Boch Center

Funding Received: 2013
Boston, MA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 30, 2014

By Sue Dahling Sullivan

Last month, the Citi Performing Arts Center/ArtWeek team celebrated its first year with a party hosted by the W Boston hotel, one of the first partners to sign on as an ArtWeek advocate just a year ago. Over 50 people representing world class institutions, local talents, area businesses, and a wide-range of media partners toasted the year’s success and received certificates of appreciation as pioneering ArtWeek Champions. But it also served as a kick-off for Fall ArtWeek 2014 (September 26 – October 5) as the new rfp was released and the creative sparks began to fly!

Art Bingo…welding and sand casting classes partnering with local businesses … a percussion performance in an ice bar…painting to live blues… a tropical public art interpretation of the Fort Point channel ....a conducting lesson by the world famous Boston Pops Orchestra maestro …. these are just a sampling of Spring ArtWeek 2014 (April 25 – May 4) experiences which dramatically grew in diversity as events represented large, mid-size and small arts organizations, retail businesses, individual artists, restaurants, hotels and multicultural groups. During spring ArtWeek, over 135 organizations, businesses and artists created 80+ total events (including multi-day) which covered 22 neighborhoods throughout Greater Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and even Lowell; and over 60% of spring events were free, continuing to support our accessibility goals. Based on a sample of attendees, 36% of ArtWeek event attendees were new to their host organizations while 62% said they’d seriously consider returning to that organization outside of ArtWeek; when asked if they were exploring a neighborhood that they did not live in, 38% said yes. Anecdotally, ArtWeek events proved to be a destination draw for out-of-towners ranging from neighboring New England states to as far away as Vancouver, Canada; and one college graduate in a recent job interview revealed she had attended several ArtWeek events with friends. These are just a few early indicators of ArtWeek as a successful creative placemaking strategy for both new audience development and in discovering new neighborhoods.

“Lowell's Western Avenue Studios was entirely new to me, even though I live and work in neighboring towns. This was an excellent event to make me a little more familiar with the artisans and the facility.” – ArtWeek participant

“For many, many visitors it was their first time at (our place). Attendees at the music portion of the day requested that we do more music! Since we had never done music before, it was uncharted territory; but our musicians stepped up and did an amazing job of running the show.” – ArtWeek host

Sketcherific Night Out: In partnership with a local audio-visual store, this was a fun evening of eating drinking and listening to music while learning portrait drawing with fine artists and illustrator, Frank Constantino. Sketcherific Night Out: In partnership with a local audio-visual store, this was a fun evening of eating drinking and listening to music while learning portrait drawing with fine artists and illustrator, Frank Constantino.[/caption]

Recent Wins
ArtWeek received a huge amount of editorial coverage totaling over 4.6 million impressions in a diverse range of publications both digitally and in print, including several feature articles and television spotlights that were picked up by media outlets north, south, and west of Boston. Here are links to just a few:
Boston Globe “Gear up for Spring edition of ArtWeek”
Boston Globe Magazine “Best of the New”
BostInno “ArtWeek Boston Starts Friday: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Creative Celebration”
Boston Magazine Online “Nine Can’t-Miss Events During ArtWeek Boston
The Patriot Ledger “At Artweek, you can participate, not just observe”
The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune “ArtWeek Boston spreads to Lowell”
Boston Globe “Boston-area to do list”
Boston.Com – BetaBoston Blog “ArtWeek advantage in Creative Age of Cities
Wicked Local/Tab “Date Night: ArtWeek Boston events offers amorous opportunities”
Boston USA Blog “Rain Forecast, Purple Rain, Purple Carrots, and Other ArtWeek Boston Surprises

Additionally, spring ArtWeek illustrated amazing growth from the Fall launch. Unique events and partnerships more than doubled, free events increased to 60% of the total, and the geographic footprint expanded to include events north of the city. We added two new media partners, and several neighborhood networks. And even more exciting were the total results from Year One (Fall 2013 + Spring 2014): over 130 total events, representing 200+ organizations and partners, 26 neighborhoods, 52,000 website visitors, 8 million+ press coverage impressions, and $575,000 in advertising campaign support through an amazing network of media partnerships. As the Director of PR and Communications from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism remarked “Absolutely everyone was talking about ArtWeek this spring – what a great success!”

