Sweetening Incentives To Experience Creativity With Strangers

Knowing that one of the biggest barriers people experience when planning to go to an event is not having someone to accompany them, five years ago I was inspired by a Brazilian bus company that set aside seats for those who wanted to meet new people. And more recently I wrote about an English town that was attempting to do the same with park benches. There are coffee houses turning off the wifi in an attempt to get people to talk, as well.

I attempted to create a similar program at the performing arts center at which I previously worked. The idea was to match up people who didn’t have anyone to attend events. The results were good, but not exactly as I had planned.

Thanks to some funding by the local community foundation and buy-in from the local arts alliance, we are trying another iteration of this idea. Credit where it is due, my marketing director has pretty much spearheaded the effort (i.e. wrote the grant and is doing a lot of the groundwork) together with the executive director of the arts alliance.

The concept is pretty much the same as I had attempted before, except that it involves all the arts organizations in the community and provides a little incentive to sweeten the deal.

Essentially, the arts organizations will offer free admission to selected events. People will sign up indicating what type of events they would enjoy attending. They are matched up with someone else with whom they attend the event. They are given $20 which they can use to go out to get coffee or drinks, etc and discuss their experience. (Yes, it is a rare grant that allows the purchase of food.) Participants are expected to provide some sort of report back. I am going to nudge my marketing director to suggest that creative responses   (i.e. writing a poem, singing a song, making a video, etc.) are just as welcome as a narrative essay reflecting on the experience.

Our marketing director talks about the whole concept in a video interview if you want to learn more.

Details are still being pulled together, including getting participation from arts organizations. Keep an eye on the old blog here for periodic updates on the progress.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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