APAP NYC, for those who aren’t aware, is the international conference for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.  Organizations from all over the world converge on 53rd and 6th in New York City, discussing changing trends in the arts and sharing experiences and studies.  I (Steven Dawson) will be sharing my experiences from each day in brief on the EALS blog, so check in often to hear the latest in performing arts.

New President and CEO of APAP Mario Garcia Durham

Day 1:

 In the morning, I attended the Youth and Family Programming forum.  However, this quickly turned into a forum about how to get kids to put down their iPads and video games and engage in the arts, which is still a valuable discussion topic.  Some of the ideas placed forth were to USE the technology instead of fight it.  Take “Text Marks the Spot” as an example.  It uses text messaging to lead “players” on a sort of scavenger hunt through the arts organization, where they have to complete artistic projects in order to get the next clue.

Another topic we discussed was the relationship between traveling artists and presenters, and how to make it better.

My random thought during the forum:
Is the loss of arts in schools good for arts organizations?  It forces them to do all the work in arts education, but doesn’t it also funnel the learners toward the organization?  It is just our job to work to reach them. …..Just something to think about.

Noted quotes from the forum:
“Risk works” – taking calculated risks will always lead to positives, whether in success or  valuable learning from failure.

“To not know is the most creative place to be.” – Sometimes not having preconceptions about a topic can lead to the best creativity.

In the early afternoon, I attended the “How Strong Is Your Social Net” landmark nationwide survey of digital and social media usage session.  This is where Trudel-MacPherson Art Consulting presented the results of the firm’s landmark 2011 survey about the use and effectiveness of digital and social media in 1601 arts organizations around the nation.  The channels include email, Facebook, websites, Twitter, Flickr, and other various social channels.  I’ll spare you the boring detailed statistics, and I’ll summarize it be saying that it does indeed aid in audience engagement and ticket sales (I can imagine your shock at this statement….).  But the real surprising stats were that over half of the organizations did not make any changes based on the feedback received through these channels.  If we want people to let us know what they think, then why are we not listening?

Some interesting social media ideas from organizations are:

Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe – Used real time audience reviews via twitter that connected fans to other fans and the artists.

Link Centre – Created a clear social media policy that clarified the lines between personal and professional use.

Wolf Trap – Created a “cell-phone on” area.  Also, the conductor tweets previously composed score notes during the performance, allowing those who are following to gain an extra level of access to the art.

Random thoughts learned from this session:

  • Audiences are not stupid, they can smell spam and bad marketing.  Don’t let social media become just another billboard.
  • Don’t take on interaction unless you can deliver on it.  You may need to create “social media shifts” to make sure someone is paying attention at all times.

You can find details from the survey at:  trudelmacpherson.com

In the late afternoon, Carol Coletta spoke at the opening plenary.

A badly whited out picture of Carol Coletta

Her speech was entitled “Owning the Road Ahead.”  Here are a few of her main topics:

  • We have to make a case for investing in the arts when were are in a presidential election year in which all the candidates will say that the economy is broken.
  • Art leads to economic success:  Art drives vibrancy, which leads to a quality of place, which attracts talent, which (when based on per capita income) leads to economic success.
  • A four decade trend: 42% of college educated young adults live in a 3 mile radius of a city, and car use of those under 30 has fallen dramatically.  Therefore, location of the art is becoming a more important factor.

In the evening, I went to the showcase of Girls Night, the Musical.

The girls perform a high energy number

This got interesting.  I chose to attend this show because I read the reviews and they were all very positive, so I was under the impression that it was a “legit theatre musical comedy.”  However, when I showed up to the HA! Comedy Club, a drag queen, which had been warming up the crowd, greeted me just inside the door, made everyone aware of my presence, and sat me.  Whew, boy.  This was going to be an interesting night.  As the show began, I saw that it was definitely one for a group of girls to enjoy, as evidenced by the raunchy “feminine” humor.  But even still, it was a funny, enjoyable musical that had a hint of audience participation (I was even dragged up to dance during the song “It’s Raining Men”).  The vocals were fantastic, the acting was well done, and of course the music (which consisted of feminine-themed classics like “I Will Survive” and “We are Family”) was enjoyable.   I would rate this musical a surprising 8 out of 10.  But guys, I highly recommend skipping this one, or at least attending with a female companion or two.

– Steven Dawson
“The world needs art, not so they can escape, but so they can embrace.”