Challenges (and Solutions)
Streamlining the Process
During spring, the external judging process was eliminated in order to accommodate the growing number of applications and to provide event hosts more flexibility in proposing events and developing partnerships. The introduction of a rolling deadline for RFPs rather than a single deadline, as well as an early print deadline for inclusion in a new pocket guide was instrumental in allowing the staff to coach and mentor a greater number of smaller organizations, provide timely feedback and one-on-one advice, and grow the number of events without dramatically increasing administrative support.

Increasing Flexibility and Accessibility
A major change in spring ArtWeek programming was an overhaul of the pricing structure which started in the Fall with a prix fixe structure (free, $20.14, and $40.14) that mirrored the restaurant week’s. Based on feedback indicating individual hosts wanted more flexibility, pricing was simplified to “free to $50.” This also led to a 250% increase in family friendly/children events (from 4 to 14) and more multicultural events and hosts.

Marketing More Strategically
With the dedicated help of Citi Center’s internal marketing team and our public relations and media partners, the marketing campaign strategically shifted from one that focused on introducing the ArtWeek concept and brand to the market place in the Fall, to one that also supported promoting individual events. ArtWeek promotional materials appeared all over the city, expanding to include increased visibility on public transportation and signage as well as a new pocket guide (20K quantity) which were distributed for free. Other changes included a social media campaign, expanded email blasts, highlighting events by different categories, and a spotlight at a major citywide concierge event. Lastly, public service announcements were strategically modeled to highlight multicultural partners and diverse neighborhoods.

Expanding Partnerships
With limited resources, partnership building has been time consuming but invaluable. Citi Center staff had over 30 new meetings in preparation for spring ArtWeek, including a strategic outreach to the State of Massachusetts’ Creative Economy Director which resulted in exploratory conversations throughout the state. Another developing partnership is with the City of Boston’s Main Streets Initiative, which included a presentation to over 25 Main Street Executive Directors and resulted in three active neighborhood partnerships. (Example: One success story from these outreach efforts came from the Washington Gateway Mainstreet, with executive director Jennifer Effron. Jenny saw ArtWeek as a positive platform for many of her artists and businesses to work together and promote themselves. For spring ArtWeek, Effron’s efforts resulted in six events including a school coffee house, restoration workshop, and a walking street tour highlighting young artists in partnership with nonprofit partner United South End Settlements and local businesses.) Additional conversations were initiated with the Cambridge and Somerville Cultural Councils, the MBTA, and other city-related departments.

Improving Data Collection
Gathering audience feedback has continued to be a challenge, as it relies on event hosts to collect and promote data collection; in particular free events are difficult to gather information from attendees but Citi Center staff is committed to improving this component as it moves forward and ArtWeek evolves. One successful strategy tested in the Spring was that ArtWeek provided a workshop for and promoted the use of easy online registration systems like EventBrite, which 20+ events then utilized.

Art Bingo: Hosted by the Art Connection, the public had a chance to test their luck and win juried artwork with local artists as lively bingo callers. Art Bingo: Hosted by the Art Connection, the public had a chance to test their luck and win juried artwork with local artists as lively bingo callers.[/caption]

On June 12, 2014, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts hosted its first (!) Creative Industries Summit and because of ArtWeek’s success, Citi Center Performing Arts Center was honored when invited to serve on the Content Committee. It was a thought-provoking day for the 200+ invited creative guests who represented videogame developers, fashion designers, novelists, cultural innovators, advertising gurus, visionary artists, rising filmmakers, and more. There were animated conversations about shared maker space, creative collaboration, designing for context and with empathy, connecting experiences, and creative placemaking. Here are a few of the more provocative quotes from the day:

On Attracting Investors: "Stealing ideas? The hardest part is getting someone just to TAKE your idea!"
On Innovation: “There are two types of innovation – either you solve a problem or produce a joy.”
On Future Trends: “Mass production is dead. This is the ‘Me’ culture of personalized choice.”
On Risking Failure: “Everybody’s baby is ugly. You just need to push it out into the world…”

ArtWeek 90 sec Promo