A 10 Point Post AMA Conference Manifesto!

You know how you go off to conferences and feel inspired to change the world, but usually the feeling fades after a few days back in the office and no-one actually does anything differently as a result? Well, I wanted to capture that potential for change by summing up this year’s Arts Marketing Association conference in the form of a manifesto for all arts organisations – based around Diane Ragsdale’s Keynote, which made 7 points which she then developed in her ‘In conversation’ breakout session. Many of Diane’s points were also echoed and developed by the other keynote speakers and breakouts. For some, these recommendations will mean a big shift in organisational culture. For others, who are already doing these things, to greater or lesser extents, well, there’s always room for improvement…

So, without further ado, I present The AMA 2009 Conference Manifesto!

The conference recommends that arts organisations need to…

1. Be more open and porous and allow audiences better access to the development of the art, e.g. put webcams into rehearsal rooms, invite audiences (not just members) into rehearsals, allow audiences a say on programming.Try one thing and see how it goes…

2. Broker relationships between audiences and art – fostering better internal communication and collaboration between artistic and marketing departments (perhaps even merging the two into one team) can help towards this. Maybe start with a monthly brainstorm across departments around a new season or event.

3. Allow the art to be digitized and re-appropriated by audiences online, to allow better access and co-creation with audiences – (recognise that if it doesn’t exist on the internet, it doesn’t exist). Find a good partnership with an artist or other organisation and experiment.

4. Offer a platform/space for social interaction around the arts (recognise that seeing other people is as important as seeing the art). Is just having a bar enough? Should we be offering more concrete opportunities ie. the equivalent of book clubs?

5. Allow audiences to become co-creators. We need to embrace the shift to a pro-am culture, and recognise the value of all art no matter who made it.

6. Invest in audiences. Realising that taste is cumulative, we should educate our audiences to help them develop a deeper appreciation of the arts (e.g. Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Beyond the Score programmes: http://www.cso.org/beyondthescore/about.html)

7. Avoid growth for the sake of growth, and seek relevance and impact instead. Organisations should beware that they must constantly strive to retain the relevance that they have only precariously attained. Institutions cannot and should not be maintained for their own sake. Ironically, as institutions have grown, audiences have declined – we need to reverse this trend.

8. Foster adaptation and diversity. Creeping normalcy must be avoided, but this must also be balanced against avoiding ‘premiere-itis’ and over-valuing new work.

9. Collaborate to grow the shrinking pie. Like social service organisations collaborating to tackle social issues, arts organisations should join together to tackle the issue of declining arts attendance.

10. Manage audience expectations – by being honest, and building the idea that not everyone will like everything, we will gain more trust. We should also avoid over-intellectualising the arts, and ensure that audiences are made to feel that an emotional response to art is equally as valid a rational response.

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