Laura Zabel

There is a lot of work right now on building demand, value and interest in the contributions of art and artists to places, social change, economies and communities. This is the long overdue work to knit our creativity back into our daily lives and the way we address and confront the issues and inequities that face us. I am a true believer in this work and its many forms and structures. I also believe that it is not enough to work on the demand for this work – we also need to work on the supply of this work. Essentially, art comes from artists and if we are building the demand for artist-led, community-engaged work, then how are we supporting artists to build the skills and capacity they need to fulfill this demand?

Posted by Laura Zabel | May. 18, 2016 3:33 PM


This post is part of the Customer, Client, Collaborator Series in conjunction with Doug Borwick and ArtsEngaged on developing relationships with both new communities and existing stakeholders through artistic programming, marketing and fundraising, community engagement and public policy. (Cross-post can be found at Engaging Matters.) 

As a chief marketing officer, consultant and now managing director, I’ve participated in my fair share of marketing committee meetings. One of the most hotly debated topics is whether to focus resources on developing new audiences or on increasing loyalty to bolster return on investment and per capita revenue. Two camps usually square off – the artistic team and trustees vs. the professional marketing staff.

Can you guess which sides of the argument they typically represent?

Nothing is sexier to most artistic directors and trustees than developing new audiences. On the other hand, marketing directors with limited resources are constantly trying to find ways to do more with less, which means developing ways to increase returns, and naturally, some shy away from audience development because it requires significant upfront capital, both monetary and personnel, with limited short-term gains.

Posted by Chad Bauman | May. 11, 2016 6:58 AM


This article appears in The Stage and is available to read in its entirety here.

You read that headline right—it’s not an auto-correct error.

Arts researchers and practitioners have long been focused on what audiences want and need from arts and cultural institutions. These are important questions to ask.

But few people are asking the opposite question—what can audiences do for arts organisations?

Posted by Jill Robinson | May. 5, 2016 1:28 AM


This post is part of the Customer, Client, Collaborator Series in conjunction with Doug Borwick and ArtsEngaged on developing relationships with both new communities and existing stakeholders through artistic programming, marketing and fundraising, community engagement and public policy. (Cross-post can be found at Engaging Matters.) 

Chris McLeod

As a strategic arts marketing consultant I spend a lot of time speaking with (and oftentimes consoling) arts organizations of all sizes across the country about one thing – building audiences while retaining current ones. Nearly all share the same challenges of trying to reach cross-sections of people who are categorized by everything from neighborhoods, race, culture, and income, to age (those pesky Millennials have proven to be a tricky bunch). What I tell all of them is that in order to reach one group of “whomevers” while retaining another group of “whomevers” you need to start with one thing: Learn what matters to people when they are not sitting in your performance hall.

This is how and where the need to deepen relationships with current stakeholders while building new relationships with new audiences affects what needs to change about the future of how arts organizations do their work. Organizations will need to go from the mindset of “We just need to get them [audiences] here and the work/performance will do the rest” to building relationships based on a deep ongoing understanding of what matters to audiences’ everyday lives, outside of who they are as arts patrons.

Posted by Chris McLeod | May. 4, 2016 8:49 AM


Karen Gahl-Mills

I had an interesting conversation with a smart colleague today, on the topic of the role of cultural organizations in civic affairs.  We were talking about the current, polarized state of public discourse and what role, if any, arts organizations should play by bringing residents together to celebrate differences and share views.  He asked something simple yet profound – “Yeah, but what if I just want to run my ballet company and dance?  Can’t I just do that?”

His question stuck with me, as it gets to the crux of our agency’s approach to grantmaking and why we think we, as public funders, have the responsibility to address topics of public value and community engagement. 

Posted by Karen Gahl-Mills | Apr. 27, 2016 12:54 PM


Photo by via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Quick quiz: Over the last 3-5 years, has your annual operating budget:

·        Grown?

·        Stood still?

·        Declined?

And, if it’s grown, has it exceeded the standard inflation rate of 3%, or merely kept pace?


Executive directors likely know the answer.


Finance directors always know the answer.


And departmental leaders almost never know the answer.


Yet, the growth (or lack thereof) of your organization’s annual budget is everybody’s business and is a clear signal not only of how healthy your organization has been, but how innovative you can afford to be in the near future.

Posted by Keri Mesropov | Apr. 21, 2016 8:45 AM


Jill Robinson
Adam Scurto
Amelia Northrup-
J.L.Nave Vincent VanVleet Keri Mesropov