HESSENIUS Group on 'Changes' facing the ArtsHi everyone.
"And the beat goes on......................"
I. Changes in the world and the impact on the arts
"Cha, cha, cha, changes...................."
This month's HESSENIUS GROUP considers the major societal "changes" the arts face in the future, what impact those changes might have and what we might do in preparation.
The group will go live at the Americans for the Arts conference in Milwaukee on June 3rd in a plenary session to consider the impact of changes in populations shifts, immigration patterns, baby boomer retirement, evolving roles of women in society and business, changes in the nuclear family, philanthropic funding trends, global politics, and natural disasters - from floods and climate changes to health pandemics - and how those impacts may manifest challenges and opportunities to the arts field.
Click here for more info on the AFTA conference in Milwaukee: http://www.artsusa.org/events/2006/convention/010.asp
No one knows what will happen in the future, but it is a relatively safe bet that there will be profound changes over which we will have little control that will dramatically impact our field. We need to promote a national dialgoue on those potential impacts so that we might anticipate some of the changes and prepare, as best we can, for their eventuality.
This month's group will help to set the stage for that dialogue in Milwaukee (where Nancy Glaze, Cora Mirikitani, Bob Lynch, Anthony Raditch and Andrew Taylor will join me a guest participant: Cuong Hoang - the Director of Programs for Philanthropic Advisors LLC. - to consider these issues.
For some background on the subject, click here for an article in Fast Company:
Rebecca Ryan (President of Next Generation Consulting) and Donna Walker-Kuhne (President of Walker International Communications Group and marketing expert) both join this month's group discussion of "changes".
So, Issue One:
What kinds of societal changes, patterns, trends, events and movements are likely in the next five to ten years that will have an impact on the arts, what might that imapct be, and how can we deal with it? How do we begin to even organize such a discussion?
I ask you Cora Mirikitani.
I think there are at least five big trends and forces that the arts field will be reckoning with in the next 5-10 years: An intergenerational leadership transition in nonprofit organizations of enormous magnitude; changing demographics of audiences; decreased stability and viability of arts 501(c)(3)s due to declining capacity and lack of market adaptability; change in the way that arts are produced, consumed and funded as the result of new technologies; and a more robust and independent role for artists in the arts marketplace, and in the nonprofit arts ecology.
Nancy - you want to comment on the issue of succession and recruitment of the next generation to the arts matrix?
The individuals who been an integral part of the creation of the nonprofit sector over the past 30 years are an invaluable resource for younger generations of arts leaders. These "old-timers" are leaving the field at a point where the underlying structure of the arts system is shifting dramatically. We are at risk of losing important information and critical insights from these individuals at a time when they are sorely needed.
"Nothing endures but change." From Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius
Having just returned from the National Arts Marketing Project in LA this past week, I am intrigued by this question of change. Much of the conference was spent talking about technology and how it is changing the face of arts marketing, but we also learned that traditional marketing channels aren't as dead as my business school professors would like me to believe. Internet marketing makes up a relatively small percentage of many arts organizations budgets these days, including mine...yet we all know we must embrace the web or face our doom.
This is an apt illustration of the challenges facing the arts world as America's demographics change. I don't forsee any great transformation of the arts world in the future - we aren't going to someday wake up and decide to chuck it all and start over. Instead, we are going to struggle with the need to service an aging baby boomer population (the ones with the money), and a growing "echo-boomer" population - the ones who are incredibly tech savvy, experts at social networking, and are more comfortable with video games than symphonies. (And let's not forget the changing racial and cultural dynamics - but we'll set that aside for now). Many of the middle generation, young managers like myself, will find themselves under more pressure to be Renaissance men and women, able to speak the language of the greatest generation while simultaneously text messaging, blogging, and podcasting (and employing whatever other innovations are likely to surface). And by far the biggest challenge is going to be the inherent tension that arises when old and new are mixed together - letting go of old ideas is hard. Letting in new, unproven and risky ideas is even harder. Change is hard - and we in the arts field have a love of "the way things have always been done." Some of those things don't need to change. But many do, and organizations that want to thrive, not just survive, will have to get really good at keeping a foot in the past while walking steadily forward.
