A Conversation about ArtsDirect

On March 17th, 2003, a number of us took part in a conversation at Alfredo’s Restaurant around a common interest of the Alliance for Arts and Culture and the Downtown Vancouver Association The common interest of these organizations is to encourage and excite more people to experience more of the arts.

Our discussion related to how ArtsDirect might serve this interest. ArtsDirect is an idea to create a collaborative communication and media system that serves arts patrons, artists, arts providers and other community businesses to provide arts patrons with more information about the arts and the opportunities they have to experience the arts.

We approached our conversation as an appreciative inquiry with these questions. How do we encourage and excite more people to experience more of the arts? How do we see ArtsDirect working to do this? In a perfect world, what would ArtsDirect look like? How do we engage more people in ArtsDirect?

These notes are observations and ideas we heard during our conversation and continue our conversation with more information and with ideas we have discussed since then around the topics raised.

Thank you all for participating. We appreciate your time and contributions and apologize for being slow getting back to you. Thank you David Holtzmann for doing such a great job leading the discussion. And thank you David Walker for so generously hosting us at your restaurant.

We hope you all enjoyed the experience and took something away from it. Please tell us if we heard incorrectly or missed something important and of any ideas or observations that have occurred to you since then or occur to you after reading these notes. Thank you again. This has been valuable.

Roger Chilton and Lori Baxter

Who Participated

Lori Baxter
Phil Boname
Roger Chilton
David Holtzman
Harry Jaako
Robert Kerr
Sharman King
Ray LeBlond
Duncan Low
Dennis Macdonald
Ian Mansfield
Judith Marcuse
Dave Park
James Spack
Ray Spaxman
Trudy van Dop

 

Our Interests

Ray Spaxman asked why are we were doing this. Everyone in the arts seems to be doing quite well. People are putting on performances and selling art. Why do we want to encourage and excite more people to experience more of the arts? We need to tell people our reasons for doing this.

The Downtown Vancouver Association, the Alliance for Arts and Culture, the City of Vancouver and other municipalities in the Lower Mainland, the B.C. Arts Council, the Provincial Government, the Federal Government, the Vancouver Board of Trade, Tourism Vancouver, and many others all talk about the value and importance of the arts and have a stated interest in supporting and building a stronger and more vibrant arts community. Why are we doing this?

For the Economic Value

Ray LeBlond and Dave Park both referenced the economic value of the arts and the contribution of the arts community to the economy as employers, as a major segment of the business community, as an attraction for visitors to our City and the Region, and as a contributor to other businesses and employers who benefit from people who engage in the arts. It is a sustainable, healthy and highly leveraged industry that in 1996 was estimated by The Chancellor Partners to employ 99,000 people in the Vancouver CMA and contribute 3.6 billion dollars to our GDP. Both the Board of Trade and the Downtown Vancouver Association have been trying for years to build bridges between other businesses and the arts community to support and strengthen the arts because it is good business and is good for business. A strong arts community is good for the economy.

For the Value to Tourism

Tourism Vancouver and the people in the travel and hospitality business recognize that our arts and culture is and can be an even greater attraction for visitors giving them reasons to come back again and again. Cultural tourists stay longer and spend more than other tourists. Tourists who experience our community through our arts and culture leave talking about Vancouver as an exciting place. Creating a more vibrant arts community is good for the tourism and hospitality industry, brings us more visitors and contributes more income for our local economy.

For the Economic Development Value

Our creative industries attract creative people. Creative people are the resources that will sustain and create the future of our community. Creative people like to live and work in a creative environment and in the company of other creative people.

Vancouver’s future, in an economy increasingly based on ideas, will depend upon our ability to attract and keep people who have ideas, who engage in and build enterprises around ideas, and who are part of what we call the knowledge and creative industries. We are in a time and a world where ideas are our greatest resource.

Vancouver’s asset is our quality of life. People come to live in Vancouver because they have an interest in preserving and enhancing the quality of their lives. This normally extends to an interest in participating in our community to further enhance the quality of life in our community. This is our common interest, our resource and our value proposition to attract new enterprise.

A flourishing arts community will attract more people to our arts community and will attract more of the kind of people and enterprises we want to create a healthy, growing and sustainable economy for our future.

