Live Blog: Inside Day 1 of the Continuing Innovation Convening

The ArtsFwd team is at Norwood Club today to cover the gathering. Live updates from the meeting will be below.


At the Continuing Innovation Convening today at the Norwood Club in New York City, 8 leading edge organizations will come together with 7 big thinkers from arts, culture, and innovation to talk about what it means to be “engaged”, organizational practices, civic responsibility, and evaluation in their work. The organizations and the convening are supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Karina Mangu-Ward, Piama Habibullah, and Kendra Danowski from ArtsFwd will be live blogging and tweeting @ArtsFwd #DDCFconf from the event.

Check out the live blog from Day 2 and Day 3.

6pm: Cocktails

Where the real conversation happens.

Day 1 of the Continuing Innovation Convening concludes with cocktails at the Norwood
Day 1 of the Continuing Innovation Convening concludes with cocktails at the Norwood

5:10pm: Ending the day with a lively discussion

The day ended with a lively discussion among the participants and the guests.  Big questions were raised:

  • What’s the role of the art and artists in engagement?
  • How are organizational narratives are actually told?
  • What does “brand” really mean these days?
  • How do you create organizations that are “antifragile“?

There are no easy answers here, but the proposed responses engaged the idea of elevating the audience’s voice, letting go of control, engaging with fear head-on in order to diffuse it, using low cost technologies like animated GIFs to translate offline experiences online, seating people according to social preference, and inviting in fragmentation.

4:45pm: Provocations from Dan Moulthrop

Dan asks:

  • If Mohamed won’t come to the mountain, how do you move the mountain to Mohamed?
  • How do you create “bridging capital” (connecting across difference) instead of “bonding capital” (connecting across sameness)?
  • With your innovation: are you building a pirate ship or are you trying to make the whole ship stronger?
  • Always ask yourself: what are you learning?
Dan Moulthrop puts some questions to the group
Dan Moulthrop puts some questions to the group

4:30pm: Provocations from Ryan Davis

Ryan asks:

  • How do you reconcile the aura of fragility in an art environment with the increasing desire of audiences/participants to have relaxed and comfortable experiences?
  • How can you plan for the technology for tomorrow instead of the technology of today?
  • How can you translate inviting experiences in a lobby space to a digital space?
  • How do you create venues for the arts where millennials can look like themselves, not “traditional” audiences?
  • Read Paul Adams’s book called Grouped.
Ryan Davis puts questions to the group
Ryan Davis puts some questions to the group

4:15pm: Provocations from Merilee Mostov

Merilee asks:

  • Is there a difference between audience development and audience engagement?
  • Why are you doing this engagement work?  Who is it for and why do they care?
  • What are your fears?
  • Read The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun
Merilee Mostov puts questions to the group
Merilee Mostov puts some questions to the group

3:55pm: The Wooster Group present Video Dailies

Jamie Poskin of The Wooster Group presents their project, Video Dailies, through which they post a short video on the home page of their website (taking up the biggest chunk of real estate) every single day.  The videos, which are created through a collaborative effort of the company, has doubled their web traffic, helped sell tickets, and enabled them to connect with other artists like Young Jean Lee, who has acted a guest curator on the series.

Wooster Group presents Pecha Kucha style
Wooster Group presents Pecha Kucha style

The project raises questions like: Is this marketing or art?  There’s no easy answer, but that’s part of the success of the project.

3:45pm: Denver Center Theatre Company presents Off-Center at the Jones

Charlie Miller, Amy Allison, and Emily Tarquin of the Denver Center Theatre Company present their project, Off-Center at the Jones, which took an under-utilized theater and turned it into a laboratory for exciting new work for new audiences. The work they present experiments with technology and participation. They anchor all their programming around a recipe of 5 main qualities: immersive, convergent, connective, inventive, and now.

Denver Center presents Pecha Kucha style
Denver Center presents PechaKucha style

Now in its second year, the team is working hard on measuring their success and anchoring the program into the context of the rest of the theater’s program and the larger arts complex they reside in.