Andrew, the concept of "change" is almost too big and unwieldy to grasp. Can you help us to "frame" this issue?
There's an old aphorism that suggests ''the only constant is change,'' which MUST have been written by an arts conference planner. ''Change'' has been a constant theme of arts conferences and convenings for well over a decade. In fact, it's such a recurring theme, I sometimes wonder if we're running in circles.
So, as we convene in Milwaukee for another discussion of change in the arts, I'd like to nudge the conversation along by suggesting a variation on the theme: If we're really honest with ourselves and dispassionate in our view of cultural history, how much of our current struggle is REALLY due to changes in how the world works? And how much is just a discovery of truths that have always been there?
I'm thinking of an analogy in physics. In the past few centuries, Newton framed and deduced the forces of gravity; Neils Bohr mapped out the path of an electron; Einstein suggested curved space. Throw in quantum physics and string theory, and you could certainly say that physics, as a discipline, has undergone radical changes far beyond what we could claim in our infant industry of arts management. But despite all that radical rethinking about the physical world, did reality change AT ALL in that time? Or did physicists come to see that same reality in different ways?
When you start to tease out some of the common claims of a changed arts environment, the "new issues" start to unravel into eternal truths: audiences never came just for the art, but for a complex set of reasons; the power and production relationship between donors and artists has always been complex and vexing; the shifting shape and texture of demographics have always strained against the established and dominant cultural forms. Perhaps some of these changes aren't changes at all, but rather a more nuanced view of what was always the case. I'll grant you that communications technology and other factors have intensified some of these variables, but that doesn't make them new.
It sounds like a semantics game, but it has specific impact (at least in my head). "Change" means we are victims...we are tossed around in tidal forces that sap our strength and cloud our way. "Discovery" means we are explorers...knowing we can't ever be right, but learning as we go how we can match our models of the world more closely with our experience of the world.
One of those metaphors feels crushing and oppressive, and leads us to posture in defense. One feels expansive and encourages us to question. What if we shifted our collective rhetoric from "change" to "discovery," to see if the weight on our shoulders is reduced just a touch? It may just be semantics, but symbol and metaphor are the heart of our business. We might as well take them out for a spin.
OK - then we need to "discover" some concrete truths. Donna (and welcome to the group and thank you for joining us for this discussion. We're honored to have you) let's narrow the conversation for a moment to your area of expertise - audience development. What "changes" are the arts facing that will impact their audience development efforts?
Our changing demographics speaks to the idea and understanding of how, class, culture, and behavior function in the choices our audiences make and how they access arts and culture. What's important for us as arts marketers is to remove as much as possible stereotypes and replace them with healthy and respectful curiosity for creating diversity in the marketplace.
Specifically as it speaks to changing demographics: The NY Times tells us that in New York whites will constitute a minority of the region's population within a few years. What's growing is the Hispanic and Asian population. Hispanics and Asians will constitute 61% of us population growth by 2025. 100 years ago, 90% of immigrant community was European. In less than 20 years, the majority will be non- European what does this mean for your cultural organizations, programming, and marketing.
How will we prepare for these new audiences and what methods will we use to communicate to them?
USA today in a recent article described some of the behavioral characteristics of Generation Y. It described this group of 70 million individuals as 'young, smart and brash'. Those born 1977-2002 are the fastest growing segment of our workforce and are looking for change. They don't stay too long in one place and do not necessarily want to see the same thing. They are extremely computer savvy hence the increase in the use and application of interactive marketing.
The New York Times, April 26 had an article about Generation Y who are featured on a MTV show that highlights their Sweet 16 birthday celebrations. Titled, "My Super Sweet 16 documents priviliged kids who have had their coming of age extravanganza captured on TV. Celebrations sometimes cost over $200,000. One daughter will have her party with elephants. She received a Mercedes, diamonds and the other sister a Bentley, diamonds and 2 houses in India. Invitations were delivered by body builders. The article notes, 'you can do anything, be anyone'. My question is - what is the relationship to the arts- can we compete with this? I believe the competition for audiences today is not with other cultural organizations, it's the internet, reality TV and customized entertainment such as pod casts.
