Arts Research Happy Hour Recap
by Brittany A. Gash
I was invited by a friend to the Arts Research Happy Hour. I would be completely misrepresenting myself if I did not readily admit that the Happy Hour component of this event was the primary motivator for my attendance, with the Research playing a sad, second fiddle. As an Arts Marketer, I believe in the importance of research for understanding patrons and donors and accurately tailoring marketing messages to fit their wants and needs. This research is crucial to accomplishing our goals within the community but sorting through piles of data and reports can be a very daunting task. The Arts Research Happy Hour, which took place in the Kirk Douglas Theatre lobby, proved that analyzing research can be informative, insightful and fun.
There were four presentations on reports addressing issues that affect the arts sector. Talia Gibas, LA County Arts Commission Arts for All Manager gave an engrossing presentation on “A report on the state of the performing arts from the perspective of artists” by The Brooklyn Commune Project. This project looked at how artists felt about the state of the arts, how arts fit into the overall market economy and examined various ideas and methods to create more sustainable organizational models. Some of the most profound and almost shocking recommendations from this report are for artists and arts organizations to do less and do it better, redefine values and shift expectations.
Patricia Garza, Assistant Department Director of Education and Community Partnerships at Center Theatre Group gave an energetic presentation on the success principles for Tween focused arts programs in urban communities. The most important take away from this report is that Tweens have the power to choose how they spend their free time. Our marketing messages and programs need to be tailored to the values and wants of tweens, not their parents, and should focus on engagement, interaction and high quality skill building activities.
The second half of the event began with former Managing Director of EALLA and Director of the Arts Diplomacy Network, Stephanie Stallings. Her report, “The Role of the Arts in Inspiring Global Connections,” showed us the significance of international cultural engagement programs, especially within local arts communities for cultivating cultural diplomacy and relations throughout the world and in the U.S.
Charlie Jensen, Development and Communications Manager of Arts for L.A. gave a presentation on the report “Impact on the Arts on Individual Contributions to U.S. Civil Society.” This presentation was both humorous and eye-opening. The most important lesson learned from his presentation was that we have a responsibility to thoroughly analyze and scrutinize the information presented to us in research findings. We cannot simply take these findings as facts. We need to understand the context in which the researchers are presenting their data, as it pertains to sample size, demographics, background of the researching organization, and the age of the data being used to draw conclusion.
The Arts Research Happy Hour reminds us that research is not just something that is examined in a back room by one person within an organization. It is important for those of us in all levels and disciplines to recognize the significance of research and how it can positively assist in shaping successful programming, initiatives, messages and organizations as a whole. Of course, all of this was made more enjoyable in the company of like- minded friends and a glass of wine.
Brittany A. Gash the owner of BG Public Relations, specializing in public relations, marketing and social media strategies for Nonprofit Arts Organizations. During her years in Public Relations, has worked with the LA County Arts Commission, Ford Amphitheatre, Brazilian Nites Productions, Loudmouth Productions, Taikoproject, Viver Brasil and many more Los Angeles based organizations. She is also a Membership & Marketing Associate for The Da Camera Society, presenters of the renowned Chamber Music in Historic Sites series. Since 2009, she has been a Culture Events Reporter for the online news source Examiner.com.