For Our Quality of Life

Most people know and feel, intellectually and intuitively, that the real value of the arts lies in their contribution to the quality of our lives and the quality of life, to our common interests as a civilization and to our common interest in civilization. Our experience of the arts gives us pleasure, helps us understand and connect with one another, and inspires us to excellence in expressing ourselves creatively. The arts contribute to our social welfare and our sense of community. They change how we see life, how we experience life, and how we engage with each other.

People who recognize the value of the arts recognize that encouraging and exciting more people to experience more of the arts is good for all of us. The arts help us recognize, appreciate and value each other. We connect and communicate with one another through the arts. The arts enrich our lives, give us a greater sense of what we experience in common, and increase our appreciation and respect for the value of our differences.

We live in a community that appreciates quality of life. The arts improve and enhance the quality of our lives and the quality of life in our community.

For Our Arts Providers

The idea for ArtsDirect originally started with a discussion about the ongoing challenges faced by the arts community. One of the concerns is our dependence on government funding, the difficulties in getting government funding, the decline in government funding and the increasing difficulty of finding alternative sources of financial support.

Government support for our arts and cultural industries continues to decrease in the face of increasing demands for other social services. Federal Government per capita funding is less than half what it was fifteen years ago. It is also getting more difficult to build corporate support as managers look more closely at the business case for community investment programs.

The discussion continues with the ongoing challenge of attracting, retaining and growing audiences in an increasingly competitive environment, the cost of marketing, the dependence on and cost of media for making connections with the audience, and the reliance upon media editorial to positively serve the interests of both the audience and arts providers.

The need for more collaboration among arts providers in our common interest of growing audiences and stimulating more interest in the arts has also been discussed, along with the need to find new ways to engage and create more mutually beneficial and lasting partnership relationships with other members of our business community.

The common interest expressed by arts providers is to increase audiences and revenues and reduce administrative and marketing costs so that more attention and resources could be directed to the creation of arts experiences.

Encouraging and exciting more people to experience more of the arts will contribute to creating a stronger, more vibrant, and more economically sustainable arts community. This serves the interests of arts providers, arts patrons and the common interests of our community.

For Our Artists

More people engaged means more support and ability for artists to pursue their interests in our interests, more able to connect with audiences, audiences more able to connect with them. Artists connecting with their audiences, talking to their audiences, allowing our audiences to connect with our artists, knowing our artists are approachable, real, human, and accessible?  If we want to hear from an artist and an artist wants to communicate a connection can be made. Do we want to make that possible? Is it an artist’s choice? Some do. Will it build interest in the artist; build interest in the art form, in the arts and in the experience of the arts?

For Our Local Business Community

The opportunity to participate, increase patronage, partner, in some cases respond to larger competitors, keep our local business community alive and lively

For Ourselves

Get to enjoy more, have more to be excited about…

How ArtsDirect Serves Our Interests

Communicating with Patrons

The only way to encourage and excite more people to experience more of the arts is through communication.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to communicate to people in a marketplace of increasing scale, communication activity, marketing expenditure and marketing sophistication. One-to-one personalized communications tailored to the interests of the audience has become the most effective and appreciated form of communication and is the approach that many business enterprises are moving toward to reach and engage customers, service them better, earn more of their business and develop strong and lasting relationships.

ArtsDirect provides arts providers and local community business partners with a communication system they can use to reach patrons with person-to-person and broadcast communications that serve the interests of both parties. ArtsDirect provides a facility that many large corporations are still in the process of developing that gives arts providers, community businesses and patrons the ability to engage in conversations around their individual interests and in their individual interests.

Creating More Activity

Ian Mansfield wondered what we are talking about when we talk about the arts. He observed that people are able to enjoy a lot of arts experiences in the comfort of their own home without having to go out, drive somewhere, park at an exorbitant cost and make an effort. If we want to encourage people to go out, we need to attract people to the live experience and communicate the excitement of experiencing the arts live, of experiencing artists and their performance directly in the company of others, and the immediacy and uniqueness of each live experience in our communications.