With the aging boomers, those born 1946- 1964, 89 million Americans age 50+ represent a whole lot of buying power. Many boomers are still raising children (like me, I have a 4 year old) so this is an important group to target and should not be written off just yet, in the country's quest to engage younger audiences, boomers are living longer and will be good patrons of the arts well into their 80's says Bud Hodkinson of the Center For Demographic Policy.
This means that each age demographic represents a resource and rather than exclude any one segment, I'm encouraging us to expand our efforts.
Today's urban culture is largely defined by hip hop which went from the basement in the 1960's to inclusion in curriculum in some of our top universities, this $10 billion cultural movement that has proven to be an important tool for engaging our young audiences. There are many cultural organizations incorporating this art form in their programming to reach this target market. This includes exhibitions, theater, spoken word, music and dance.
What has made hip hop such a successful art form are its grass roots marketing and its broad appeal. In defining urban culture Jameel Spencer, marketing director for P. Diddy's clothing, music and merchandising empire notes that' it's much bigger than black and Hispanic kids in the inner city'. He cites "Sara Jessica Parker on sex in the city wearing huge door knocker earrings. Ashton Kutcher wearing a trucker cap. Urban America is not about where you're from or what you look like, it's about what you want to be."
"It used to be a location but because of cable TV and the internet it's a state of mind. The urban demographic is now psychographic, it's a lifestyle" He adds that the internet and cable TV offer a better appreciation for one another's culture.
I think this is an amazingly incredible eclectic time to present, curate and produce art and culture. How will it reflect our changing demographics and be inclusive is totally up to us. My goal is to do just that - invite everyone to the party!
So, if we are competing for audiences within this changing techno world, what happens to arts organizations that don't adapt to the times? Do we use the new media avenues for distribution effectively, or are we stuck with an outdated model of a big performance building in the center of a city? What happens if something, some cataclysmic event, I don't know what, threatens attendance at our events?
It seems to me that we may well face some such cataclysmic event. This is why we need, now more than ever, to be part of government service. Without that connection the arts will remain outside looking in. The market forces will prevail. We cannot market our way out of declining attendance caused by some kind of major event (like a terrorist attack), or even market forces. We may accept the reality that arts audiences for live art will always be smaller than in the past and let cultural darwinism take its course.
We need to better understand and utilize digital arts creation, transmission and dissemination. If we to be part of the newer technologies that engage audiences and perhaps even involve them as co-producers of art. Take my-space.com as an example, which will not go away during an emergency.
If anything this mode of expressing oneself will be accentuated. I look at myspace.com as the place where people create themselves or their public persona; they invent their story like a movie. It may be bad art but it is, I would argue, aesthetic communication using images and symbols. To me the question is how do we ramp up these venues with real poetry, spoken (i.e. written word) visual art, theater, and video. How do we use the urge to co-produce to our benefit as one of the ways to develop our audiences? Technology is a change which fits Andrew's discussion of a "discovery" and Barry's mention that some changes will bring opportunities born out of problems.
Arts organizations need to get over themselves: the next generation is engaged as much by the other parts of the experience - learning, connecting and sensing - as they are by the creative excellence of the art itself.
Here's a link to what we found about the next generation's art patron behavior:
http://www.nextgenerationconsulting.com/guests/?GuestID=98 (BARRY: This is a very good report with much information that can enhance our understanding and move our dialogue on next generation audiences forward. Thank you for sharing it with us - click on the link and check it out).
Tremendous change is already upon us, and the arts field is beginning to take notice and realize that we can expect far-reaching shifts in the way we do our work in the coming years.
Beyond the well documented demographic shifts occurring in our country, I believe that the basic notion of community itself will change by becoming more technology-based. Right now, communities are being created online amongst people who haven't ever met and are likely to never meet.
