August 31, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine Blossoms on the Web

Quick, run and jump into your VW bus and get to the movies to see Little Miss Sunshine.

Then run home and surf the web and experience the high tech low tech marketing tools used in the film's promotion. Visit the promotional website and don’t wait for a picture to load. There doesn’t seem to be one. Instead check out the links at the bottom. Ranging from Frank’s favorite blog featuring Proust and Dwayne’s browser homepage featuring Nietzsche to Design your own VW bus the links are surprising and engaging.

The advertising intermingles seamlessly with the virtual links to real topics of obsession of fictional characters. Where do fiction and reality begin and end? That is the beauty of the internet. It just doesn’t matter. Your interaction takes something virtual and animates it into a temporary reality.

This juxtaposition of reality and fiction must put purists into a headspin. How do they love a film that so blatantly promotes its advertisers? Frankly, I love this intermingling but then again smart marketing gets me jazzed.

Go ahead, design your own VW bus. You know you've always wanted one.

August 28, 2006

And Then There was Light

Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica understands how to target a segment of the tourism market. Yes, they will always have the visitors who search it out, but what about the folks who want entertainment with a high production value?

The Basilica has created a slick production that pulls visitors into its space after dark and with a high ticket price. For 10$ Canadian you get 35 minutes of pure entertainment. The production And Then There Was Light wraps the sanctuary in sail-like drapes onto which films are projected. Although the presentation and content of the films themselves is a bit cheesy you do get interesting historical information. Audience members wear headsets that present the audio in either English or French while the musical soundtrack is broadcast from the central speaker system and occasionally features the pipe organ.

As I watched in wonder at the high tech presentation, which included multiple projectors, light enhancements, sophisticated audio, and retractable drapes, I couldn’t imagine that the church would allow this kind of access to their facility. Turns out that the church created the production and hires technicians to run the show. It is now in its fifth year and the seats were 80% full on a Friday night.

After the performance we were invited to spend time viewing the Basilica. The iconography had a deeper meaning following the production and people lingered, some prayed, and many took photos of the spectacular facility.

The production pulls in new visitors, perhaps attracts new members, educates the public, and adds to the coffers. Instead of closing its doors at sunset it creates a light from within that attracts audience members, such as myself, who were simply wandering past. As I eagerly purchased a ticket I asked the box office person to get me to the church on time.

30th Anniversary of Montreal Olympics

Montreal hosted the 1976 summer Olympics and yesterday I celebrated by visiting
The futuristic looking stadium has a tower with a tram that takes you high above the city. (model shown in photo.) Unfortunately the tower wasn’t completed in time for the Olympics and it ran into huge construction issues and cost overruns. The retractable roof on the stadium wasn’t a huge success either proving that it could not retract nor hold up under the weight of snow. All this added up to my anxiety attack when I took the tram to the top. But I did get out (with prodding from the staff) and see the view.

Park planners were thinking beyond the Olympics and incorporated all kinds of features that would be of use after the games. The swimming pool arena has a children’s pool that was covered up during the games and used as an area for presenting medals. Now the building is a public swimming pool and workout gym.

The stadium was used by the Montreal Expos baseball team, who now play in Washington, DC. The day we visited it was used for registering runners in the Montreal Marathon. It still isn’t used in the winter since the roof has a habit of falling in on occasion.

Another interesting feature of Olympic Park is the Biodome which housed the indoor bike track during the games but is now a environmentally conscious interactive museum. It features four different climate zones and has all kinds of wildlife including children running, jumping, and screaming in every imaginable language. Please don’t feed the animals.

August 26, 2006

Oh! Canada

To complete my summer fun I've taken a side trip up to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I'm actually in France - at least it feels that way. This is the most bi-lingual city in North America but don't assume that English is everyone's first language. French is first. After Bonjour they switch to whatever language you speak. Walking down the street you hear conversations that perfectly mix French and English.

I'm sitting in an amazing cybercafe called BalletNet24. There are about fifty luxary computer terminals each outfitted with a super cozy leather lounge chair. The place is mostly filled with guys in their late teens and early 20s playing computer games or surfing the web. I'm the only chick over 20, 30, 35....

To get here I took Amtrak from Penn Station which was supposed to be a 9 hour trip but really was 12. That's okay because the landscape was amazing. We headed up the Hudson River and then continued into Canada. Often we were on a single track requiring that we move at the pace of a bicycle. I loved it - for me the train is part of the get-away.

Here are shots I took along thejourney. Starts with rainy landscape along the Hudson River. From there a shot of Fort Edward in NY and then the tracks on the way to Canada and finally the Canadian farmland. The final shot is actually the first - I spent the night in NYC. It seems to be advertising that moved from sidewalk.

