Reimagining arts and culture, and what it can mean for society
To make arts, culture and creativity a more celebrated part of everyday life, we needed to not only rethink how the field talks about its work, but also how its institutions engage with people and communities nationwide.
What was the challenge?
Benchmark research illustrates trends that arts and culture leaders know too well: Engagement with formal arts offerings has steadily declined in recent decades. Arts budgets are often the first cut in times of austerity and the last restored afterward. A holistic approach was needed to shift how the field engages and communicates its work to better connect with people’s deeply-held values.
What did we do?
Guided by MG’s Public Will Building model and in partnership with Arts Midwest, we launched the national Creating Connection initiative to make creative expression a more recognized, valued and expected part of everyday life. We began with nationwide research to uncover the links between people’s deeply-held values and core offerings of arts and culture. What we learned: People crave deeper connections—with the people they love, with their community, and with themselves and their heritage. Moreover, people see arts and culture as powerful vehicles for doing this.
We thus brought together arts funders, state arts agencies and a diverse array of arts and cultural institutions—from a community ballet in rural Oregon to one of the largest contemporary art museums in the U.S.—to develop, test and apply programming that aligns with people’s values for “connection.” We also evolved how the field talks about its work to make salient the benefits people derive from engaging in art and culture.
We established a new narrative—validated through testing—to elevate the benefits of creative expression, including enhancing personal growth, expressing and experiencing diverse voices, and promoting well-being and happiness. We mobilized four cohorts of 10 or more arts organizations into learning communities to apply Creating Connection values and messaging to their work, and provided hands-on technical assistance to customize messages and resources for their audiences. Through trainings, partnerships and presentations (in Oregon alone we engaged with 136 organizations), we are reshaping how the field interacts and is understood.
From our client:
“Creating Connection was a wonderful and thoughtful process that affirmed our organizational practices and provided many opportunities for our staff and company to grow. We continue to amplify our messaging to focus even more on individual and collective impact stories of our arts in education work, and have greatly expanded our digital platforms to reach a much wider audience. The training and technical assistance, both broad-based and tailored specifically to our needs, was exceptional.”
—Priscilla Kane Hellweg, Enchanted Circle Theater