The Audiences Project…continues

by Jini Stolk

Much of the work Creative Trust’s three-year Audiences Project has a life beyond the project: I’m particularly proud of the foundation we’ve laid for continuing work around arts education, arts access, diversifying audiences, and data bases and systems.

Here are a few highlights:

Arts Education: Both because of its fundamental importance as the way people first experience, enjoy and become inspired by the arts, and as an increasingly important commitment by companies to arts access and community building, this was a transformational part of the Audiences Project. The Performing Arts Education Overview filled a gap in knowledge and information about the contribution of performing arts companies to arts education. It has also become a rallying cry and starting point for what we hope will be real growth in the excellence of these programs, improved partnerships, and more effective evaluation and communications. If you want to be part of this work, please let PAONE or Creative Trust know.

Performing Arts Access Program: This program, in which Audio Described and ASL interpreted performances were made possible, piloted, and promoted in our community for the first time led to new ways of thinking about inclusion. The Program also developed resources including a cadre of trained Audio Describers, the equipment they use, back and front of stage guidebooks (soon to be available on Creative Trust’s and Picasso PRO’s websites), and ASL interpreters trained and excited about the potential of using their skills in live performance. That being said, and despite the success of this program, this is an area where change is incremental. We are working to define and kick start a next phase: thoughts and assistance would be warmly welcomed.

Diversifying Audiences: Working with Donna Walker-Kuhne was an exceptional opportunity to be inspired by the best in the field; she helped companies understand the commitment, energy and approach needed to genuinely open doors to audiences from a diversity of backgrounds. This is encouraging and necessary in a city like Toronto where the population is changing so rapidly that inclusion is a requirement of staying relevant. In late May Donna returned to work with companies in the Regent Park area – a new cultural centre point about to burst onto the scene. We’re hoping that a collective of dance and other performing groups will continue this work.

Data Bases and Box Office Systems: This essential base for effective audience relationships and communications is, in its way, the most difficult. Although Creative Trust helped more than 30 companies move to more appropriate and advanced systems, the challenges of maintaining complete and accurate data, and then analyzing it and using it effectively, can be a significant barrier for small and mid-size organizations. We’re working with Young Associates, the Neighbourhood Arts Network and CPAMO on a new series of workshops to spread this learning further afield.

Watch Creative Trust’s e-newsletter and blog for more information and updates.

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