Check out the ArtsFwd Innovation Story about their project as well as the two update posts (1st and 2nd) they wrote earlier this year.

3:35pm: American Composers Orchestra presents the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute

Michael Geller of American Composers Orchestra presents the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, which brings together 37 jazz composers at various stages of their careers to explore the challenges of writing jazz the symphony orchestra.

American Composers Orchestra presents Pecha Kucha style
American Composers Orchestra presents PechaKucha style

One participant said of the program: “For me, the program is like a Harry Potter’s Hogwarts for jazz composers. I had been struggling with my identity and found the context of the Institute to be a place where things make sense.”

3:28pm: Theatre Bay Area presents Intrinsic Impact

Clay Lord of Theatre Bay Area presents their new audience research project, Intrinsic Impact, created with Alan Brown.  Their goal was to understand and begin to quantify the complex matrix of impacts that artistic work has on its audiences.

Theatre Bay Area presents Pecha Kucha style
Theatre Bay Area presents PechaKucha style

They worked with a pilot group of theaters to measure the impact of their work on their audiences through surveys and then crunched the numbers and compiled their findings in a book.

In the process of rolling out the book, they’ve been thrilled with the response, but also learned that their 400+ page book needed to be boiled down for busy arts administrators. An online survey, they found, is a great solution to a previously long form written survey.  Clay says that the process is always evolving and always learning, and that’s the key to its success.

3:18pm: Adventure Stage Chicago presents the Crossroads Project

Tom Arvetis and Allison Latta of Adventure Stage Chicago present the Crossroads Project, their initiative that integrates their theatre work with the social services they deliver through the 100-year-old Northwestern Settlement House that shares their campus. They presented shows in both Spanish and English, co-created new pieces inspired by their neighbors experiences, and invited their neighbors to free and low-cost shows in their space.

Adventure Stage Chicago presents Pecha Kucha style
Adventure Stage Chicago presents PechaKucha style

Check out the ArtsFwd profile on this project.

3:15pm: Jazz Arts Group of Columbus presents the Jazz Audiences Inititaives

Press Southworth and Christy Farnbauch of Jazz Arts Group of Columbus presents their project Jazz Audiences Initiative, which aims to change the demographics of their greying/aging audiences.

Jazz Columbus presents Pecha Kucha style
Jazz Columbus presents PechaKucha style

They started the initiative with a listening exercise, and learned that people didn’t understand the words (scat, melody, etc.) that were being used in their materials. They also learned that taste is socially transmitted and that people bought tickets to affirm tastes they already had, while new audiences like to samples things first. They discovered that most people who attended their performances once played an instrument and that most have the desire to do so again.

They began to change the physical set up of the space, offering martinis ($300 of martinis sold in 10 minutes). They are offering big band jam sessions and doing numerous other experiments to challenge the status quo of their audiences. They know people say jazz is dying, but they believe that’s not true.

3:03pm: Woolly Mammoth presents The Connectivity Department

Jocelyn Prince of Woolly Mammoth introduces their project The Connectivity Department, which leverages their lobby space to engage their community and audiences more deeply around the issues in the plays they produce through interactive exhibits. One example: presenting a display of old-school vibrators to go with the Vibrator Play.

Woolly Mammouth presents Pecha Kucha style
Woolly Mammouth presents PechaKucha style

2:54pm: STREB presents SLAM Remote

Cathy Einhorn and Susan Meyers of STREB introduce their project SLAM Remote. The project tries to take an Elizabeth Streb live action show and turn it into a dynamic digital experience. They reveal that the first attempt was a total failure because they tried to do it via broadband. The second time they used a satellite hook up, which was a great success, if very expensive.

At the remote locations, they offered popcorn and other details to ensure that it felt similar to a live and participatory experience.

STREB presents Pecha Kucha style
STREB presents PechaKucha style

2:53pm: PechaKucha from the Eight Organizations

In a PechaKucha format, each organization will present 20 slides, with no text, each 20 seconds long. Their goal is to introduce their organization and their innovation project being supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

2:51pm: Dan Moulthrop’s Takeaway

Unabashed self-evaluation is key. We must be unafraid of finding our flaws and dealing with them.

