Archive for April, 2012

April 30, 2012

Rules of Engagement

Great article by Michael Kaiser on Engaging Audiences. This paragraph struck me in particular:

It is ironic to me that this topic is the focus of so much current attention since, for decades, the mission statements of most not-for-profit arts organizations include explicit mention of the desire to influence, educate, inspire or entertain specific audiences — in other words, to engage them.

He’s got three simple questions that need answering. I personally like the first one – just exactly who are we trying to engage with? Most of the audience engagement techniques being used are youth oriented – Tweet seats and eating in the theatre are big topics right now,with as many for as against. (It’s interesting to note that there’s a fairly clear divide in age segments in this argument.)

From the Globe article: Canadian conductor Julian Kuerti privately expressed frank dismay at the way North American orchestras were jumping on the social-media bandwagon in attempts to draw new, younger audiences.

“As an artist, I care deeply that there is a lot of meaning, a lot of substance in what we do. That is what is attractive about it,” he said in a recent interview. “Instead, we try to bait and switch, to fool people into coming to a concert because it is supposed to be interactive … If we are not careful, we will wind up with an audience who is not there for the same reasons as the musicians are on the stage.”

This of course brings up and even bigger question about attending an arts event – Why are we there? What are the rules of engagement in attending the arts? Do we need a whole new set? Do the previous rules need to be examined and added to or subtracted from? Or can it be viewed as a challenge to audience members – asking the question, are you capable of unplugging for 90 minutes? Or, to a whole new tech generation, is that even an option? From the G+M comments (abridged)

I can’t think of anything more stifling than paying to sit next to strangers in a dark room, with the all that entails, shoot me now. Life is physically hard enough having to commute to work every day and take public transit. Why would anyone thinks this is a commendable activity…?

Lots to think about today. While I’m thinking I’m gonna go book some rehearsal space at the Creation Lab.

April 29, 2012

What a Full Week.

I mentioned in last Sunday’s Roundup that fewer posts from me meant there was a lot of stuff going on with clients and this week I proved it, with only one post.

Sleepytime Limbo – which many seemed to identify with fairly well.

What else have I been  thinking about?

Some Assembly Required opened on Thursday to great excitement – really interesting art and cool short films. Closes today so maybe take a wander over to the Artscape Triangle Gallery and check it out.

I’m prepping for a social media workshop I’m giving at Gallery 1313 on Wednesday on Social Media for Artists.

And the Pax Christie Choir is a week away from their concert at Koerner Hall and I’m really excited that the work we’ve been doing together in social media and marketing seems to be translating to ticket sales.

I’ve also joined the Board of Directors for Expect Theatre – we worked on Awake together last year and I’m thrilled to be part of the organization.

Interesting article from Torontoist – more people than ever are going to the library. If I were going to look at that from a marketing/PR perspective – is it that it’s gotten a ton of press this year? Did folks realize what they had before it was gone? Either way, it’s making me happy. And I’m heading there myself this afternoon. It’s a beautiful day.

Back on track next week, I’ve got articles about audience engagement and tweet seats and more just burning a hole in my bookmarks.

April 25, 2012

Sleepytime Limbo

Haven’t had a chance to post since Sunday. Disgraceful, mostly because I have multiple things I want to post about, but haven’t made time to do so. I’ll get back on to that as soon as I’ve tied up some loose ends.

Found this last night – anyone out there who can’t relate?


April 22, 2012

Sunday Roundup – April 22

It’s spring, it’s summer, it’s fall, it’s winter. And that was just last week.

#beans and counting new ones – marvelous presentation by Clayton Lord around the idea that we need to get away from quantifying our work with old methods and find new ways to qualify it.

In Which We Present: Things Fringe – a lovepost to one of my favourite organizations and how you can get involved.

My Thoughts on Starting a Theatre Company – there was an article making the rounds last week about new companies being mired in old problems. My thoughts.

What My Clients are Working On – a post about just that.

In the past week there have been articles stacking up in my bookmarks about audience engagement to wanting audiences to turn of their phones and shut up. There will be a post on all these points of view coming up.

