Waterloo Arts – What Would I Change?

Yesterday I presented at the Creative Community Forum (if you have no idea what I spoke about – here is a blog post with my thoughts). After the talk I was asked “Then what would you change?” Here’s my answer:

Fundamentally, this is a communications problem. Additional services (like an Arts Accelerator) will help, but it won’t make a difference if we don’t change the way we communicate. At the core of this issue is that Waterloo Region’s demographic and cultural makeup has changed, but the communication methods used by our arts community (on average) hasn’t.

  1. Spend less money on newspaper and bus shelter ads. Yes, these work for a certain demographic, but we have immigrant and young professionals that will never see these ads. We need to redistribute some of that marketing budget.
     
  2. Make a concerted effort to reach out to the local non-institutional communication groups. We have entrepreneurs and cultural groups maintaining extensive lists specifically to distribute this type of information. We should start syndicating some of their content (let the community know what they are up to) and we should start distributing our institutional content to those list managers in a more organized and consistent way.
      
  3. Allocate a small budget for experimental marketing. Have someone responsible for always trying new tools like new magazines that crop up, new technologies, new community groups. We need to be more agile.
     
  4. Use Social Media better. I don’t mean to develop a comprehensive strategy, rather just make it part of the daily operations. Each of our galleries should be using Twitter to describe their events and programs, and they should be following movers and shakers locally to identify how they can make their programs more relevant to the community.
     
  5. Speak specifically about opportunity to the students. Ken Coats, dean of UW Arts admitted that the university needs to be more open. Very much like attracting students to a job, we need to attract these students to stay and innovate. Communitech and VeloCity act like “tech entrepreneurship” recruiters on campus. We should create similar “arts entrepreneurship” recruiters.

Yes, the above answers may not be a comprehensive solution (any and all suggestions are welcome) but I do believe they represent some great steps that are still in line with the Creative Enterprise Agenda.

And, for those that are interested in some louder, more audacious goals – here are some ideas I’d enjoy fleshing out with anyone that would like to chat over coffee:

  1. A VeloCity style student residence, with more of a focus on arts & culture
  2. Moving the UW fine arts campus to Kitchener Civic Block
  3. Starting an arts-oriented venture or angel group

Joseph

VP HCM Products at NetSuite and Founder of TribeHR and Lewis Media. Waterloo Region Enthusiast and active volunteer.

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