August 19, 2006

Midcareer Leadership Development - Fellowship Summary Report

Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to work with Americans for the Arts as a Fellow researching leadership development needs of midcareer arts managers. Inspiration for this work came out of my own questioning of what it means to be midcareer. The larger context for this research is the impending labor shift as pioneers of arts nonprofits, now on the brink of retirement, perceive a dearth of qualified successors. Those ready to take the helm are equally frustrated wondering if the field can foster their leadership aspirations. The concern is exacerbated by census statistics indicating a shrinking labor pool available to replace senior leaders in the next ten years.

The research methodology involved dozens of arts professionals from across the country who participated in roundtable discussions, peer groups, online surveys and one-on-one interviews. These candid discussions with arts managers, funders, educators, consultants, management service providers, and board members, as well as self-identified mid-career arts managers, have allowed me to paint a picture of midcareer leaders.

My conclusion is that the leadership pipeline is underdeveloped and midcareer is the point at which arts professionals seriously question their future in the field. No longer on the steep learning curve of establishing their footing, midcareer managers are experts in their area of focus ranging from mid-level and senior management to Executive Director. Despite their accomplishments a desire for developing management and team leadership skills is unmet. Career paths plateau because organizations lack the resources to offer professional development or career advancement opportunities. This has resulted in a vast migration of professionals moving between organizations in endless pursuit of advancement opportunities. For many it means crisscrossing the country every two to four years.

Most alarming is the belief that Executive Director is the only viable career aspiration for leading the field. Regardless of interest or expertise it was sited repeatedly by research participants as the only way to be involved in the strategic advancement of an organization and to earn a competitive salary. Further concern comes from the need to balance career expectations with life goals such as having the means to start a family and obtain property. When unable to reach these goals many wonder if their future is in the arts. For some the solution has been to career transition into other sectors of nonprofit management or to exit completely. As one interviewee stated, “midcareer is the last opportunity to leave the arts and see if you can make it in the corporate sector.”

Americans for the Arts appreciates your participation, as do I. If you would like to follow up on this research please contact Anne L’Ecuyer, Associate Vice President of Field Services at 202.371.2830.

August 15, 2006

Get in the Games!

The Jewish Community Center of Stamford is currently hosting the Maccabi sports games for youth from around the country and a handful of other countries. I'm one of the official photographers for this week-long event.

For photos visit the Maccabi Photos website.

Here is a great photo of the three volleyball athletes we are hosting from San Francisco. (l-r) Alina, Sophie and Eva. I love having them here - not just because they are from San Francisco but also because they are so funny, goofy, care free, not-yet-boy-obsessed and just plain fun. They love Tika cat and my Grammie. Their morning routine is always amusing and the house looks like a tornado hit it. Like having three sisters.

August 11, 2006

Today I am Smarter

I officially have increased my value today by three.

First, I found out that I have been accepted into the City University Arts and Culture Management PhD program in London. Can I afford it? well no. But it sounds good.

Then, I completed my Americans for the Arts Fellowship. Summary report coming soon.

The topper is an increase in my credit limit from one lovely credit card company.

See, good things happen in threes. (Don't worry, not going to use the credit card to pay for the PhD. I'm too smart to fall for that.)

August 8, 2006

Book Review: Nonprofit Lifecycles

Nonprofit Lifecycles: Stage-Based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity
By Susan Kenny Stevens, Ph.D with a foreword by Paul C. Light and Published by Stagewise Enterprises, Inc. - March 2002

Winner of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management's Terry McAdam Book Award for most valuable nonprofit book published in 2002.

Review by Amy Kweskin, Research Fellow, Americans for the Arts

Nonprofit Lifecycle: Stage-Based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity uses easy to understand developmental and organizational theory to guide in evaluating the health and evolution of any organization's capacity functions. The most valuable feature of this workbook-style text is Susan Kenny Stevens' illustration of Nonprofit Lifecycle Capacity Placement. Clearly articulated, easy to communicate and endlessly applicable this diagram-based methodology can be used to chart the evolution of all aspects of organization and program development.

The organizational lifecycle, like the human lifecycle, begins at conception and ends in death. Stevens frames these stages as Idea, Start-up, Growth, Maturity, Decline, Turnaround, and Terminal. Pinpointing the evolutionary stage of key organizational functions allows for board and staff to identify the health (capacity) of the organization. These functions include Programs, Management, Governance, Financial Resources, and Administrative Systems. You need not be limited to these areas. The model is endlessly adaptable and can be used by board and staff with equal effectiveness for addressing any management capacity issue.