Tuesday I am heading north to the 2012 Small Business ARTS Forum and I think it’s going to be interesting. Will keep you posted on that too.

And apparently direct mail is making a comeback. I never knew it left. More on that later.

All for now, have a great Sunday!


April 20, 2012

What My Clients Are Working On

Fewer blog posts from me indicate that my clients are keeping me busy doing stuff with and for them. Who are they and what are they doing?

Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund – is putting the final touches on a new microsite for 2012, and organizing roundtable discussions all over the province to introduce the OCAF program to folks who have not yet applied to it.

Creative Trust continues to work on PAON roundtables and e-blasting info out to you about our sector.

Some Assembly Required” is a film and photo exhibition by Lisa Wegner, opening at Artscape Triangle Gallery on April 26th.

VIsual artist Drew T. Nelson continues in his creation of amazing paper cut projects – “We Rode The Streetcar Together, Once” is a memoryscape devoted to that Toronto icon, the streetcar.

Filmmaker P. Marco Veltri is nearly done casting his latest short film and is readying to shoot.

Michael Healey’s Proud has a venue, (Berkeley St.) and a director, (Miles Potter) and fundraisers happening across Canada, and is over halfway to its fundraising goal.

Sheep No Wool Theatre Company is preparing for the Edward Bond Festival – a one time only two-week event happening in June and devoted to an investigation of his work and ideas with events all over the city. Website and Facebook page coming your way.

Pax Christi Chorale has a new Facebook page and is gearing up for their concert “The Kingdom” at Koerner Hall in May.

These are thing things I am marketing and PR-ing and building pages and sites and analyzing ticket sales and audiences and media lists and opening night invites for.

Three other companies and I are awaiting results of Compass grant applications.

And Gallery 1313 and I are doing a workshop on Social Media for Visual Artists. Details on that next post.

I feel quite privileged some days.

I’m also at things like APASO participating in fantastic sessions, and presentations like Counting New Beans and I’m off to the Small Business Arts Forum next week.

So there you go. They’re an extraordinary group of people doing extraordinary work. And it’s Friday so – well, it’s Friday. Off you go!





April 18, 2012

My Thoughts on Starting a Theatre Company

This article was making the Facebook rounds yesterday:

Please, Don’t Start a Theatre Company

“Neither the field nor the next generation of artists is served by this unexamined multiplication of companies based on the same old model. The NEA’s statistics on nonprofit growth, set against its sobering reports on declining arts participation, illuminate a crucial nexus for the field, a location of both profound failure and potential transformation. The proliferation of small theater companies sits at the intersection between the necessity to imagine different structures for making theater and our field’s failure to provide career paths for the next generation of artists. Since the Ford Foundation’s investments kicked off the regional theater movement fifty years ago, there has been tremendous collective buy-in to what has become a fossilized model of a particular type of nonprofit theater. Within this structure, there is now a critical lack of opportunity for emerging artists and leaders, leaving the next generation of artists no alternative but to start companies of their own, companies that often replicate the problems of established theaters on a smaller scale. “

So it seems we know what’s wrong with the current model, but aren’t able to do anything but participate in the current (some would say broken) model because funding and expectations are geared towards the current model, namely  “a building with staff and a season, subscribers and youth programs, and a healthy mix of earned and contributed income.”

The cycle continues.

So what do we do? Go read part two of the article it’s got some interesting ideas.  I also think we have to change our picture of what success looks like – is being a venued theatre a badge of success if you can’t afford the building? Is a large subscriber base a badge of success if you’ve gone from producing edgy avant-garde work to “crowd pleasers” to keep the doors open on the unaffordable venue?

And are we a success as a community and industry if we, as some of the most creative people out there, cannot change because the current model is the only one we know?

At Clayton Lord”s presentation this week the question was raised, which is more important, economic or intrinsic impact? Why, intrinsic, of course.

Then why does only economic get a form to fill out in the grant application? Budget form, earned revenue form, subscribers vs single ticket, foundation vs government.  Economic gets a very important form in the grant application.

