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Posts Tagged ‘inclusive’

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Photos: MOCA Cleveland
This museum is experimenting with new ways to be more inclusive, including free admission.

I’m impressed by the museum in this story because it has free admission every day in order to be more inclusive. Very unusual. The big museum where I live, Boston’s MFA, has one free day. It does have decent student hours, but it’s prohibitively priced for families on most days. Cleveland is going to have to raise a lot of money from grants.

Sarah Douglas writes at ArtNews, “If there is one word that has been on the agendas of almost every American art museum in the past few years, it is inclusion: How do institutions make diverse audiences feel welcome? The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland [has] announced a comprehensive plan to infuse inclusiveness into the museum on a structural and programmatic level.

“The five components of the initiative, which is called ‘Open House,’ are free admission for all, the creation of a diversity-focused curatorial fellowship (the first recipient is LaTanya Autry, who has held curatorial positions at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Mississippi Museum of Art), an engagement-guide apprenticeship program, enhanced onsite programming for families and teens, and the addition of an education specialist. …

“Jill Snyder, who has led the institution as its Kohl Executive Director since 1996, [says,] ‘We are taking what we hope is a noble approach that has a high quotient of humility, which is that we are really listening to what is going on in our community.’ …

“The museum’s lead investment in ‘Open House’ is the result of being the first recipient of a brand new grant from the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation called ‘Bold Initiatives,’ which gives $500,000 over three years to small and mid-sized institutions to enact comprehensive plans that affect outreach, diversity, and inclusion. …

“One of the components of Open House, the engagement-guide apprenticeship program, which the Thoma Foundation grant is supporting, gets to what Snyder refers to as the integration of ‘welcoming, collaborative practices into every aspect of our business.’ The museum is creating a cohort of 10 to 12 part-time positions, with hiring based on the diversity ratio of Cuyahoga County, and will mentor these hires in visitor services, guarding art, and how to talk about art. It will be designed like a fellowship program, and the hires will be given board mentors and guided as to how they can apply their new skills elsewhere. Snyder describes it as workforce training in the cultural sector. …

“ ‘We set about defining initiatives moving toward our 50th anniversary in claiming that this idea of a Kunsthalle in the Midwest had a specific meaning,’ Snyder said. … ‘We saw that with artists, that what they were doing was not mediated through an art-world ecosystem, because we don’t have that here. There is no proliferation of galleries, collectors, and art criticism — those filters. So there is a more direct engagement between artist, museum, and community.’ …

“Open House [is] meant ‘to lower barriers to entry and to work on inclusion and accessibility. Even if we get people in the door, how do we make the encounter with new art rewarding?’ ” asks Snyder. That will be the ongoing challenge, but Cleveland is up for it.

Read more at ArtNews, here. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, museums offer free admission this summer to people on public assistance. And then, there’s this about a gift to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art that will allow for free admission.

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Photo: Colin Mandlin
Ubuntu Theater Project in Oakland, California, is using a pay-as-you-can model to expand their audience. Their production of
Othello, pictured above, was presented in a rug shop.

I have posted about finding unusual venues, like rug shops, for artistic performances (click here) and also about establishing pay-as-you-can models for a range of purposes (for example, the food business). Today’s post is about a California theater company that does both.

Ashley Lee reports at the American Theatre website, “Amid the dense arts scene of California’s Bay Area, Ubuntu Theater Project has proudly distinguished itself with a mission statement of being ‘radically inclusive.’

“Founded in 2012 as a handful of summer theatre festivals, Ubuntu — named after a Zulu proverb that means ‘I am because we are’ — now programs year-round shows at various venues throughout Oakland, Calif., one of America’s most diverse cities. They often stage American classics with predominantly casts of color, a majority of whom are Oakland natives. Though a seat at each performance costs between $15 and $45, the company has regularly drawn a percentage of patrons from low-income communities through pay-as-you-can tickets sold at the door, and has offset those costs with a bucket donation ask after the curtain call.

“But all that wasn’t inclusive — or radical — enough for Ubuntu. So last summer, the theatre adopted a pay-as-you-can subscription model, guaranteeing tickets to its seven shows for a single amount named by the ticketholder. …

“ ‘There was a financial risk — we had no idea what people were gonna pay,’ concedes Simone Finney, the organization’s marketing director. … ‘This is a way to invite someone into a continued conversation, rather than just an affordable experience of one show. It’s not just transactional; it’s saying, “I want to be part of this community.” ‘ …

“It was a huge gamble — and it’s paid off surprisingly well, both in terms of cash flow and feedback. Ubuntu’s subscriber base grew from just 25 devoted patrons to around 300 and counting. … Finney attributes the generosity of their higher-end subscribers to word of mouth, since her marketing budget didn’t suddenly multiply over the past season. ‘We’re trying to do a lot on not a lot,’ she admits.

“Leigh Rondon-Davis, Ubuntu’s executive associate, [says] ‘A lot of the feedback we’ve gotten is, “Thank you, I can finally afford to see theatre.” ‘ …

“As with any first-time initiative, the program had its share of hitches. … Their online ticketing platform, Vendini, doesn’t allow buyers to input their own prices; the current two-step work-around involves making a donation via the Square Cash app, waiting for a manually sent email from Rondon-Davis, and then booking tickets with a coupon code. …

“If their expanded subscriber base returns for next season, the organization hopes to offer shows that reflect their audience even more.

“ ‘Our bread and butter for a while was classics or established works, and humanitarian world premieres of new works,’ says Rondon-Davis. ‘Now, edgier works.’ …

“Adds Finney: ‘People don’t just come to things because they’re free. … You still want to earn people’s time, interest, and enthusiasm.’ …

“While other theatre companies might be hesitant to make this drastic leap, no one needs to jump into the deep end immediately. Instead Finney and Rondon-Davis suggest following in Ubuntu’s footsteps and experimenting with PAYC tickets at the door for each performance. Most important, they suggest, talk to your audiences to identify what their primary challenges are when it comes to seeing theatre. …

“ ‘It’s not always cost — it can be location, the type of work, not having people to go with, not feeling welcome in a theatre space,’ notes Finney. “These are conversations we will continue to have. … This hasn’t made us take a financial hit and has been, in fact, very beneficial to us. I hope that makes more companies consider accessible pricing, not just as a sacrifice you make, but something that could be a viable part in the life of a company.’ ” More.

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