I used Stevens' model in a Board Leadership Training program to explain organizational lifecycles to a group of corporate executives and they found it extremely useful. It became our template for discussing a variety of organizational capacity development scenarios. Additionally, I used it with a class of undergraduate arts administration students to address leadership development and their own career evolution.

Charting the current stage of each capacity building function allows the organization to conduct its own situation analysis. The process jump starts strategic planning and enables organizations to proactively engage management services. Stevens clearly identifies the diagnostic characteristics and performance outcomes in each stage allowing for goals to be articulated and benchmarks to be set with measurable charting of progress. Using this text empowers organizational stakeholders to objectively evaluate the vitality of the organization. It also is one of the few resources that candidly addresses organizational decline and termination.

August 7, 2006

Back to New England and Queen Tika

After a taste of London I'm back in Connecticut for two weeks. Finishing up the Americans for the Arts research fellowship report and then photographing the Maccabi sports games hosted in my home town of Stamford.

Missing the hustle and bustle of London. Stephen and I agree that London is like a garden and every person and even every business has to be bigger and more outrageous to get attention - every lovely and fragrant flower outdone by the next. New England seems so green and quiet in comparison. Started noticing the bug sounds, where they there before? Saw three deer and two raccoons on my walk this morning. What, no double-decker busses waiting outside the window? Just the little yellow school bus taking kids to day camp.

Didn't get the consulting gig but I do have an interview for a Visiting Lecturer position teaching Arts and Culture Management at a London university. I'm going all out this time. Beginning to understand that when they say - a casual discussion - it is actually a full-on interview. Looks like there will be a whole panel interviewing me this time. Watch out - I'm going American on them.

Update on Tika cat – now pigging out regularly. Is this the healthiest sickest cat? No longer am I her primary care giver (aka food provider). Now she has my mom and Grammie to cater to her every whine and meow. Just one of her ladies in waiting. We have our very own Queen.

August 4, 2006

Trafalgar Square Festival

Located in the heart of Central London – or really the City of Westminster – Trafalgar Square is a vibrant meeting place. Always active with artists, tourists and activists the square features a giant fountain, Nelson’s Column surrounded by four giant lions.

For the next three weeks this is the site of the Trafalgar Square Festival. Stephen and I wandered down from the hotel, located just three blocks away, to view the activities. We spent quite a while watching Whose Hair Dares! by Osadia (Spain) a pair of makeup/hair artists creating fanciful looks for folks in the crowd.

Here are photos taken by me and Stephen. The girl in the red dress is the one in the chair having her hair and makeup created. Red, white and blue hair woman has a barbie on her head. Also some shots of the crowd.

August 2, 2006

Big Brother is Watching You

This first photo is of Big Brother who is always watching you here in London. CCTV closed circuit television cameras are everywhere. At first I thought this photo was cool - looked like a shadow from something out of Star Wars. Then last night, when Stephen couldn't sleep, he turned on the tv and started watching other people sleep. I totally freaked out. "What are you watching!?" Big Brother he tells me. What? I thought it was an image of us and that the hotel had a camera in our room.

Turns out it is a reality tv show. Must be perfect for insomniacs - encouraging them to sleep by watching others in peaceful bliss. Kinda like one of those Christmas fireplace images they put on tv around the holidays so you can pretend to be sitting around the fire.

Here's a photo of Big Brother Stephen at London Bridge. Notice the Houston hat and the weekend casual scruffy face look.

Other photos are the typical touristy things.

August 1, 2006

Midcareer Leadership Report Update

Still writing the Midcareer Leadership report for Americans for the Arts. Summary to come at the end of August.

First UK Interview

Had my first UK interview today. Turns out it wasn’t informational – it was the real deal. Good thing I got gussied up. They waited until I was in the UK and able to be interviewed before they decided who to hire. Wow, a viable candid.

Arts is arts is arts. I felt on strong footing during the interview. It was a very candid, frank and professional discussion about the state of the arts in the UK and US. They were concerned about me being able to get up to speed on the UK scene and funding ins-and-outs. My selling point was that you have to learn the ins-outs and agendas (as well as egos) of every client regardless of their country, city and company.

What really caught their attention was my background in person-to-person relationships, which I believe is one of my strengths. Here it is not customary to make individual financial contributions to the arts. My experience with individual donor campaigns, which I tie closely to marketing, audience development, strategic planning and leadership development, are an asset.

The other relationship building they thought was interesting is the way that I cultivate new clients. It is all about networking - being there when someone needs assistance, top of mind, always visible. That’s how I landed almost all my consulting projects and many jobs as well. This consulting firm mostly responds to Requests for Proposals and hopes for repeat business. Cultivating relationships is a priority for them. Maybe it is the American way?

Stay tuned. Fingers crossed.