Where’s the form for intrinsic?

Then today a Quick Riff from Mission Paradox: “I find the whole “people should stop forming arts organizations” conversation to be interesting.  It’s interesting because people make a very logical case for not starting.  The issue is that starting an organization is an emotional issue.  It isn’t driven by logic.  By the way, this isn’t a good or bad thing . . . it is just reality.  My own point of view is that if it is in your heart to start an organization then you HAVE to do it.  The world may need it.
But if your heart isn’t in it.  If you aren’t committed.  Don’t even think about starting.”


April 17, 2012

In Which We Present: Things Fringe

Anyone who knows me at ALL knows of my love and support for the Toronto Fringe Festival. I have attended for years, I have held my own in the tent, overseen lotteries, worked on productions,  and am Vice President of the Board of Directors. It has gone from an awesome two-weeks-in-July festival to  two-weeks-in-July/two-weeks-in-January to an organization that is brimming with art and activity year round. Its staff goes from five to five hundred in the blink of an eye. You might not know about everything happening over there.
May I present Things Fringe for today’s blog post, which will also be replicated as a PSA in the What’s On section.

Things Fringe lately:


The Lots Of Little Campaign – our crowd sourced campaign to raise $5000 through bits and pieces of donations… your $5 makes a big difference, your $10 means even more.  As Lots Of Little Donors, you receive a special LOL Button to wear proudly at this summer’s festival (to get you off the hook from tipping at the door!) and will have your name listed on our website.  Donations over $10 receive a charitable tax receipt. Here’s a video to watch!  Now go check the change jar.



Our new Outreach Coordinator, Pip. Lemurs not guaranteed to appear.

The Toronto Fringe is Recruiting 100 Young Theatre Entrepreneurs.  Are you ready for it?
–You are between the ages of 17 and 24 and you’re ready to take the theatre world by storm
–You are ready to burst your theatre-conservatory-drama-club-summer-arts-camp-theatre bubble
–You think that it takes more than ‘just acting’ to make it as a theatre artist
–You aren’t a follower…you’re a doer, a leader, a mover and a shaker
Jump into the real world this summer and join

The 100: a 12 day immersive theatre entrepreneur bootcamp at the Fringe Festival.

Extended info here, application here, Facebook Page here. There – you`re good to go.


Last but oh so certainly NOT least, I present:

The Creation Lab is the  home of the Toronto Fringe and the indie arts community. The Lab consists of two studio spaces and the Toronto Fringe admin office, both housed on the 4th floor of the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex. (Just steps away from Bathurst Station.) Both studios are available for anyone to rent at anytime to do whatever they want. The spaces can be rented at various levels of subsidy, on a first-come, first-serve basis. The studios are already a buzzing arts hub, bookable all hours of the day and night, where artists can focus on their craft and connect with their community without breaking the bank.  There was a great article in BlogTO a while back if you’d care to read. Now go book some space.

These are but THREE THINGS. May I humbly suggest you check out the website for more opportunities, including volunteering.

April 16, 2012

#beans and counting new ones

I went to a fantastic presentation today – COUNTING NEW BEANS: INTRINSIC IMPACT AND THE VALUE OF ART  by Clayton Lord, Director of Communications and Audience Development for Theatre Bay Area. He’s also the editor of the brand new book, Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art, (which I will definitely be purchasing) and author of the New Beans blog at which I will definitely be following.

Here’s the link to the Intrinsic Impact site.

I tweeted during the event, mostly the questions that were being asked, as well as some interesting comments and  answers. It’s #beans if you’re interested. Lots of bigger picture things to think about:

When the art is the best it can be, you become inarticulate, it’s impossible to describe. #beans

Anecdotes vs numbers – should these things exist in tandem? The numbers always win. #beans

How do we make the unmeasurable measurable? “if you can describe something, you can measure it.”  #beans

How and when and where is it important to audiences to “prepare” for an artistic experience? #beans

Great inspirational stuff. It’s been a good week of things like this, from Simon Brault’s plenary, to Tim Jones’ challenges to us, and now counting new beans.