With an ever-increasing competition for peoples "entertainment" dollars, the arts field must take advantage of the opportunities for connecting and creating community that technology offers.
Audiences are demanding greater access to unique experiences, both in the comfort of their own home and in the traditional settings.
An interesting example can be found in one of the nonprofit arts fields biggest competitors, the film industry, which is currently reeling from a decrease in ticket sales. As a result, that industry is beginning to experiment with a number of innovative approaches to deal with this decrease in revenue: simultaneous distribution of movies (theatrical release, DVD, pay-per-view); selling DVDs and soundtracks in theaters and specialty screenings to name just a few. In the political realm, film has been used to support various grassroots (or netroots) efforts--films that were never released in theaters drawing masses of people to others' homes on a predetermined night for national "house parties."
These types of experimentation may not all be huge successes, but are necessary in this changing environment and point to an industry open to taking risks in order to maintain their audiences. What innovative approaches are the arts taking? I've seen a number: podcasts, festival blogs, inter- and multi- disciplinary programs, simultaneous bi-coastal performances, one-time only experiences, for-profit/non-profit collaborative projects, etc.
As arts workers, we cannot shy away from this challenge. After all, we are in the arts, which provides us with the unique opportunity of being able to tap the wealth of creative ideas from artists, administrators and community members in order to begin to experiment with how to respond and fill the needs of ever-more demanding and savvy communities.
I've done a couple of presentations this year on trends from outside the arts that impact on the arts. One key one is the "insperience" - where people have spent tons of money in creating home theatres - we need to develop ways to share arts products with people in those home theatres - also will come in handy if we're prohibited from gathering in large numbers.
Another key factor is time - we need to create more flexibility, so people can have both an arts experience and a good dinner in the same evening.
OK - let me throw something else out - a recent, and potentially postive, change: According to the PEW Research Center:
"By the end of this fiscal year, 42 states expect to rack up budget surpluses totaling $28.9 billion. Flush with cash, lawmakers and governors plan to reinvest in programs that were cut during the fiscal downturn in the first half of this decade when state budgets plummeted $265 billion into the red, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Higher education, transportation, construction and roads are expected to be the main beneficiaries, the report said. But states also are using the surplus to cut taxes, shore up government pensions and invest in rainy day funds."
What are the arts doing to recapture what they lost in state funds? What can they do?
Great comments, all. I'm eager to continue in person! In the meanwhile, I love Jodi's comments on the delicate balance of our change (or discovery) in arts organizations. We have a strong core audience that will be around for a while yet, and any radical shift in our strategies or tactics might disconnect them. And yet, we have a series of new audiences and potential audiences with different demands and interests.
This ability to run multiple strategies for multiple audiences and constituents simultaneously will be a key skill moving forward.
To Barry's point about what we should do to "recapture" funds we lost: arts education creates the audiences that will see us through the changes we are facing. Amid all the talk of how engaged kids are the in the new technologies of their lives - if we believe it's important for kids to experience the kinds of arts we experienced (a question that has it's own heavy overtones), we have the access points in schools that are crying out for help. If we are organizations that work to improve kids' education through the arts, and many of us are, that's where our efforts need to go. So many wonderful people already fight this fight; we should continue to improve on our arguments to our elected (and non-elected) officials about why investing in arts education is good for kids and good for communities.
Change - as you've all said - is a natural part of a human experience...and especially a capitalist economy. I'm not afraid of the changes many of you have mentioned, i.e. alienating older audiences by making programmatic changes, having to market a "lifestyle" like hip-hop has done. (I'm an entrepreneur, so if you throw me in a room full of shit, I will find the pony.)
In our project in Indianapolis - where we found that the art itself is not the core reason young patrons attend events - the arts community was VERY receptive to our findings and recommendations. In fact, we know that some arts organizations made changes to their websites the very afternoon after our team's presentation.
Regarding alienating older audiences...when was the last time you actually sat with an older patron and said, "Listen, if we want to attract the next generation to the arts, we're going to have to make a couple modifications to the programming...."? I've found - and this is only anecdotal - that your core, older patrons are as worried about the futures of their symphonies and theaters and museums as you are.
