The AAGA was pleased to present the annual Fall Speaker Series on October 16th. Moderated by AAGA Vice President Lindsay Tucker So, the evening focused around organizations and institutions beyond Center City and the Avenue of the Arts that make up Philadelphia’s unique cultural character, which is extremely diverse in events, programs, and opportunities. Lindsay was joined by a panel of Arts & Culture experts including...
John Frisbee- Managing Director, Pig Iron Theatre Company
Mark Christman- Founder, Ars Nova Workshop
Jennifer Schick- Associate Director, InLiquid Art & Design
Ellen Owens- Executive Director, Philadelphia Magic Gardens
The panel spoke about their experiences working in the arts & culture industry in Philadelphia as well as the many challenges their organizations have faced. Lindsay started off the evening asking the panel what the similarities were between their small organizations and the Philadelphia "giants" as well as what made there's different.
John Frisbee spoke about how Pig Iron could do performances anywhere. He also spoke about how the work Pig Iron does is personal to the company. He said this can also be problematic because while it has meaning to the organization, it does not necessarily to the public.
Mark Christman spoke about facility cost and how Ars Nova does not have one (currently) which has cut down operational costs tremendously. Ars Nova has no overhead costs because of this and can program concerts on what one person makes full time. Ars Nova is resilient in that their focus is not on selling tickets to pay bills.
Jennifer Schick spoke about InLiquid's membership organization model and how they too do not have their own space. InLiquid has partnered with many organizations which reaches out to the community through different methods.
Ellen Owens was the only panel member whose organization has their own space but has art that is vastly different than that of the PMA. She spoke about the new form of community art which provides a new view of art to the public. She also spoke about how hard it can be to make changes at large arts institutions.
The panel members also discussed the variety of patrons they have coming through their "doors," with a much younger audience coming to many of their programs. John Frisbee spoke of a neat approach Pig Iron took last Fringe Festival when ticket prices were a big higher. During their performance of Zero Cost House they had money from Pew and approached them about using the leftover money to buy out the performance making it first-come first serve and a younger audience who could not afford the higher ticket prices to come. Needless to say, the event was sold out very quickly.
There was also a lot of talk about the world of social media and the grassroots marketing campaigns that many of the organizations represented have taken. An interesting topic was also the audiences access to the organization. This is not always the case with the larger institutions, but the four panel members really wanted to make connections with their patrons. They also stressed that if social media was used to make it personable and exciting to the general public!
Two final thoughts from the evening....
1. Accessibility is key! Making the events accessible to the public is huge. Many organizations are making strides in this (for instance, Shakespeare in Clark Park).
2. Advice to young entrepreneurs:
The evening was a wonderful discussion of the arts in Philadelphia and proved interesting and enlightening. Thanks to Lindsay for putting it together and especially our four panel members for taking time out of their busy schedules to come share their insight with us!