I am pleased to report that last week the Performing Arts Centers Consortium held its first-ever Education and Community Engagement Conference at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The conference was three days of meetings, dialogues, panel discussions and enriching one-on-one conversations to share and learn from each other about our nationwide efforts, including Canada, to engage various communities with the performing arts.
Twenty-five performing arts centers were represented by either Education or Community Engagement staff. Because the field of Community Engagement in the performing arts is still relatively new, as compared to Arts Education, what was most encouraging to me about this inaugural event was that there are enough administrators in the field today to even hold a conference! This marks a new era and reaffirms the growing importance of making concrete efforts to engage diverse audiences.
During the conference, we talked about the continued exploration, development and implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the need to expand those efforts to engage audiences with diverse abilities and our aging populations. We shared our personal values and how those values, along with our locales, informs the work that we do. Our discussion topics included: Listening to Your Community; Talking Shop; Partnerships, and the role of Teaching Artists. We also discussed tools for measuring the success of Community Engagement; strengthening the marketing and communications support; the role of artists in Community Engagement, and utilizing outdoor spaces as a form of engaging the community,
In addition, we shared our challenges with helping our internal organizations understand that Community Engagement is the lifeblood needed to sustain performing arts centers. As one participant aptly noted, it’s important for our fellow staff members to understand that “we don’t do community engagement to sell tickets.” Rather, we do it to build partnerships and connections; to ensure that our cultural institutions become an integral part of their lives. Ticket sales become a by-product of developing those relationships.
Another unique aspect of our conference was that it was held in the same location and a few days before the annual gathering of the CEOs of PACC. We designed our conference to provide our executive administrators with a better understanding of the work we do; the operational and financial needs for our programs, and how success is measured. We all know, from firsthand experience, that successful Community Engagement programs begin with leadership at the top.
I’d like to extend a personal thank you to our incredible hosts, the staff of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, for their generous and kind hospitality, which helped to make it a wonderful conference. We have made the commitment to make this conference an annual event in order to expand even deeper our commitment and efforts to engage diverse communities with the performing arts. If you’d like more information or would like to join us next year, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org .