If we want people to go out, it will also be easier to attract and engage who enjoy going out than people who don’t. It serves our interests for arts providers to partner and collaborate with other businesses that also serve people who like to go out, like restaurants and clubs, to attract new patrons and bring more people out by creating enhanced experiences.

Harry Jaako felt the key to stimulating more interest in experiencing the arts lay in creating linkages. Creating linkages between different arts experiences, creating linkages with businesses that serve people who go out, creating linkages to connect experiences and package enhancements that work in everyone’s interests. Dennis MacDonald wondered why Judith Marcuse’ DanceArts, one of Canada’s most outstanding and innovative dance companies, was not performing with the Vancouver Symphony. This could work for both providers and work for the audience. It could work to raise our profile and the innovative and creative nature of the arts in our community. It shows the Symphony in another context and provides a unique and enhanced experience for the audience. The linkage and collaboration creates a unique event that could bring more people out and potentially bring new people out. The receptiveness and viability of this kind of event could be explored by selectively inquiring in advance about audience interest through ArtsDirect.

ArtsDirect provides businesses that serve arts patrons in other ways, like book stores or music stores, with an improved ability to collaborate and create linkages to serve their patrons better and attract and engage new patrons around their interests.

The ArtsDirect card facilitates collaborative linkages with organizations who have relationships with people who could become more active arts patrons. University student cards could be coded to operate as ArtsDirect cards and the cost of card production could be deducted from the first ArtsCredits earned by the student. Corporations located in the downtown area could give cards to their employees as a benefit.

We have more capacity for more of the arts in our lives. Expanding the interests of our audiences through collaborative linkages can create more activity and this will lead to the creation of more experiences

As we expand the interests of our audiences and encourage them to explore more and engage more, they will carry others along with their new and expanded interest to create more and new activity and participation.

Connecting to our Interests as Patrons

An interest in new music crosses a wide range of musical genres, experiences and venues. An interest in and around a culture might be explored through a range of experiences. Some people are interested in exploring the unique and innovative, new forms of creative expression, new approaches and new ideas. Judith Marcuse’ DanceArts and Headlines Theatre offer experiences that are powerful and transforming for many people around contemporary issues of potential interest to a large audience. We are more likely to become interested and engage in other arts experiences when we find our interests explored and expressed in different art forms

If we know who people are, what they are interested in, what they do, and the kinds of experiences and activities they are currently engaged in, and we know how to reach them, we can better determine what they could be interested in, how to connect with them, and what could attract and excite them to explore a new experience.

ArtsDirect gives arts providers more information about more people who could be interested in and attracted to the experiences they offer, with the ability to reach them and communicate with them inn a way that connects with their interests.

More Informed and Appreciative Patrons

We need to be able to tell people why they should leave the comfort of their home to go out to an arts experience. We all know what we will experience at a Rolling Stones concert. Much fewer would know what to expect in an award winning Peter Hannan Opera. It takes much more than two words to communicate the nature of that experience.

Most of us value information and appreciative observations that help us see what other people see and learn what other people get from an experience. Critical reviews often speak to knowledgeable, sophisticated, and discriminating audiences and frequently observe on what is or not good, instead of helping audiences look for what they might enjoy or take away from an experience. They often speak more about the reviewer than the experience. The reviewer becomes what the audience experiences.

ArtsDirect can help arts providers excite more people about the experiences they offer by being able to give patrons information and communicating with them in a way that connects with who they are and their expressed and demonstrated interests without the filters of reviewers and critics and with greater assurance the communication will reach and be appreciated by its intended audience.

James Wright of the Vancouver Opera sends subscribers a CD to introduce the new season with an appreciative discussion of the experiences to be enjoyed in each of the upcoming operas. For committed patrons of the Opera, this is a welcome enhancement of their experience and for new and less experienced patrons, it helps attract and excite their interest, encourage them to purchase and enhance their appreciation and enjoyment of the experience to bring them back again.

CBC radio programs like Robert Harris’ “I Hear Music”, Richard Ouzounian’s “Say it with Music”, and Howard Dyck’s “Choral Concert” provide audiences with appreciative observations about the music they play which engages, connects with and enhances their appreciation and experience of the music. Playbills and pre and post discussions offered by performing arts providers also increase and enhance audience appreciation of their experience. For many arts experiences, arts providers must rely upon arts reviewers and arts critics to “sell the experience”. ArtsDirect gives arts providers more opportunities to talk directly to people with information around the experiences they offer to serve their interests better, enhance their experience and encourage and excite them to experience more.

