| TRG Arts UK & Europe team
Jill Robinson, President & CEO
Five years. As I told a colleague recently, it seems like yesterday and at the same time so long ago that TRG Arts founder, my friend and business partner, Rick Lester, passed. As many of you know, Rick was a cyclist and at the time of his death in the summer of 2013 was riding for a charity event in the sunny brilliance of July’s Colorado mountains. He was having the time of his life, summiting Vail Pass and being his epic, brilliant, enormous self. That’s his legacy, the way we’ll always remember him.
Shortly after that tragedy happened, I made a commitment to myself that our company and our sector would remember him. So, every year around this time I reflect on something that connects to Rick and his sensibilities for our field. You can see those prior blogs here, and I’ve found it a wonderful way to connect to his legacy and remember my friend.
In the five years since his death, much has changed. I wonder often what Rick would think of Trump’s rise and presidency, how often he would have seen Hamilton by now (the last show we saw together was Newsies in previews…he loved it…), and how he would have been engaged in our Colorado Springs arts community, as he was planning to be. But the thing that I think would have energized and excited him the most is TRG’s expansion into the UK.
I spent the last two weeks of June traveling throughout England on our behalf, and I reflected on this. Prior to his passing, Rick was working hard to get the attention of the National Theatre, convinced that TRG’s proprietary approach to demand management could help them maximize income for their now-global blockbuster production of War Horse
. He was right, of course. But at the time, TRG hadn’t yet had a single client in the UK. To start by pitching the venerable National Theatre was, well…epic. Brilliant. Enormous. It was Rick.
In the end, we didn’t work with the National Theatre, but by 2014 we did end up catching the attention of and working with the plucky, ingenious, entrepreneurial team at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, England. That experience (see their impressive case studies here and here) caught the attention of others, including our friend and now-team member David Brownlee. And the ball started rolling
Today, TRG’s team in the UK is six-strong and shares the same vision and purpose as we do everywhere: helping arts and cultural organizations become more data-driven and sustainable. I find myself saying it regularly right now: culture and creativity have never felt or been more important than it is today. The global perspective that we’re gaining helps me hear that, increasingly, people agree. Recently I picked up Darren Henley’s new book, Creativity: Why it Matters. Darren is chief executive of Arts Council England—a believer, to be sure, backs up his belief with good data about the impact of arts and culture on a variety of things, including the British economy, and reminds us that “…the contribution to the economy by the arts and cultural industries grew year-on-year by 10.4 percent…while the economy as a whole grew by 2.2 percent. The government is now making back £5 in taxes for every £1 it puts into the cultural sector.” It’s a compelling, quick read that describes the impact of the arts on UK lives, communities, education systems and more. I recommend it highly to anyone responsible for inspiring belief in our sector writ-large, especially those of us in the States. Who, to my ears, sound more weary and fearful than what actually serves our institutions, artists, or communities. Me thinks we could use a dose of Henley.
While our TRG team grapples with similar and different realities in our UK-based work, we’re loving learning from new models and sharing them back and forth with US and Canadian clients. While, at the same time, we are teaching clients in England, Wales and Scotland the best practices we’ve learned over 20 years. Rick would have loved it.
Five years. On one of my last days in England in June, I toured the Royal & Derngate in Northhampton with our client Martin Sutherland and my TRG colleague, Christina Hill. It was a gorgeous day and the venue was so full of history…history that we just can’t experience in the States. Our work there is having positive impact…it all felt very heady and epic. Brilliant and enormous. Rick would have loved it.