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Largest EALS Ever Proves Success

Steven Dawson, EALS Executive Chair, reports on the 6th annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium and the growth the organization has seen. From article written for American University News.

Once again, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium at American University has proven to be a smashing success. The Symposium, known by the acronym EALS, is in its sixth year of existence. The event is an annual meeting of students and young professionals who work in the arts that is held at American University. As national partners with Americans for theealsoutside Arts, EALS is the official kick off for Arts Advocacy Day, and is held the day before.

It is an opportunity to engage in quality discussion about issues, unique or universal, that affect arts organizations with students, peers, and experienced leaders in the field. Past keynote speakers have included Rachel Goslins, Ben Cameron, Bob Lynch, and Adrian Ellis. All symposium activities and planning is organized and executed by a selected committee of American University Arts Management students.

The framework of EALS 2013 was “Looking to the Horizon.” Each speaker and panel discussed the new and innovative strategies and ideas coming down the road in each of the topics addressed that day. These topics included international arts management, marketing, audience engagement, career advancement, innovative organization models, and fundraising.

As the Executive Chair, I am elated to report that EALS 2013 was by far the largest and most successful Symposium ever. Counting the speakers, attendees, staff, and volunteers, 225 people walked through the doors on Sunday, April 7. That proved to be well over double last year’s number, a record growth for the Symposium. EALS also extended its reach throughout the country. Previous years saw attendees mostly from the surrounding DC metro area and within a few hours’ driving distance. EALS 2013, however, saw attendees from geographical locations spanning the entire eastern coast, the mid-west, and as far west as Utah.

What caused so many people from so many locales to flock to American University? The EALS Executive Committee’s focus on quality programming. At the beginning of the planning process, the Executive Committee made the decision to host big names from the industry that have valuable knowledge and experience to share. Doing so would be a financial gamble, but they had faith that presenting the highest quality programming would pay for itself by attracting more attendees. They were right.

The morning began with opening remarks and a welcome from myself, and jumped right in to the Opening Keynote Address by Karen Brooks Hopkins, the President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Since taking over as president of BAM in 1999, Hopkins has led the organization with stunning competency, riding the waves of financial and philanthropic ups and downs. The annual attendance has exploded, the budget has over doubled, and the organization’s endowment has almost tripled to over $80 million. Her address connected the ideas we were discussing at EALS 2013 with her real and successful organization. A perfect start to the day.

The attendees then split off, as they went to the morning breakout panel session of their choice. One morning panel was International Arts Management. In this panel, Gail 151Humphries Mardirosian (American University), Todd Dellinger (Rider University), Stacy White (US Dept. of State), and Arts Management professor Ximena Varela discussed the newest research and issues in this growing area of the arts.

The other morning panel, Marketing for Today’s Organizations, saw leading marketing specialists discuss new strategies, as well as multiple points of view on some hot topic issues, such as subscription plans. Panelists included JoAnn LaBrecque-French (The Washington Ballet), Jennifer Buzzell (Strathmore), Khady Kamara (Arena Stage), and American University Museum head curator Jack Rasmussen.

After a networking lunch, the attendees split again into their choice of three panels. One afternoon panel, Audience Engagement, discussed the importance of engaging audiences…not selling to them…and the strategies to do so. Those panelists included engagement experts Margy Waller (Topos Partnership), JR Russ (Dance Place), Alli Houseworth (Method 121), Doug Borwick (ArtsEngaged), and AU’s Ximena Varela.

The second afternoon panel provided attendees the opportunity to pick the minds of 201younger arts leaders about starting and advancing their careers in the Career Beginnings and Advancement panel. Panelists included Jojo Ruf (National New Play Network), Christopher K. Morgan (Christopher K. Morgan & Artists), Allison Peck (Freer|Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian), and AU’s Anne L’Ecuyer.

The Innovative Organization Models panel rounded out the afternoon selections. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about some of the most cutting edge organizations, and to pick the minds of the leaders of these organizations. Those leaders were Rachel Grossman (dog&pony DC), Thaddeus Squire (Culture Works Greater Philadelphia), Margaret Boozer (Red Dirt Studio), and AU professor Andrew Taylor.

fr panelAfter a coffee break, attendees headed into the Abramson Family Recital hall to attend a panel that discussed one of the most important parts of arts management, yet one of the most uncomfortable parts: Fundraising. Panelists, moderated by Andrew Taylor, included leading minds in the field: Barbara Ciconte (Donor Strategies), Kendall Ladd (Sitar Arts Center), Pete Miller (Local arts board member and philanthropist), and Russell Willis Taylor (National Arts Strategies)

The day was concluded with Aaron Dworkin’s Closing Keynote Address. Dworkin is the founder and President of The Sphinx Organization, the leading organization focused on cultural diversity in the arts, and President Obama’s first ever appointee to the National Council for the Arts. His poignant dworkinand invigorating address discussed racial access to the fine arts, and how we as arts leaders must work to make the arts represent the true diversity that is the United States.

