Tag Archives: audience development and venues

Arts business structure and audience development…an evolution!

I had the pleasure of meeting in person one of my twitter friends, Misha Penton, during her visit to Boulder, CO this week.  Misha is a mezzo soprano from Houston, TX that formed her own “Opera, Classical Vocal Music & Multidisciplinary Performance Arts” ensemble company. This mouthful became Divergence Vocal Theater.

After many tweeted conversations about audience development, Misha informed me that her company is not a non-profit, but functions on a project by project basis under the fiscal agent The Field in New York.  The Field is:

Founded by artists for artists, The Field has been dedicated to providing impactful services to thousands of performing artists in New York City and beyond since 1986. From fostering creative exploration to stewarding innovative fundraising strategies, we are delighted to help artists reach their fullest potential.

I have been seeing similar agencies and formats around the country being created to help artists meet their needs without them having to incorporate.  We in Boulder have our Boulder County Arts Alliance.

During our dinner conversation, we began discussing the typical non-profit business structure. There were specific questions that came up:

  1. Is this structure resilient enough to meet the challenges of our current modern world?
  2. Does the larger non-profit structure create a barrier between artists and audience?
  3. Is there too much “red tape” involved for every decision to be made?
  4. And, is there too much talk and not enough action in a non-profit structure?
  5. Does the non-profit business structure need to evolve?
  6. Is the non-profit structure comfortable for the new generations (GenX and GenY)?

Misha admitted how easy it is to implement new ideas and engage with her audience without having to consult a board every time they wanted a new idea to be brought to light.   With having a fiscal agent, she was still able to do the standard fund raising necessary for her projects.  She contracts the ensemble members for each project.  Each project can be what it wants to be.  Collaborations can be formed easily.  It sounds like this could be a very viable way for artists to function.  However, there was one drawback mentioned.  Certain funding foundations do not recognize this hybrid business structure as worthy for funding.  They require non-profit status or they require the agent to be in state.

The arts world is exploring new business structures.  What is making me sit up and take notice is the fact that these new ventures make audience development more central to their strategic plans.  They have to work with their audience and build relationships to be successful, and the very structure itself gives artists the ability and opportunity to be artists with the audience instead of simply in front of the audience.

In relation to audience development, these artists are also branching out venue wise, embracing social media technology, and interacting with their audience in fascinating ways.  They are blazing new trails in a blink of an eye.  The majority are smaller ensemble organizations that are more mobile and have the ability to be more one-on-one with their fans.  Misha and I likened this structure to how bands are currently functioning and promoting themselves.  Could it then be possible for these artists to obtain followings that could potentially catapult them into “rock star” status?  The arts world could certainly use this type of recognition.  Right now these artists and projects are being covered in the news and spread around the internet (very buzz worthy). Obtaining an audience seems to become easier and easier over time for these artists.

Perhaps the arts world in general needs to evolve or continue to explore the current evolution that is in process as a community. Perhaps we need to begin advocating for more support of these independent yet collaborative artists to obtain equal grounds for  funding.

I did mention that certain organizations do need the non-profit structure, and it can work quite well if properly managed, but one-size business structure does not fit all, and it would be good if we as a community would support and embrace these branch outs and jump on the evolution band wagon.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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Filed under arts advocacy, arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development, Fundraising

Audience Development Tweets for 2009 Tweeples Choice Awards

We made it to 2010!  2009 has been a very  up and down year, especially for the arts.  We have been dealing with the aftermath of a bad economy (and some of us still are), but since we are creative people, there have been some fabulous new ideas to get us headed in a better direction.  Audience Development  has been expanding around the world.   Over the past year, as you know if you are my twitter friend, I have been scanning the news to find articles about audience development.  I thought it would be fun to do a top 10 of audience development ideas for 2009 blog, but I was in for a big surprise when I started this project.  There were over 70 choices listed on my page, and all of the ideas were good ones.  So, instead of making this project daunting in task, I decided to have a series of blogs that celebrates these ideas broken up by category.  Imagine reading in your best academy awards voice.

And the categories for Audience Development Tweets for 2009 are:

  • Most Interesting New Venues
  • Best Use of Mainstream
  • Best Arts Advocates
  • Best Use of Technology and Social Media
  • Best Audience Participation
  • Best Fusions
  • Best Collaborations
  • Best Festivals
  • Best Use of Going Informal
  • Best New Programs
  • Best Discussions
  • Best “Arts Make a Difference”
  • Best Audience Development Quotes
  • Best Audience Development Studies

I will be attempting to contact the “nominees” in order to get the background stories.  Until then, let’s start with the first category!

Most Interesting Venues of 2009

Venues will be defined in broader terms as a place where art can be displayed or performed.  Over the year, I am seeing us become more creative in where and how we can present our art.  Please pardon if a few of these ideas have been used in past years, but they were new and interesting to me, and they had a positive energy behind them.   

The nominees for Most Interesting Venues of 2009 are:

  • Keeping artists in the Loop Creative Showcase | Pop-Up Art program turns vacant buildings into galleries http://bit.ly/4DVbs8
    The Chicago Loop Alliance plays matchmaker with artists and landlords to beautify the vacant spaces with art.
  • Worth a repeat mention…Chiara String Quartet to Hit the Bar This Thursday http://bit.ly/8zvB3A
    The Chiara String Quartet performs in bars.
  • Audience development genius of the day…I think…Vending machine that dispenses art unveiled in Chandler http://bit.ly/582hG5
    Vision Gallery in Chandler (Arizona) unveils its newest installation, the Art-O-Mat, a vending machine that dispenses original art.
  • RT @ChicagoOpera In the cosmetics section of this Michigan Ave dept. store-with a red star in their logo– #popupopera

    Chicago Opera Theater during National Opera Week – free short performances of opera “favorites” in unexpected places in Chicago.
  • Cool idea…See your art on the side of an Asheville bus http://bit.ly/6RORxe
    The City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department announces a juried public art competition for the first Art on Transit Bus Graphics Program.
  • Audience development genius of the day! Been a while since we had one!…Changing the World of Classical Music http://bit.ly/Wco7w
    “Music Director/Conductor John Stubbs of California Ballet has created an extraordinary multi-media performance experience where live classical music, dance, and film converge for one special evening in San Diego’s most exciting music and dining venue — Anthology supper club in Little Italy.”

I wouldn’t be a very good audience development advocate if I didn’t invite my audience to vote on their choice. 
Here is the twitter poll – hurry polls will close tomorrow so I can post the winner:

Stay tuned for results as well as the nominees for our next categories: Best Use of Mainstream and Best Arts Advocates.  Until then…

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart


Filed under arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development