Management, Marketing and Administration

ArtsDirect gives arts providers and other local businesses the ability to manage their customer information, package and communicate promotional offers, collaborate more easily with partners, reduce administrative and marketing costs and direct more of their resources and attention to providing the services and creating the experiences their audiences and customers are looking for. ArtsDirect is a utility system which can be used creatively to manage and communicate more effectively and leave more valuable time, resources and energy available to engage  patrons in the creative experience.

An Additional Source of Revenue for the Arts Community

Artsdirect creates an additional source of revenue for arts providers, for the Alliance for Arts and Culture, and to support the further development of the arts through the ArtsDirect Foundation. This revenue is contributed by arts patrons, who are the people served by and most interested in supporting the arts and who benefit by being better served through ArtsDirect, and by community businesses who benefit from the increased activity of arts patrons as well as being able to use the services of ArtsDirect to attract, keep and better serve their customers and compete more effectively for customer share.

Corporate partnerships

Although opinions vary related to changes and trends in corporate sponsorship and corporate community participation, there will always be an interest in partnerships that work in the interests of both parties.

Successful partner relationships are based on a fair exchange of value. Often however, it is the common interest of the partners that is forgotten. It is the collaborative pursuit of finding ways to better serve the interests of their shared and individual audiences that creates the strongest, most valuable and most lasting partner relationships.

Knowing more about the interests and activities of our patrons allows us to be more creative and successful in collaborating with partners around their interests and in determining who, what, and how  to communicate information and opportunities that serve them and the individual interests of the partners.

Raising the Profile of the Arts

Few of us are fully aware of the richness, range, diversity, quality, opportunities available in our community

To know it is to take pride in it and engage in it

To make everyone more aware of it locally is to make others outside our community more aware of it. We talk about the beauty and quality of life, we can talk equally about our arts scene

Telling Our Story

Robert Kerr felt the ArtsDirect story needed to be simple and easy to understand.

What do we say?

To the patron
  • Get all the information you want about what is going on when you want it
  • Get money back when you go out
  • Spend it on the arts and go out again
  • Support local businesses and your arts community
  • Explore and experience more of the arts
  • Have fun
To the arts provider
  • Get to know your patrons better and get them to come out more
  • Get to know about other people who you could interest
  • Communicate to the people you want to when you want to
  • Tell them what they would like to know and what you would like them to know Show you care about your patrons
  • Reduce your communication costs and invest your savings in production
  • Support the arts community
  • Collaborate
  • Be creative
To community business partners
  • Attract the patrons you like and keep them coming back
  • Get to know who they are
  • Show them you care
  • Be in good company
  • Communicate better and more reasonably
  • Collaborate to attract new patrons
  • Target your marketing dollars and track your success
To corporate partners
  • There are lots of opportunities to participate
  • You can collaborate with individual arts organizations or groups
  • They have your customers
  • You have their patrons
  • You can collaborate more easily and successfully and have a larger presence

Who do we say it to?

Patrons
  • People interested in and excited by the arts
  • People interested in going out
  • People interested in supporting the arts
Community businesses
  • Businesses interested in reaching, attracting and serving people who go out
  • Businesses interested in partnering to encourage and excite people to go out more
  • Businesses interested in learning more about their patrons to serve them better
Arts providers
  • Arts providers interested in reaching and attracting new audiences and getting to know more about their patrons to serve them better and build more support
  • Arts providers interested in reducing costs and generating additional revenue
  • Arts providers interested in encouraging and exciting more people to experience more of the arts
  • Arts providers interested in contributing to making Vancouver known as a Centre for experiencing the arts
Corporate partners
  • Corporate partners interested in supporting the development of the arts community as a good thing to do
  • Corporate partners interested in earning the respect, appreciation and recognition of people who understand the value of the arts in their lives and in their community
  • Corporate partners interested in opportunities to collaborate to reach, engage and build stronger relationships with their customers and attract new customers

How Does It Work?

