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Experiencing APAP NYC, what I am taking from the 2012 conference. – Day 3

Day 3:

Bolz Center students share their work

I started this morning with a session with our fellow arts management students at the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin.  The students involved, Joanna Simpson, Brian Hinrichs, Marcella Dover, Laura Blegen, Andrew Maxfield, and Danielle Boyke, presented this year’s edition of the Dawson Research Internship: Power Influence, and Performing Arts.  Bolz Center director Andrew Taylor moderated.  The research and presentation was designed to connect the dots between power and influence in policy-making and the arts.  Here is a brief summary of the two hour session:

  • Social Network Analysis – there are 4 steps to analyzing your network:
    1) Define the group
    2) Know your position in relation to the group
    3) Identify the connectors and bridges between you and a desired network connection
    4) Create a plan for how to change your position
    – Analyze your network to see the actual connections.  It is a great way to visualize what you need to do to further your connections and position (i.e. – get someone on the Rotary club so you can connect with a certain local businessperson).
  • Social Movement Theory –
    – How do they function?  The root idea is the base, then comes the mobilization of resources, then comes a cycle of cognition (recognizing smaller goals), coordination, and cooperation.
    – Arts fit in with social movements by providing communication, mobilization, solidarity, long-term impact, and emotional power.
  • Power in Politics – Economic power is the main source of power in the US (the 1% idea that has been brought forward from the “occupy” movements).  The “power elite” have a mix of social upper class, policy forming organizations, and corporate community.
    – How to make a change:  identify your “power elite” and find a way into the network.
  • Organizational behavior – the 6 source model from Influencer by Patterson, Grenny, et al.: shows different ways to affect change (this is a great companion book to Switch by the Heath brothers).

Ideas picked up from session participants and personal thoughts:

  •  Ticket buyers are an outcome, not a network.
  • An army of people camping on the steps of the capital is not as powerful as one person having a conversation with the chair of a congressional committee.
  • As far as advocacy, we arts people have such a large network, that the potential for huge clout is there; we just have to mobilize the network.
More info on the research can be found at

At 11:00, I attended the next plenary session, The Village Beat – Taking Action.  It was hosted by John Hearn, principal at SYPartners.

John Hearn

The towering consultant led the group in a discussion on connecting the organization to the community and its needs.  This doesn’t mean simply residing in a community and trying to lure its members in.  It means having a direct connection.  His four pillars of what constitutes a community’s situation are the individual, the community (group), change that is happening, and money.  The major questions to ask yourselves as an organization are:

  • How is the world changing for the community you serve?
  • What is the ideal that would answer your community’s most pressing needs?
  • How will you or your organization rise to this occasion?
  • What is the evidence that you can exercise this leadership?
  • How must you stretch in order to fully occupy your new role in the community?

Thoughts taken from this session:

  • Don’t think about your community in terms of art, because chances are it is not what they wake up thinking about.
  • Define your success as an organization based on the success of the community around you, not by looking at yourself in the mirror.

There was a lot of grand, eloquent thoughts and statements during this Village Beat session.  I can only hope that the arts leaders who made these statements will actually put these thoughts into action and not keep them on the shelf.

After a dinner at the famous Carnegie Deli, I headed over to the Broadway Comedy Club on 8th avenue to check out what Chicago City Limits had to offer.  It is a 6 member

Chicago City Limits

improvisation group that has 5 actors and 1 amazing improvisational accompanist.  I was not disappointed.  I know I said yesterday that 7 Fingers was my favorite….well, Chicago City Limits has now taken that position with a coup de force.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.  You know when you get to laughing so hard that they get high pitched and you start snorting……yep, that was me.  The troupe started with a song about a phrase that the audience came up with, which happened to be “Anything Goes.”  The lyrics were masterfully composed, and the actors really played off each other rhymes well. Then they performed a sketch about another crowd creation in multiple styles, which were also drawn from the crowd.  Another highlight was the “story time” sketch based off of a title that an audience member gave.  The actors passed the baton, so to speak, picking up the story and continuing to create it as the “director” pointed to each actor.  They also performed a long-form improv musical, and ended with a hilarious game in which one actor had to guess a regionalism phrase based on extremely vague clues given by the other actors.  I cannot even begin to do justice to the comical genius of the group in this blog.  I can only recommend that you look them up and plan to attend one of their shows.

Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

After that, I meandered down to 44th and 8th to the famous Birdland jazz club to listen to a set from the world renown and Grammy winning Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.  Each musician on the stage was a true master of his craft.  It was a delight to listen to such wonderful Latin jazz.  Once again, I recommend hunting them down and listening when you get the chance.

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

Experiencing APAP NYC, what I am taking from the 2012 conference.

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:

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.”

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