2:45pm: Dan Moulthrop on the Importance of Creating Memorable Experiences

Dan Moulthrop, Curator of Conversation at The Civic Commons, says the question he always asks is, “What is it that you want to accomplish?” He finds that in the most successful organizations the answer is “an experience, a tangible experience, that creates a memory.”

Dan Moulthrop of The Civic Commons
Dan Moulthrop of The Civic Commons

2:43pm: Merilee Mostov’s Three Takeaway

#1 Have a vision.

#2 Have intention.

#3 Know what outcome you want.

2:38pm: Merilee Mostov on Asking the Important Questions

Merilee Mostov is the Assistant Director of Education for Visitor Engagement at the Columbus Museum of Art. Her job is to ask, “Who am  I doing this for? And why should they care?”

She says her research shows that most people who come to museums aren’t coming to look at art. People come to museums to spend time together. But are museums designed for that?

She also encourages the group to ask themselves, “How comfortable are you with ambiguity?” It’s not important that things are nice and neat, but that real people are having a real experience.

Merilee Mostov, of the Columbus Museum of Art
Merilee Mostov of the Columbus Museum of Art

2:30pm: Ryan Davis’ Three Takeaways

#1 Be creative. In the noise of the internet, it’s only through producing compelling content that you can burst through.

#2 Viral happens people to people, not from high-end influencers.

#3 Consider “dark social”: “Things that we can’t really track that still account for the majority of sharing (58.5%). The real social media is the interaction between two people, regardless of the medium.”

Three Takeaways from Ryan Davis
Three takeaways from Ryan Davis

2:28pm: Ryan Davis on the Ladder of Engagement

Ryan introduces the Ladder of Engagement. Your goal, he says, is to move people up this ladder through an integrated approach. The through line should be the story, the narrative, of your organization.

Ladder of Engagement from Ryan Davis
Ladder of Engagement from Ryan Davis

2:23pm: Ryan Davis from Blue State Digital on “What Makes an Engaged Community?”

Ryan Davis, head of Social Innovation at Blue State Digital, says that an engagement is all about relationships – it’s all people to people. It’s about getting the most people to take the most actions for you.

Ryan Davis on engagement
Ryan Davis on engagement

2:15pm: What makes this gathering different?

John McCann reminds the group that there is a relationship between how disclosing people are and how much the group will take away from this convening. It’s important, he says, “to reveal the story behind the story.” The intimacy of this particular gathering lends itself to that work.

John McCann encourages the group to go as deep as they can with their work.
John McCann encourages the group to go as deep and be as revealing as they can

2:00pm: Official Start

The group is welcomed by Charlie Miller of the Denver Center Theatre Company (representative and wrangler of the attending organizations), who says he’s excited to “not know what’s going to happen over the next few days,” but to have the unique chance to be in the room with this exciting group of people.

Charlie Miller of Denver Center Theatre Company welcomes the group
Charlie Miller of Denver Center Theatre Company welcomes the group

Richard Evans also welcomes the group, noting that the emphasis for these three days is not on having guests “talk at them,” but on having an opportunity to engage deeply with guests and each other.

Richard Evans welcomes the group and reviews the agenda for the coming days
Richard Evans welcomes the group and reviews the agenda for the coming days

12:35pm: Final Prep

The EmcArts team is finalizing preparations before the arrival of representatives from the organizations and guest speakers. Richard Evans and John McCann are reviewing the agenda while Liz Dreyer finishes set up.

John McCann and Richard Evans prepare.
John McCann and Richard Evans prepare
John McCann, Richard Evans, and Liz Dreyer of EmcArts prepare the room.
John McCann, Richard Evans, and Liz Dreyer of EmcArts prepare the room

10:30 am: The Beginning

Participants are arriving and settling in before the official 1:30pm start time.

Karina Mangu-Ward is the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.