For the Patron
  • Take your card for POS terminals or give your number over the phone to earn ArtsCredits. Cash Artscredits off your card to purchase.
  • Decide which arts organization(s) you wish to support.
  • Know your balance each time you buy and on your personalized web page.
  • Get current personalized information, offers and your ArtsCredit balance on your personalized web page
  • Receive emails, fax, phone, mail as you like and request.
  • Change your interests as you like when you like.
  • Specify your own privacy  and information servicing requirements.
  • Get detailed information and enhanced servicing as you like when you like.
  • Provide appreciative observations on your experiences for others.
  • Participate as actively as you like in opportunities to voice your opinions and offer ideas. Get the monthly calendar and special interest folios as you request.
  • Access all information, all service providers and all opportunities available to you through your personalized web page.
For the Arts Provider
  • Communicate individually
  • Send last minute offers through POS terminals on patron receipts
  • Etc
For Community Business Partners

Get to know your customers better by encouraging them to become an ArtsDirect cardholder

A restaurant in Yaletown gives patrons a card with their bill asking for information about them, gathering their views on the restaurant and getting their names, offering a chance to win a night’s stay at a local hotel as an incentive. They get to know who some of their customers are this way. They don’t get to know who some of their best customers are, who some of their new customers are, or when and if some of their best customers start to drift away. Or if the customer whose name they captured ever returns for another visit. ArtsDirect can provide all this information and give service providers the ability to gather their personal views at a more leisurely time after their visit, if they would like or need more information than ArtsDirect can provide. Etc

For Corporate Partners

Making ArtsDirect Work

Sharman King observed that if we do this, we have to make it a success. We can’t start it and fail or have a modest success.

Ian Mansfield, James Spack and Harry Jaako observed that the technology is not the risk. All the technology exists, although Harry felt it is important to ensure there is no glitches when the system is launched.

The business risk, in Ian and Harry’s view, lies with the arts community. For investors, either financial or corporate partners, this will be their primary concern. There is some perception that arts producers and presenters are overworked, are more interested in their productions than their business, and think differently than other business managers. Although this is changing, investors and partners will want to know that the arts community is interested and committed to making it work. They will want to know how many and which arts providers are going to be part of it.

For ArtsDirect to happen it needs to have the interest and receive leadership from the leaders of the arts community. The DVA, the Board of Trade, the Economic Development Commission, Tourism Vancouver and other organizations who are interested might be collaborators, corporate partners might commit resources and know-how, and other organizations like Leadership Vancouver might engage in the project, but it will not work if it doesn’t have the interest, support and active engagement of the leaders of the arts community.

Engaging the management and the marketing and communications people in the leadership organizations in the arts community in a collaborative conversation around ArtsDirect is the next step in determining how ArtsDirect or some enhanced idea can work to serve the interests of arts providers for it to become an idea that will work for the community.

Barriers among Arts Patrons

Ray LeBlond felt that if we are to be successful, we need to overcome the barriers people have in their feelings and perceptions about the arts.  Each of us has our own unique feelings and perceptions, many of which we are not aware of and many we may have no interest in changing.

Overcoming our emotional or perceptual barriers is accomplished by changing our point of view. New information, observations that connect information to our interests, and our personal experiences can change the way we see things. Changing the way we see things changes the way we feel about things and, in turn, can change what we choose to do.

Our interest then is to provide people with more information about the nature of different arts experiences and how experiences offered might connect and relate to their interests, and to give them low risk, exciting and irresistible opportunities that make it easy and encourage them to engage in more arts experiences.  Barriers such as cost, feelings of intimidation, and the effort involved diminish as interest and excitement in pursing our interests grows. If we are interested enough in doing something, we will usually figure out how to overcome our barriers to do it.

Relating opportunities to audience interests is a creative challenge. It involves thinking about the audiences we wish to attract and engage, exploring and learning more about their interests and what they do, and thinking about what we learn about them to determine how we communicate with them around their interests and in their interests. Knowledge about the interests of our audiences and improving our ability to learn more about their interests serves both parties.