They get it. They have children and grandchildren and they're able to understand the need for programming changes if you take time to explain it.
I'm thrilled that the demographic changes are causing arts organizations to rethink their core mission, the way they market and track behavior, etc. I believe in measurement and have seen many non-profits do VERY well by bringing greater discipline to their budgeting, marketing and measurement. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, for example, does not commit to an exhibit unless 80% of its funds are raised. The result? Fiscal solvency and a true arts destination. The Children's Museum is the ONE place where even single, young professionals in Indianapolis go on dates. Why? Because it's multi-sensory and patrons aren't expected to know anything. A child's mind - a beginner's mind - is all that's needed.
Here's to bringing our Beginner's Minds to rethinking the role of arts in a changing society.
OK - let me try to pull all of this together and outline the areas of "change" that might allow the Group to address these issues in some organized fashion at Americans for the Arts next month. Going back to what Cora said at the beginning - what are the areas of changes that might dictate how we approach an intergenerational succession strategy, or consider changes in the way art is provided? We have several types of "changes" that will likely impact the arts field:
1. Demographic Changes - shifts in populations (e.g. immigration and migration patterns, baby boomer retirement etc.). These changes in demographics will then impact audience development, the labor force, political power bases, funding and other spheres. For example, if a significant percentage of retiring baby boomers migrate back to the cities from the suburbs (and there is some early indication that might be a trend), then that migration could create a new pool of potential audiences. Or, another example: minorities now account for half of all children in the U.S. under the age of 5. What will that mean for the way we approach arts education in the future? There are scores of implications to the demographic shifts that are coming.
2. Economic changes: Demographic changes will also impact economic development - directly and indirectly. So as migration spells growth for some areas of the country, and a decline in population in others, that fact will impact the economics of each area. And that will in turn impact funding. Another example: As city populations continue to move towards minority dominance, there will be a shift in political power in those venues. Will the new power brokers change the way they fund and prioritize the arts in each territory? Some economic changes are immediate. So, as I mentioned earlier, the PEW Research Center reported this week that 42 states will have surpluses this year. Will the arts get back any of the money we've lost over the past four years? How will we do that? Economic growth will also be impacted by global changes - so as China assumes more and more dominance, that will impact western economics.
3. Incidents and Disasters: We know the impact 911 had on tourism and the impact of decreased tourism on urban TOT dollars (on which many city arts organizations depend). What if there is another terrorist attack? What will be the impact of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina on the arts infrastructure? And what if there is a bird flu pandemic? Will millions of people stay and work at home to protect themselves (as the experts predict they will) - possibly for six to nine months? What would that do to audiences for performance organizations?
4. Technological Changes: As Jerry pointed out - there is a revolution in home theaters -- is that emblematic of a new trend towards "cocooning"? What other technological changes will likely impact the arts?
So in Milwaukee, we will try to examine and consider "changes" in these contexts - what impact will they have on the arts? -- how will they affect our strategies? -- and, what can or should we do as a consequence to prepare for those changes (some of which will be challenges and some of which will be opportunities; some of which will be immediate, some of which will be long-term)?
This conversation is obviously critical for our field, and Milwaukee should be only the beginning of a national dialogue on these issues - each of which should be examined and considered in far greater depth than one session. I hope the Group can consider any number of the issues that we will raise in Milwaukee, and get into some of them in depth over the next few months, and that conversations around them can take place across the country. We need to think about these changes and their impacts, and, to the extent we can, make contingency plans and develop stategies that address them.
We need to develop a collective "brain trust" or "think tank" that deals with our future. Other sectors are doing this. If we don't, we will have only ourselves to blame if we aren't prepared.
The June Group will report back to you on the conversation we have in Milwaukee and take the dialogue from there. I hope as many people out there as possible will share their thoughts. We need input from as many quarters as possible.
Milwaukee should be a wild session.
Thanks to everyone for their insights. We've just begun to scratch the surface.
Have a great weekend.
And remember, Don't Quit!