Category Archives: Value of Presenting

Public engagement through the arts

I have enjoyed seeing how Canada Council for the Arts has joined the conversation about public engagement in the arts.

The latest addition is this report Dialogues: Public Engagement in the Arts (link to PDF)

Reading it, I noticed that much of my own work in recent years has become entwined in this national conversation:

  • As lead investigator and author of the Value of Presenting study, commissioned by CAPACOA on behalf of Canada’s presenting networks.
  • As part of the research team for the Canada Council’s ground-breaking Dance Mapping Study’s Yes I Dance survey.
  • As workshop leader and presenter at the Creative City Summit and CAPACOA conferences which were cited.
  • And references to the Value of Presenting study were part of the discussions at several cited events including Culture Days Congress, Wasan Island meeting initiated by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and the Power of the Arts National Forum, co-hosted by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation and Carleton University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

I have been enjoying collaborating with CAPACOA to continue to bring to life this research and champion the lessons learned and apply them on the ground.

I believe now is a good time for the performing arts sector as a whole and individual arts organization to think about whether they are seeking “public engagement in the arts” or public engagement through the arts”.

The Council’s working definition of public engagement in the arts is “Actively engaging more people in the artistic life of society notably through attendance, observation, curation, active participation, co-creation, learning, cultural mediation and creative self-expression.”

Public Engagement through the Arts

Public engagement through the arts aims at something somewhat different — and more. It alludes to some of the community and societal benefits we are continuing to realize and are beginning to understand better.

  • We are learning that attending performing arts improves health outcomes – there is plenty of evidence that participating in the arts via art therapy or choir practice, for instance, has proven health benefits; that attendance by itself does, too, I learned through looking at a much broader range of health sciences research cited in our report.
  • We  can see that there are strong correlations between civic engagement, like volunteering, and attending performances and festivals, thanks to Hill Strategies‘ reports.
  • Canadians believe social cohesion, pride in community, understanding each other within and across cultures and backgrounds all accrue as a benefit of attending live performing arts events, of bringing the community together, and bringing energy and vitality into communities.
  • My work on a needs assessment and feasibility study (PDF) for the formation of Sistema Canada as a national network for Sistema programs that can galvanize and grow a movement across the country allowed me to learn about how these programs are designed to help children and youth realize their full potential through ensemble-based, intensive music learning. These children are not becoming musicians, even though some might well, as much as they are becoming citizens.

The question I am pondering is this: what does it look like to design programming, curate arts experiences, behave in communities, contribute to solving community problems, create engagement in, with or through the arts, in order to engender some of these broader benefits? Can performing arts organizations design to obtain or increase these benefits in some way?

Certainly, I see opportunities for both approaches (the in and the through) to create lasting and important benefits. I do not believe one is more desirable than the other necessarily.

A lived experience

As someone who attends a lot of shows – for fun, not work – I wonder what, if anything, would change if the underlying purpose shifted toward my whole community more often.

There are examples of such effects already. One that amazed me was Northern Scene last April organized by the National Arts Centre. Ottawa has never felt more vibrant and exciting to me than when 250+ Northern artists, spanning the full range of cultures, heritages and backgrounds, were in the city. Attending shows and meeting people has left me with an indelible sense of the North I just have not had before. It left me knowing more, a knowing that is in the bones more than the head, about the country I inhabit and the awesome and endless variety of people and experiences. I have attended other Scenes featuring other Canadian regions before, but the Northern Scene felt to me like a cultural meeting of minds and hearts beyond anything I could have anticipated. It made me want to go North and see and learn.

In short, I was highly engaged through the arts with the North. And, perhaps not surprising, I am going to spend time this year in both Nunavut (for work) and Yukon (for pleasure). I will see. I will  learn. I will experience. I will be. And that, I am truly excited about.