Dennis MacDonald talked about taking the arts out into the community, like taking the Vancouver Symphony out to perform at venues like English Bay and the ski slopes at Whistler. We don’t have to do this physically, although we can if it serves our interests. We can however take the arts out of the walls of our thinking to create enhanced experiences that attract more interest and excite and encourage more exploration by connecting with audiences on their own ground. We just need to know more about them, what they like, what they do and where we find them to take the experience to them.

Ian spoke of artsy people and the idea of being artsy. We create the idea of artsy people and we can benefit from removing the perceptual, and in some cases, the emotional barriers that the idea of artsy people creates.

Relating to today’ interests and audiences..intimidation..relevance…labeling…

Barriers among Arts Providers

Arts providers also have emotional and perceptual barriers. A common perception is that arts providers are competing for the same customer and that we each have our own customers and that it is in our interests to protect our customers from erosion. This has militated against the sharing of information, the sharing of relationships and sharing of resources to collaborate in the interests of the patron and in our common interests. Queue magazine and the Georgia Straight talk to many of our customers about other opportunities and they choose to feature some of these without featuring ours as equally or fairly.

Each arts experience is unique. Does Bach compete with Beethoven? Does Holy Body Tattoo compete with Ballet B.C?  Does Shakespeare compete with Pinter? Do the Vancouver Canucks compete with La Boheme? Does the Arts Club compete with the Vancouver Playhouse? In my opinion, the only time experiences compete with one another is when they are of equal interest to the patron and are scheduled at the same time for one performance only.

The interests of the patron can be stimulated and the quality of the relationship with the patron can be enhanced by the provider, but it is the patron’s interests in the experiences they enjoy and the resources they choose to commit that govern their decisions and the level and nature of the activity they engage in. Patrons’ tastes and interests change which is how Symphony audiences become engaged with more challenging music and how theatre goers begin to seek out more creative theatrical experiences. It is the patron who perceives and defines the nature and quality of their relationship with the arts and with arts providers. The business doesn’t own the relationship with their patrons. They earn it.

Robert Kerr felt that some arts providers feel they are already doing a good job of communicating to patrons and that they are already serving their audiences well. There are two questions that help successful enterprise become more successful. How well are we doing what we are doing and how well is it working? Do arts providers feel what they are doing is working well enough?  Is it working well for us as arts patrons?  Do we feel we get all the information we would like when we like it? Do providers feel we get all the information they would like us to get? Would we like more information, different information, in a different way? Do we feel well served?

As arts providers, the ratio of dollars invested in marketing and communications activities compared to the ticket revenue earned as a result of that investment is one way of looking at how well our communication practices are working. Lost revenue through empty seats and unsold inventory, and trends in revenues earned and expenditures required to earn revenues are other ways of looking at how well what we are doing is working. Is there more capacity or latent demand for what we offer in the market? Do we have enough audience? Are they advocates for us? The responses to questions and considerations like this may unconsciously create barriers to our consciousness.

More information can help to overcome perceptual barriers and assumptions arts providers may have about their patrons and who they think they are and how and why they think they behave. I have heard it said that opera patrons are unique and don’t engage in other arts experiences.

Duncan Low mentioned his Wednesday night performances sold out with a two for one ticket offer he created which it would be easy to assume attracted people too cheap to pay full ticket price when it may have stimulated trial purchase and brought more audience and new audiences into a commitment they might not make otherwise because of the attractiveness of the offer.

ArtsDirect gives arts providers more information about the nature and behaviour of their audiences to assist them in understanding their audiences better and to observe more closely on what initiatives work, how they work and why they work so that emotional, perceptual and behavioral barriers do not militate against good decision-making.

ArtsDirect also gives arts providers information about who is earning ArtsCredits and how they are earning them and the abilty to use ArtsCredits as incentives and rewards in their marketing and promotional initiatives.

Collaborating as a Community

The Downtown Vancouver Association has a stated interest in finding ways to collaborate around initiatives of common interest and benefit to our community. In the area of the arts, the DVA’s interests are to encourage and excite more people to experience more of the arts, create more opportunities for people to experience the arts, and make Vancouver known and recognized internationally as a center for experiencing the arts.

The Alliance for Arts and Culture, as the custodian of the interests of the arts community and the nearly 300 arts organizations it represents has similar interests. Collaboration is how we can pursue these interests together and determine how to make successful collaborative enterprises to make this happen.

