New Rules – Where is our stage?

Blogger’s note: Welcome to Artini’s first guest blogger!  After he commented on the last post, I asked my friend Bobby Maher to write some thoughts on the issue of “New Rules.”  Bobby is Vice President of Development and Strategy for LEAV, an exciting new arts initiative which I will let him describe. Here is his post:

Last week when I encountered Ellen’s newest blog post, New Rule: I am the center of the universe, I said “yes!” out loud in my office, as is often my reaction to many of her pieces. As a long time follower of the Artini blog, I frequently see my own challenges as an arts administrator mirror those issues Ellen so keenly explores, but the idea that we are undergoing a fundamental shift in the way people participate in and respond to art is of particular relevance to me. So, I want to thank Ellen for so kindly inviting me to do a guest blog today.

As Ellen so aptly points out, the opportunity “…to erase the lines separating technology, live experience and participation, draw a circle instead of those lines, take ourselves out of the center of that circle and put the arts consumer right in the middle” should be at the core of our mission as arts administrators. It has always been our goal to connect people to those artistic experiences we find so valuable, however we have primarily used technology as a tool for marketing or as an analog for other means of communication. Digital marketing has made it much easier to cheaply promote your message, but as a result, consumers and audiences have adapted to the “noise” and are keenly aware when they are being marketed at.

The challenge in marketing an artistic experience to audiences has always been struggling to adequately represent what makes that experience so enriching – so perhaps what digital technology affords us is not merely a means for communicating but a way to redefine the stage and where we make and share our work. Where is our stage?

This past year, with these ideas in mind, some partners and I formed Six Impossible Things, LLC (6IT), and were awarded a grant by the McKnight Foundation and IFPMN to create Leav, a mobile app that allows people to create and experience digital in physical locations.

There is a relationship between art and location. Whether you’re at an outdoor art installation, a play in a historical theatre, or a show at your favorite dive bar, your environment affects your experience. Mobile technology has ensured that you can listen to music or watch a video from anywhere, unfortunately, this encourages people to ignore the world around them, and we wanted to change that and reintroduce the power of place.

Leav uses your phone’s GPS to uncover artistic works commissioned by organizations and 6IT, such as a citywide symphony in which different orchestral parts drift in and out depending on which city street you’re on, or a short film only viewable from 5-6pm in a tree-filled park on a Tuesday in December. Factors like time, temperature, direction, and speed of travel can dynamically interact with the piece’s accessibility and content.

As a creative platform for artists and organizations, Leav provides a unique chance to rethink how people interact and engage with the places they live, work, and play. Leav is accessible and intuitive, giving creators the chance to reach their audiences in a powerful way. It allows artists to reach a wider audience, creating meaningful connections between environment and art that can’t exist anywhere else.
We are excited to be partnering with a number of organizations who see the opportunity to create experiences that both better serve their current patrons and reach new audiences by “creating means for audiences to be active participants instead of passive observers” as Ellen puts it. Instead of spending money creating more flyers and posters for an author’s book tour, or radio spots for the symphony’s upcoming concert, they may commission a new narrative adventure that takes the reader to locations throughout town, or a musical composition that evolves along a crowded highway commute at rush hour – engendering more engaged and active audiences.

Leav will launch in June 2014, and for information on our inaugural artists and what we are doing you can visit leav.co and siximpossiblethings.org. If you would like to support our undertaking to commission 15 new artists to create work for Leav, we are entering the final week of our Kickstarter campaign which will close on March 8 at 11:59 CST. Featured rewards for donors include album downloads and limited edition prints from Leav’s inaugural artists, as well as tickets to the Leav Launch Event, June 14, 2014 – and we have just announced the first round of new artists to be commissioned should we meet our goal.

You can find Leav’s Kickstarter page here.

I tend to agree with Ellen that artists and organizations who fail to recognize the fundamental shift in how people experience and respond to art and continue to believe it is just a matter of marketing harder will not be around in the near future. Leav is one way to engage with communities and share experiences to develop patrons and supporters, but how else can we use technology to rethink making and sharing art in the world, and not just as a tool for telling people about it? What do you think?

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About Ellen Rosewall

I am Professor and Chair of Arts Management and author of Arts Management: Uniting Arts and Audiences in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2013). I believe that arts and culture are undergoing a profound change in the 21st century, and I love talking with people about how we continue to bring arts to our communities and individuals give the brave new world of social media, technology and economic changes. Join the conversation!
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