Why LTE (4G) Networks are a major opportunity or threat in the performing arts

Or in plain language: what are 4G speeds on LTE networks which started to come online in Canada in 2012 going to enable for theatre goers and dance attendees as well as presenters and producing companies?

During the first year of conducting Value of Presenting workshops there was little appetite to consider anything but the utility of social media in selling tickets. A breakthrough happened at the CAPACOA conference in January 2013 and now it feels like more and more presenters are beginning to see that web-based mobile technologies are going to create leaps in value for audiences and perhaps artists, producers and presenters. We presented at the Creative City Summit in Ottawa in May 2013 what we found out from Canadians and presenters about their use and attitudes to digital technologies and how Canadians’ views of what “live” means to them might be evolving.

At APAP|NYC we presented on this topic (PDF) this month as well and just last week the 2014 CAPAOCA conference featured a successful workshop with presenters on the opportunities, the values of both streamed and live experiences, facilitated by Frederic Julien from CAPACOA.

Watch this Youtube video by Alcatel-Lucent which was created in 2009 (!) to demonstrate their technology vision and emerging capabilities. The final minute shows a vision of a performing arts experience, begging for a presenting business model!

What will the successful strategic move look like?

Value of Performing Arts Presentation – So, what?

Since the release of the final report of 2 years worth of study, consultation and research to shed new light on the individual, community and societal values, benefits and impacts of performing arts in the lives of Canadians and Canada, I have had many opportunities to turn toward the So, what? and the Now, what?

The Value of Presenting is living research that I apply in my consulting practice every day, spanning from brand strategy and audience development with Magnetic North: Canada’s Theatre Festival to strategic planning with Alianait Arts Festival to ongoing consulting with the National Arts Centre.

A large part is giving public presentations and leading workshops. This winter is rich with travel to help presenters and the whole presenting ecosystem contemplate a few ideas – and share my perspectives based on this extensive research and my strategy and marketing practice:

  • Audience development: A roadmap to engaged audiences and vibrant communities
  • Performing arts for all: Utopia or Destiny?
  • The opportunities and challenges that the rapid evolution of communications technologies hold
  • How to lead audiences to new artistic experiences

Here is a list of 2014 workshops and conferences, that are being organized this winter. As event webpages appear I will add links to session and registration information:

In all of this work, I am discussion a vision of vibrant communities fueled by performing arts and its community-engaged partnerships.

Launched! Landmark Study on Benefits of the Performing Arts

I have spent 2 years on this epic exploration that had me visit eight provinces, one territory and meet over 1,000 people who work in the performing arts.

Here’s part of the press release (click for full release) and the report and infographic links:
April 29, 2013 – Performing arts presenting generates a wide range of benefits for Canadians, the communities they live in and society at large, according to a report prepared by Strategic Moves and released today by the Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA).

The Value of Presenting: A Study of Performing Arts Presentation in Canada includes a comprehensive historical and contemporary overview of the performing arts ecosystem. It reveals that performing arts are valued by the vast majority of Canadians – across socio-economic differences – and it provides a new perspective on younger Canadians’ interest in live performing arts. Most importantly, the study identifies a broad range of public benefits associated with performing arts presentation, including better health and well-being, greater energy and vitality in communities, and a more caring and cohesive society.

The Value of Presenting report cover Infographic of performing arts attendance data Infographic about the benefits of performing arts
Read the full report View the infographic View the infographic

Canadian Atlas Online

If reading reports isn’t your thing read on: I am thrilled that we were able to partner with the one-of-a-kind Canadian Geographic, in putting together a brand new, unique thematic for the Canadian Atlas Online. This thematic aims squarely at the public in general, and the education sector in particular. It offers a look at performing arts in Canada historically, geographically and in terms of the many benefits Canadians receive. And all that in short, to-the-point descriptions, videos and games! The team at Banfield-Seguin & Porkcoffee did an extraordinary job putting my scripts, finely edited by Canadian Geographic’s team, together and making some complex concepts come to life in short and poignant videos!