I have lots to think about. And a lot of work to do. Gonna go do both.

TOMORROW: A post dedicated to all things Fringe.




April 15, 2012

Sunday Roundup – April 15

It’s a grey drizzly day today. Coffee and reading are on the agenda (and the library).

Reading for Easter Monday – a bit of a roundup and an interesting article on the phrase “emerging artist”.  Still trying to think of another word. Rookie, maybe?

Off To APASO! – I attended two plenary sessions last week – Simon Brault on No Culture No Future and Tim Jones on Creativity in a Low-Growth Economy. Both excellent and thought-provoking and added to my stash of things to think about.

Cook A Meal. Do Laundry. Experience Art. – As I said, the conference gave me things to think about. This was one of them – art experience as life skill.

Quick PSA for an upcoming event – Workshop: Building an Ensemble With Jillian Keiley. I have known Jill since we were in directing classes together at York and I cannot recommend her enough.

Date: Saturday April 21, 2012
Time: 10:00AM – 1:00PM
Location: Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street)
Cost: $60 ($45 for CAEA members) or  $65 including a ticket to Oil and Water (April 18-May 6, 2013)
Please register with Associate Producer Jonathan Heppner at Registration is on a first-come-first-served basis.

April 13, 2012

Cook a Meal. Do Laundry. Experience Art.

A wonderfully thought-provoking plenary session at APASO yesterday. Just as I thought. Simon Brault is so – interesting, and smart and makes you think and want to talk to other people about what you’ve learned and are thinking about.

Discussion around arts education. The lack of it. The lack of importance of art in everyday life. Cultural omnivores. Folks for whom art just does not register.

Lack of formal arts education. In schools. Which got me thinking.

Why can’t art be taught as a life skill? The point I made yesterday at the session was that we go after the students, the schools, we bring kids in by the busload for student matinees and talkbacks. Our numbers are great – we reached 5000 students this year, and the sponsor got some serious name recognition (thank you to the sponsor for allowing this to happen. Seriously, We couldn’t afford to do this otherwise.)

Perhaps some are affected by the work they saw, past having to answer a question from the Outreach and Education Coordinator. Perhaps not.

What have we taught them about experiencing art? What have they learned?

I think in many cases they haven’t been taught about the art experience, they’ve been taught how to go on a field trip for the afternoon.

How many are coming back of their own accord? I don’t know. And it occurred to me we do not teach experiencing art as a life skill. We teach children how to tie shoelaces, cook dinner, fold the laundry (I’ve taught my fairy godchildren how to hail a cab – city girl life skill).

We teach adolescents how to fill out college applications and try out for football or debate team or just how to get themselves to the mall so we don’t have to drive them.

And adults learn all their lives, whether it’s a excel workshop for your business, or how to find a reputable plumber or why exactly your child is making that ungodly racket.

What can we teach people? How can we give them access to our work?

Have we taught them what they need to know to experience and appreciate art of their own accord? That they can do this any time, of their own accord, but it takes a bit more work to find out what’s going on? (This is where the internet access generation comes in – it’s all on the internet).

What have we taught them?

Did we explain that PWYC means pay-what-you-can and you can go to that show and pay a toonie or a twenty and see the play? And those performances usually sell out so best get there early?

Have we taught them that some shows have rush seats for as little as $10? What does “rush seat” mean anyway?

That out of respect to the other audience members and the actors you turn off your phone, take off your hat if it’s in the way and try not to talk to your companion during the show? (We won’t get into hard candy. It seems nobody can be taught not to open them during the show).

Do they know about TO TIX and HIPTIX and that a lot of museums are by donation?

Have we taught them that we really do want them there, of their own accord, outside of the Wednesday 1:30 matinee?

Much more to think about.

(Yes I bought Simon’s book. It’s awesome and he autographed it for me. In FRENCH.)

ETA: you type too fast you get some nasty typos. Apologies.

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