Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Houston & the Arts Marketing Conference

Although it's been eons since I posted, I find myself with free time as I sit in the hotel lobby at Hilton Americas-Houston waiting for my Super Shuttle to pick me up and take me to the airport. You see, dear reader, I have been in Houston for the past five days absorbing arts marketing tactics. I was fortunate enough to attend this conference and, truth be told, it has been amazing!

Americans for the Arts hosts the annual National Arts Marketing Project: in short, it's a conference for arts professionals to come and share their proven techniques in marketing, fundraising, development, audience segmentation, Web 2.0 practices, branding, community outreach, pricing, and so on. Leaders from across the country get together to bounce ideas off each other and teach emerging leaders what works and what doesn't. Organizations represented this year include (this is only a list from memory...there are hundreds) Steppenwolf, Arena Stage, Alley Theatre, George Street Playhouse, Wilma, Yale Rep; various (and hugely sought after) consultants provided plenary discussions included Alan Brown, Patricia Martin, Ed Keller; amazing vendors of innovative software consisted of Tessitura, TheatreMania, Patron Mail, Ovation and, my absolute new favorite (and hopefully future software provider) Easy-Ware Systems. My brain has been working overtime and I couldn't be happier.

Last year's conference was in Miami, Florida. It was my first experience with the NAMP conference and, upon returning back to the theatre, I was ENERGIZED and raring to apply what I learned immediately. Now, it's common, I'm told, for one to want to make everything happen instantaneously: it's not possible. There is just TOO MUCH great information to absorb and far too much work involved in applying what has been learned and to do so effectively in a short amount of time. Although I did deploy various techniques immediately, I had to wear blinders so as not to be disappointed that everything couldn't happen at once. It was advised and I'm glad I took baby steps: I would likely have felt defeated if something I couldn't pay proper attention to failed. Well, rest assured, I was not defeated.

I'm anxious to return home to combine my notes from last year with the copious notes I took over the past few days. I'm curious to see what, if any, duplications there are for, you see, I think I added to my arsenal: not only will my organization benefit from everything I learned from last year's conference...I will be even more prepared and "dangerous" with what I took away from this year's. If I sound excited it's because I truly, truly am.

OK. Enough. Let me briefly tell you a little about Houston: It is a wonderfully comfortable and artistic BIG city. I'd never been to Texas before so, when I arrived, I expected to see a lot of big hair, cowboy boots, stetson hats, and hear a deep southern drawl. That's not the case here in Houston. It is an arts mecca with a much more cosmopolitan, artistic feel than I expected. Although I've been in Houston for five days, I've met more non-Texas-born people living here than not. It reminds me of New York or Los Angeles: many of those shaping and growing the community are not actually FROM the community. Yes, they live here now but many of them came from elsewhere. It is reasonable to think that this city is a hub for the creative class. I mean, it is the fourth largest city in the United States. I just didn't expect it.

While here I saw a performance of "Always...Patsy Cline" at Stages Repertory Theatre (it was WONDERFUL) and a performance of "Secret Order" at Alley Theatre (WOW!). The NAMP conference also held their opening reception at the Museum of Fine Art where attendees were treated to lots of Tex-Mex food, wine, a tour of the museum and the musical and dance talents of amazing local artists. Across the street from the hotel (and RIGHT in the middle of the city; surrounded by the convention center, the Minute Maid baseball stadium, the Toyota Center, and many other major attractions I can't presently name) is a PUBLIC PARK designed in part by local artists. It can be compared to a small version of Central Park but with more art installations. Local people were spending time at this park every single day. Let me say that again, EVERY SINGLE DAY. The city turned (what looks like) a whole city block into a commune. A place in the heart of the fourth largest city in the US where, surrounded by art and beautiful gardens, families walk, talk, picnic, play and SPEND the city. My 16th floor room overlooked this "Discovery Park" and I have to say I people watched from my window more than I watched television. It made me very happy.

I am very, very happy to be returning home. To my family; to the cold; to my home; and to return to work. To have a job I increasingly love, and be anxious to utilize what I learned over an intense five day conference is mind-blowing to many reading this post, I know! Nothing pleases me more however than to think that, in whatever small way it might be, I may eventually contribute to the overall betterment of my arts organization and, in turn, hopefully increase awareness of the Arts in Buffalo. I'm aware that it is a lofty goal but one that, because of my passion and what I learned at this NAMP conference, one that I hope is inevitable.

Yee haw, Buffalo, I'm comin' home!

1 comment:

Michael said...

Buffalo Theatre is lucky to have you, Joey!