nation Engages With Art; Highlights from the [NEA] 2012 survey of public participation in the arts.
Arts in the Armed Forces, an organization whose mission is: "To honor, educate, inspire, and entertain all active duty and veteran members of the United States Armed Forces and their families by engaging them in the power and social service of the performing arts."
The Divine Mistake, a book by Theresa Byrnes
Arts organizations are hiring pros to tell their stories, Washington Post, Oct. 31, 2014
Time to join the rest of the world, Sandow, an Arts Journal blog, Oct. 28, 2014
Lincoln Center seeks more sponsors, Crains New York, Sept. 26, 2014
Where we began - Our Agenda:
What’s Brought Into the Room: Information and insight gleaned from current and past professional work.
What’s Left Outside the Room: Institutionalized ideas of what art is, who it serves, and what is possible.
By Sydney Skybetter
Lately I’ve been thinking about how the value proposition of live performance has shifted over the last decade. The dominant model (for the greater part of the last century, anyway) has been that a theater is rented by a performing arts organization, which in turn rents seats in said theater to consumers for a few hours to watch a “show.” A “show” is the economic incentive the company creates to encourage audiences to pay for the experience of renting seats in a rented theater. Capital passes from the consumer to the theater to the performing arts organization, because audiences can only access the entertainment value promised by a good “show” by way of buying (renting) a seat. Thus, arts organizations’ fixation on getting “butts in seats.”
The value proposition of a “show” is complicated when performing arts organizations attempt to leverage platforms that the consumer owns rather than rents- an Internet-connected device like an iPhone rather than a seat at the theater- to monetize a “show.” Performing arts organizations traditionally have attempted to use the same economic incentive that sells tickets- a “show”- to sell a consumer access to a digitized copy of that “show.” The organization re-purposes content that historically pulled capital from theatrical audiences to pull money from online audiences.
The difficulty- or one of them, anyway- is that the value chain of an online performance is exactly the reverse of a conventional theatrical performance: instead of the arts organization selectively permitting performance access to the consumer, it is the consumer that selectively permits access to themselves. No longer are performances exclusively available to audiences through theaters- an organizational technology ready-made and purpose-built to sell tickets. Rather, arts organizations desperately seek consumers’ permission to place their content on consumer-owned platforms. The consumer owns the platform (an iPhone, computer, Internet-connected TV, etc) that performing arts companies seek access to, has no need for intermediaries, and functionally has access to their choice of any media experience imaginable. Arts organizations must appeal directly to consumers repeatedly and with renewed meaning to convince consumers of their digital value. Few arts organizations do this well, thus the tragicomedy of dance companies convincing themselves that canned content designed for the stage is worth $12.99 to experience on an iPhone.
It’s not. Giselle is royally terrible to watch on an iPhone. (Unless this Giselle is aesthetically designed to be experienced on your iPhone, which I have not yet seen). In fact, Giselle may *never* be made to be effectively consumed on an iPhone, which is no tragedy, but an expression of the truism that some stories can only be told a certain way. Let us not make the mistake of confusing the impossibility of translating a piece of content from one medium to another as proof of the superiority of one medium over another.
Conservatively, there are hundreds of millions more iPhones on the planet than there are stages in the world. The economics that drive value and capital through these devices is mediated by the Internet, and the Internet does not adhere to the economic expectations governing how performing arts organizations sustain themselves by renting theaters to rent seats to consumers. The dominant paradigm of content consumption is arguably shifting, at least in part, from theaters and public spaces to iPhones and private spaces. Arts organizations vested in their own survival must find ways to articulate their value to consumers accordingly.
I am interested in the means by which organizations actually accomplish this. How can performing arts entities deal with the seismic translation of one paradigm and performance modality to another? Is it even possible? The iPhone (to stick with one of any number of possible platforms) is an example of a kind of Internet-driven consumption that has only come into existence within the last decade. Relative to the centuries-old value chain of theaters and “shows,” the iPhone has catalyzed some very, very sudden shifts in consumer behavior. With this in mind, how can arts organizations manage the platform expectations of digital media- which are fluid and incessantly mutable- when they were conceived at a time when theatrical stages were the static norm? How can arts organizations market themselves to an audience no longer accustomed to conceiving of designating a specific time or specific place to have an creative experience, but instead feels entitled to curate the time and space of experiences for themselves?
These are the questions I hope to address- though not answer- through the Lasky Thinking Groups. There are no answers to be found, and none should be expected. These discussions represent an opportunity to explore the plastic nature of American culture- in all its dynamism and conservatism- and articulate a future for the performing arts in a moment when that future is far from guaranteed.
The official blog of the annual Lasky Symposium