arts advocacy

A few months ago, Erik Gensler at Capacity Interactive invited me to contribute to his podcast, and I found myself describing what I see as a “people” crisis in arts and culture.  I use this strong word, “crisis” because our field is entering a time of extraordinary transition, opportunity, and challenge.  I believe and see that we must have well-equipped, capable people guiding us through that transition.  People who take risks and experiment.  People unafraid to fail and move through failure to success, or to something different.  Our communities deserve this and actually need this from arts and culture.  Our country does, too.

That episode resonated with a lot of people, and as a result, I’ve been thinking and talking about these ideas with increasing frequency, on behalf of our clients and within our own firm.  I’ve been thinking about the impact that people make, and how much they matter.

Our late founder and my friend, Rick Lester, believed in people, too. Before his tragic passing four years ago this week, Rick surrounded himself with the people he loved the most. He invested in people by mentoring inside of and outside TRG Arts.  He “leaned in” to people by teaching at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and through his people-focused consulting work.


Posted July 20, 2017


In 2012, TRG bloggers are taking a fresh look at data and trends that inform risks worth taking, best practices worth hanging onto, and assumptions worth challenging – each in time for action to be taken.
Competition for patron’s dollars is a subject that’s back in the industry dialog again, sometimes with negative overtones. Can we really still think that sharing a marketplace with other successful arts and entertainment organizations is a bad thing? Even with foundations willing to invest in collaborations? I find that disturbing, especially in view of the opportunities being mined daily by members of community collaborations nationwide.

Posted February 13, 2012


Both houses of Congress are back in session and their work on budget resolutions will determine whether and how much federal funding will go to important American arts institutions, including the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, and National Public Radio. At the state level, arts agencies are up against a rapidly devolving scenario of proposed measures that would radically restructure or eliminate them. All of us who care deeply about sustaining arts and culture in America are looking for the best ways and means of advocating for government support. The need for ever-better practices will not end with the current threat of cuts or this round of budget debate. Making the case for public funding for the arts has become an ongoing imperative. 

In late January, I attended the Biennial Conference of The Broadway League, the trade organization that represents the interests of those engaged in the business of theatre. The primary topic for this Washington, DC conference was advocacy. The immediate League goal was to meet with the very members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives who now are determining the fate of funding for America’s arts and culture.  

Posted March 1, 2011


As I was reviewing data for this post, two significant contributions to the national dialogue on arts and culture sparked a lot of online discussion. The publication of the National Arts Index by Americans for the Arts and comments made by NEA chairman Rocco Landesman raised compelling questions about the nature of supply of and demand for arts organizations, arts venues, and forms of expression. The consumer trends we see in transaction data offer additional perspective to consider on the demand side of this ongoing conversation, which is provocative and timely. We hope it will continue. 

When I was a new young marketing director, my boss at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra began my orientation with a number of helpful observations about the new job and the field I was about to enter. One key ‘fact’ really pulled me up short. The target market for a symphony orchestra, Managing Director Steve Monder stated, was very different than my prior experiences as a marketer in the theme park industry. Supporters of the typical symphony orchestra accounted for no more than 2% to 3% of the population in any community. To succeed as a new marketing director, I would have to quickly learn an entirely new skill set. I would have to efficiently find a very small target market.  

Posted February 14, 2011


For the past decade, TRG has partnered with arts and culture communities to develop and manage shared patron data services.These community databases, often called cooperatives or coops for short, are typically built to help organizations save money through shared services. Coops also develop new patronage and revenues using smarter and more efficient communication tools.This new generation of community databases has become America’s largest single repository of information about arts and culture consumers and their behavior. Savvy arts leaders across the country are learning new ways to use coops as a resource to advance the arts agenda in their communities. Specifically, they want to match arts consumers with voter registration files. Why? Facts win cases when advocating before public officials and voters. In this post, we offer our thoughts to the current online dialog on advocacy nationwide, including on the Americans for the Arts blog and its green paper, The Future of the Public Voice in Arts Advocacy.

The mid-term elections in the U.S. are only six months away, but already forces of all sorts are lining up to make the case for the candidates they want – or, this year especially, don’t want. Points of view on must-win issues at the federal, state and local level vary wildly among Democrats, the GOP, Tea Party, incumbents and those positioning themselves as government “outsiders” Making a case that will win over politicians and voters is a lot like direct marketing success. It requires putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

Posted May 12, 2010


A patron behavior study for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, published as part of the Engage 2020 Research Into Action Report in September 2009.

Posted September 21, 2009

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