Wednesday, April 7, 2010

FAF Embracing Community Art Center Partnerships?

This week, the Fine Arts Fund announced on its blog a program that links our larger arts organizations, like the Cincinnati Art Museum to neighboring art communities north of the city. Fine Arts Fund Presents is designed to increase the presence of our celebrated art organizations with events scheduled in Blue Ash, Sharonville, West Chester, Fairfield, Hamilton, and Oxford.

This series presents another effort to engage our northern suburbs with the hope we can entice their residents to come to Cincinnati to visit the museums, see an opera, the ballet and other art venues. Ultimately, the goal is to present Cincinnati as the city it is; one with an artistic wealth that many other cities should envy (West Chester, ahem).

I've always been an advocate for sincere partnerships in the arts and real collaborative programming that honestly engages the communities. For this, I am excited about Fine Arts Fund Presents. I think it is a good way to close out the FAF Annual Campaign. At the same time, I get uneasy about any programming that functions through only recruitment strategies and neglect to include those that increase retention.

I do understand the importance of reaching out to our neighbors north of us, even as far north as Oxford hoping to grow and sustain arts patronage. I actively pursue this myself by marketing my art tour series in Mason and Fairfield and by simply assigning my Miami students to visit the CAM (making a museum visit and a written art analysis 40% of a student's grade, works wonders). But I do believe that community outreach can sometimes reach too far with risks of overlooking those in our own backyard. Big investments in recruitment efforts with no solidly planned retention programs is costly with little reward. I do imagine residents north of us are excited to attend many of the the Fine Arts Fund Presents events, but it doesn't really follow that this programming will result in their visiting the city. I expect instead when it is all over, the exciting and positive reviews will come in with most ending, "the people of (fill in the suburb here) look forward to next year when they will have another opportunity to get a taste for Cincinnati's art," or something like that.

The FAF enjoys touting "Art All Around Us," but honest engagement of art in our communities relies on seeing our art centers as partners in programming not as mere venues for art attractions. Community outreach is a valuable recruitment tool, but that is all it can do, recruit or entice new visitors. Programming that reaches the core of our community, our diverse neighborhoods, our history is the stuff that truly engages an audience through celebration and results in a sense of civic pride that will help retain our current residents and art patrons. Who would want to leave a city that is active in self-pride? Outreach is fine, but reaching in our communities to recover its wealth would almost certainly entice those who live in West Chester, Mason, Loveland, Liberty Township and even as far as Oxford to visit Greater Cincinnati to be part of our proud city.

I do wish success to the Fine Arts Fund Presents in attracting large numbers of people to each of these events. With this success though I hope the FAF and our larger arts organizations will explore more opportunities to develop programming that honestly engages the wonderful neighborhoods art centers within the city.



Unknown said...

Collaboration is such an essential part of success in arts programming. The Fine Arts Fund is doing amazing work in bringing the arts to the community and also to encourage partnerships among SO many arts organizations.
I appreciate their efforts!
Meredith Raffel
Executive Director
Mason-Deerfield Arts Alliance

Diana Taylor said...

The efforts of the Fine Arts Fund has provided community arts centers with so much valuable information and assistance, that I cannot find anything to criticize about their efforts. The Woman's Art Club of Cincinnati is proud to be a part of all they do.
Diana Taylor
Executive Director

mlutwak said...

The Playhouse has been partnering with community arts centers in order to spread our resources, reach a larger community than those who are accustomed to coming to our theatre in Mt. Adams. If some of them end up visiting our facility, that's great, but in the meantime, we've made professional theatre happen 1 or 2 or 3 times at 20 different locations this past year. In each case, with the help of our partner organizations, we've engaged enthused, passionate audiences that we might not have reached otherwise.

Mark Lutwak
Director of education
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park