For more information on the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium, and to hear audio recordings of the conference, visit http://www.american.edu/cas/arts-management/eals/index.cfm.

Below is the map of EALS 2013 attendee geographical locations. Where did you come from?

Attendee Geographical Locaitons
Attendee Geographical Locaitons
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Don’t Just Sit There, Get Involved!

We all love to go to our favorite theatre and watch a production, sit and listen to our favorite orchestra, or visit our favorite museum. Traditionally, a person interacted with arts organizations by sitting in the audience of a theater and viewing a performance; but is that enough? I say no way! Like me, many audience members want to get involved and interact with arts organizations in a new way.

Today we live in a world with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms. These platforms give us a space to share our views and interact with people from around the world. As a young person in my early twenties, interaction and participation is crucial. Arts organizations are beginning to realize the importance of audience engagement and are finding new and innovative ways to engage their audiences.

Audience engagement includes a range of activities from open rehearsals, online forums, to interactive shows. Here in Washington, DC, Dog & Pony DC produced a production of The Killing Game that whole-heartedly embraced the idea of audience engagement. Audience members were able to decide important events of the play such as who survives the plague and who dies. When asked about their experience at The Killing Game, one audience member stated “We begin like stone-faced spectators; we end like the world’s most talkative flash mob”

Although the traditional way an audience views a performance is still very important, I think arts organizations should try to find new ways to engage their audience. As someone who enjoys participation, audience engagement is very important.

With audience engagement becoming more of a necessity, what are some cost effective methods of audience engagement? How are we using technology/social media to effectively engage audiences without losing the true value of the arts experience? And who do you think are some of the most successful arts organizations in terms of audience engagement right now?

To continue this discussion on the importance of audience engagement, please join us on April 7th for the 6th annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium at American University.

Panelists for this topic will include:

JR Russ – Class Acts Arts, #thearts, Dance Place: JR Russ is a Washington, DC native who received his B.A. in Dance from UMD, and an M.A. in Arts Management from RussAmerican University. Since then he’s gone on to teach and choreograph in the area, as well as continue to perform, and even work on the administrative & production side of things. This has led to him managing digital and social media for Class Acts Arts & Dance Place, as well as joining the communications and marketing committees for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington & SpeakeasyDC. He also assist Duke Ellington School for the Arts with their social media efforts, in policy and implementation organizationally and through workshops to students on using new media professionally.

Alli Houseworth – Method 121: Alli Houseworth is the founder and chief consultant Houseworth picand strategist at Method 121. Throughout her entire career, she has brought an innovative way of thinking to her work. Often hired to manage projects and implement changes that require deep analytical and strategic thinking, coupled with highly creative ideas, Alli has drawn on her ten years of experience in the communications field to bring an extraordinarily high level of innovation to her work in both the nonprofit and commercial arts sectors. The core of the work always focuses on branding, new media, service-centric audience experiences, and leveraging the power of community. Constantly passionate about developing audiences for the theatre, Alli has established herself as an industry expert in audience engagement and social media.

Margy Waller – Topos Partnership: Margy Waller is a Senior Fellow at Toposwaller pic Partnership and former Vice-President of Research and Strategic Communications at ArtsWave. Previously she was Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, with a joint appointment in the Economic Studies and Metropolitan Policy programs. Prior to Brookings, she was Senior Advisor on domestic policy in the Clinton-Gore White House. Before joining the Administration, Margy was Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. She also served as Director of Public Policy at United Way of America, and Director of Policy Development at Public/Private Ventures in Philadelphia, and a congressional fellow in the office of U.S. Representative Eric Fingerhut (D-OH).

Doug Borwick – ArtsEngaged: Doug Borwick holds the Borwick-ColorPh.D. in Music Composition from the Eastman School of Music and is an award-winning member of ASCAP. He gained experience as an arts administrator and producer working with the Arts Council of Rochester (NY) and through founding and leading the NC Composers Alliance in the mid-1980’s. Dr. Borwick also served for nearly thirty years as Director of the Arts Management and Not-for-Profit Management Programs at Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC. Dr. Borwick is also a leading advocate for community engagement in the arts. He is author of Engaging Matters, a blog for ArtsJournal and author/editor of Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of the Arts in the U.S.

Moderator:

Ximena Varela – American University: Ximena Varela is a researcher, educator, and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in international cultural policy, D13_292_138management practice, marketing strategy, arts management research, and sustainable development. She has worked with and advised international organizations, national and regional governments, city agencies, as well as private and nonprofit organizations in arts funding and arts policy. Currently, she chairs the Research Council of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, and has been a board member of the Latin American Institute of Museums since 2000.

Click HERE to register for EALS 2013.

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