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Audience Development Project
From Ambition to Strategy
The Audience Development Project, 2006 – 2007
Summary of the Final Report, June 2008
Written and Edited by A. Richard Turbiak
In keeping with its mission to promote and support cultural arts organizations, Boulder County Arts Alliance (“BCAA”) has undertaken a two-year initiative to develop and implement audience development strategies through the Audience Development Project (“ADP”).
The primary goal of the ADP is to help Boulder County cultural arts organizations attract and encourage more people from the Boulder County and Denver Metro regions to participate in the offerings of these organizations, resulting in the minimum of a five percent increase in earned income through ticket sales, class registrations or memberships. When organizations have increased earned income they are able to stabilize their operations and invest in quality programming, which positively impacts a community’s economy through increased business activity and the creation of more jobs.
During the first year of this initiative BCAA has partnered with nine premiere cultural arts organizations to research problems and issues associated with low audience turnout and arts participation; to develop and implement the strategies that will build participation in their organizations; and, to develop the tools to effectively evaluate the overall success of these strategies. These “partners” have been instrumental in establishing Boulder County’s national reputation as an arts community and have been struggling, along with many others in Boulder County during the post-2001 economic downturn in Colorado, to gain continuous financial support and earned income resulting from audience participation.
BCAA is proud to currently report that we have surpassed our intended goal by increasing the overall earned income of these “partner” organizations by 10.6 percent, an aggregate increase of $203,426 – from $1,926,345 in 2006 to $2,129,771 in 2007.
Further, in 2007 four of the participating partners applied for and received additional funding of under $35 thousand from the Colorado Council on the Arts to support “increasing cultural participation” initiatives developed through this project. And in 2008 seven Boulder County arts organizations received over $73 thousand dollars from CCA to support their initiatives to increase participation, four of which were participating ADP partners receiving over $50.5 thousand.
In 2007 BCAA expanded the ADP by inviting smaller cultural arts groups from Boulder County, recognized for their history of performances and community engagement, into this initiative as ADP “affiliates.” As ADP affiliates they have been introduced to our research and findings, and facilitated through a process that has helped them design audience development strategies to implement and evaluate as their organizational capacity allows.
Further, recognizing the positive impact of shared experiences, BCAA has organized two quarterly roundtables – one for the staff and volunteer leadership of the area community cultural councils, the other for the staff and volunteer leadership of area venues. These roundtables have improved cross-community and -venue communication, and have created a network to disseminate information and build collaborations that will advance the cultural arts in each community.
Recognition and Thanks
BCAA is proud of the results of our Audience Development Project and would like to extend its true appreciation to many for their support – through their ideas and knowledge, through their dedicated efforts, through their resources (in time, energy and money), and through their good humor. Their continued support is a testament to the success of collaboration and why Boulder County continues to be nationally recognized as a premier cultural arts community.
Most importantly, BCAA thanks the National Endowment for the Arts and the Boulder County Board of Commissioners for their strong financial support, as well as the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District along with the Boulder Economic Council, Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, and the Longmont Area Economic Council. Without it, this project would not have gone beyond the outline stage.
Next, BCAA would like to thank the members of its Board of Directors, whose vision to further expand BCAA’s support of Boulder County’s cultural arts organizations, lays the foundation for this initiative.
Thank you to Donna Gartenmann of the City of Boulder Arts Commission. Her collaboration continues to support and inform our daily efforts.
Also to be thanked is the “partners” committee: Jim LaVita and Katie Elliott, 3rd Law Dance/Theater; Joan Markowitz and Penny Barnow, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art; Sue Levine and Shoshana Fanizza, Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra; Catherine Underhill, Colorado Music Festival; Philip Sneed and Mell McDonnell, Colorado Shakespeare Festival; Nancy Smith, Frequent Flyers Productions; Malia Thompson, Old Firehouse Art Center; Gary Zeff, Open Studios; Peggy Bruns and Kathy Kucsan, Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts.
Also for participating and offering their expertise and insight, we would like to thank Radar Communications, as well as Maura Troester Nuñez and Brett Robbs, both assistant professors at CU School of Journalism/Mass Communication. Their approach in fully considering and incorporating the customer's perspective, combining many practices including journalism and anthropology, has brought the project’s participants closer to their customers. They have guided us to meaningful insights that will continue to inform our efforts.
In addition, we would like to thank H. Mark Smith from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for his charm and extensive knowledge and expertise that he has brought to the project, making it easier for us to develop, plan, implement, and evaluate the strategies birthed from this project.
For their counsel and support, we thank Elaine Mariner of the Colorado Council on the Arts; Dorothy Horrell and Susan France of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation; and Tony Tapia of the Western Union Foundation.
We would also like to thank the local area arts councils and the “affiliate” arts organizations. They have trusted us as mentors to guide them in developing and implementing audience building strategies for their own programs.
Thank you to Dan Pirallo and the Millennium Harvest House Hotel for their continuing support of the Boulder County arts community.
A special thank you goes out to Richard “Dick” Devin, retired Producing Artistic Director of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Dick’s dedication to collaboration between cultural arts organizations, as well as the business community, is the underpinning of this entire initiative. It is the example of his generous nature that fully colors this endeavor.
And finally, special heartfelt appreciation and respect goes to Alison Moore, BCAA’s former executive director. Without her tireless energy, creativity and vision, the Audience Development Initiative would not have evolved into what it is today.
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