It is in our common interest to have a healthy and thriving arts community. ArtsDirect is an enterprise that can serve our common interests. It gives everyone a way to participate in a collaboration to build our arts community and enjoy learning how to collaborate in the experience. It provides us with a system and a process that allows us to continue to collaborate in our ongoing pursuit of our individual and common interests in the arts.

The common interest of arts providers, community businesses and corporate partners is serving the interests of their patrons. ArtsDirect gives all participating service providers the information and ability to more easily and creatively collaborate around their common interest in serving the interests of their patrons and our community better. Collaboration serves everyone’s interests.

ArtsDirect also provides arts patrons with the ability to express our views as well as our interests and allows us to speak as a community in our interests and in the interests of the arts to our government and elected officials so they can learn more about our interests and how to serve us better. If we want to engage people in an idea or collaboration we can gather the views of interested patrons easily and inexpensively and, with their permission, correlate their views with their interests.

Ray Spaxman asked if this had ever been done before. The idea of collaboration in business didn’t enter our vocabulary until the seventies. The technology to do this wasn’t available until recently. The idea of building community around common interests is barely a decade old.

ArtsDirect is new model and a new way of doing business collaboratively around common interests. It is based on principles and ideas we can all understand and agree upon. It is open and transparent. If this model and the ideas and thinking that provide its foundation works to build community it will be valued everywhere and will put Vancouver in the vanguard of our need and our ability to find new ways to do business and new ways to do things that work better for all of us.

ArtsDirect can put Vancouver on the map, not for creating the system, but for creating a community that works together to make things work for everyone. It is our choice. The idea is here. Somebody will do it. We can lead the way or let someone else. The business case works. The system works. The idea works.

It is not a question of whether it will work. We know how to make things work. It is a question of whether we want to do it.

There is a process for collaboration. People in the arts collaborate successfully all the time to create experiences that serve audience and artists alike. We can collaborate successfully around creating a collaborative enterprise that works for all of us.

The Art of Collaboration

Successful collaboration is a creative process that involves articulating our common and individual interests, engages everyone in the appreciative consideration of information and observations that might relate or contribute to our interests to create a context for discussion, encourages the identification, consideration and improvement of ideas that might work in our interests, and seeks agreement on ideas we believe will work to determine what we do and how we do it to turn those ideas into enterprise. 

Collaboration involves conversations around interests. Collaborative conversations contribute to the interests of the conversation. Collaborative conversations encourage personal leadership in moving ideas forward or offering ideas that work better. Collaborative conversations engage in the exploration of observations, opinions and ideas. Collaborative conversations seek creative ways to solve problems and overcome barriers.

Collaborative enterprise involves engaging everyone in the enterprise in collaborative conversations around ideas and decisions related to what to do and how to do it and in the ongoing observation of how well we are doing what we decided and how well is it working to move us forward in the pursuit of our interests.

Successful collaboration requires an attentiveness to our emotional and perceptual barriers and learned behaviors and an ongoing collaboration to continuously learn how we can collaborate better

Collaboration is a creative art to be learned

A Personal Note

On a personal note, Ray Spaxman’s question of “Why are we doing this?” raises the question of why we have been doing this. We have invested a number of years in this project and a lot of resources, including the resources of a lot of other people. We continue to do this because we think it is a good idea that can work in everyone’s interests and that it deserves a fair audience.

We organized this conversation because we would like to learn what others think and determine how we engage others in the process. We would like to know what you think, what you think we should do, and how you think we should do it.

Judith Marcuse asked if focus groups have been conducted. We are the focus group. What do we think? What are the barriers for us? Would we be encouraged to come out and experience more of the arts if we had more information? Would we sign up for an ArtsDirect calendar and information service? Would we buy a card for ten dollars? Would we use it at participating arts organizations and local businesses? Would we be inclined to respond to promotional packages and incentives to try something new? Would we respond to packaged promotional opportunities and evenings out? What do we think about the idea? Let us know. Be honest. We promise to protect your identity. We will do a Price Waterhouse audit of your responses? And if not, why not?

Thank you for keeping the conversation going.

A Conversation about ArtsDirect – PDF