WolfBrown: On Our Minds

Given my background in urban planning, new funding initiatives that place arts facilities and programs in the context of community-building and neighborhood revitalization always pique my interest. LINC (Leveraging Investments in Community), in partnership with The Ford Foundation, has launched a new program to support the planning and development of new arts spaces called Space for Change. The program is notable for its holistic approach, which embeds planning, community engagement and operational capacity into the fabric of the funded facility projects.  In addition to funds towards planning and development, grant recipients will participate in training seminars in marketing, development, finance and other operational skills. Revitalizing communities through arts spaces is not as simple as renovating or building facilities.  It also involves supporting the ongoing needs of the artists and arts organizations that will inhabit these spaces, especially given the limited capacity of small and mid-sized arts groups to finance and operate facilities. The Space for Change  program is a step towards achieving a more comprehensive strategy of sustainable facility development, and could establish a new model for the sector.


Michigan may be the epicenter of the recession, but new forms of investment in the arts are on their way up.  In Grand Rapids, a philanthropist and social entrepreneur, Rick DeVos, invented an event called Arts Prize, in which he commandeered every available space throughout the city, sent out an international invitation to visual artists, and offered them free display space and the chance to compete for a range of cash prizes.  Citizens and visitors alike were urged to tour the venues and vote for their favorite works via text messaging. Courtesy of Arts Prize, a post industrial city has become the world’s largest, and perhaps most democratic, art gallery.  For centuries, arts and culture — at least in their formal, institutionalized versions — have been the preserve of the wealthy and the educated.  But now we live with a spectrum of phenomena stretching from American Idol to Arts Prize to Poetry Ark, all of which radically democratize the arts.  As never before, we have a chance to ask:

- What happens to museums when malls and old factories become galleries?

- If text messaging can fuel grassroots democratic actions, what could it do for the arts?

- Are there aspects of the arts that we should think twice about democratizing?



Viral Verdi Video

May 18th, 2010

The Opera Company of Philadelphia recently created an innovative marketing project, in which members of the cast of La Traviata performed the famed “Brindisi” in the aisles of Reading Terminal Market on a busy Saturday morning.  In addition to the hundreds of confused, but happy shoppers who may have been motivated to buy tickets (or at least drink) after hearing Libiamo ne’lieti calici, the performance was put on YouTube, where it has been seen (so far) over 56,000 times.  The “Flash Opera” viral marketing effort is also being cited in the marketing departments of many other arts groups as an example of how a little creativity and effort can sometimes be more effective at grabbing audience attention than an expensive traditional advertising campaign.


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