Take Care That Mural Isn’t Destroying Instead Of Revitalizing

I was walking through a building lobby when I noticed a table with a pamphlet discouraging people from painting murals on their brick buildings. My first thought was that this city department was undermining community beautification efforts. But as I read more closely, I realized the brochure was warning people about some very real issues associated with damaging the structural integrity of buildings.

If you are a member of the arts community trying to cultivate a more creative environment in your city, you don’t want to have your beautification efforts responsible for hastening the decline of the very neighborhoods you are trying to revitalize.

I recently wrote an ArtsHacker post citing some of the issues raised by the brochure I came across.

I mentioned the following among the things to consider, but there are more details in the full post:

Many of the issues painting brick structures creates are related to trapping moisture in what is normally a relatively porous, breathable material. Temperature changes causing expansion of that moisture can undermine the structural integrity of the brick and mortar.  The paint can obscure the development of these issues until the damage becomes severe and repairs more costly and extensive.

[…]

Keep in mind that geographic location should also be factored in to the materials and process chosen. The guide linked to here is calibrated to the conditions of cold, snowy winters and glaring summer sun at elevations exceeding one mile. Murals will weather differently in the relatively warmer, more humid climes of the southeast and drier, hotter deserts of the southwest, as well as the mix of annual weather conditions across the rest of the US.

 

 

Don’t Be Too Quick To Paint That Mural

Pay Attention To New Spam Policies Going Into Effect This Month

Last month Drew McManus posted on ArtsHacker warning about changes that Yahoo and Gmail are implementing this month that will shunt a greater number of emails to spam folders unless you take steps to mitigate the issue.

Any users in your database and mailing lists with addresses ending in @gmail.com or @yahoo.com require the following:

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) authentication: if you don’t already have

[…]

Keep Spam Rate Under 0.3%: Maintain a pristine reputation, experts recommend aiming for below 0.1%! 0.1%-0.3% is the warning zone: hover in that range too long and you still risk having your messages blocked.

[…]

Double-Check Your DNS: Confirm your digital addresses match your domain, like matching your website and email platforms.

[…]

If your organization sends more than 5,000 messages per day, you’ll encounter some additional requirements:

[…]
If your organization gets flagged, it means ALL of your messages, regardless the source, coming from an email address with your primary domain will get blocked by Google and Yahoo with no potential to reverse the decision.

Obviously, I chopped out a lot. Drew provides a fair bit of additional detail, but if you don’t know what SPF and DKIM are already, I am not sure his explanation will help. I looked those terms up and still didn’t know if we were compliant or not.

Fortunately, my marketing team was on it. When I forwarded the post link to them, they let me know our bulk email service provider has been warning about this for awhile and they had made the appropriate adjustments. Unfortunately, I was so relieved I forgot that I wanted to post about this issue a couple weeks ago to let more folks know.

Definitely take the time to read Drew’s post and investigate whether you need to take action to avoid problems, including cleaning up your lists and revamping your emailing practices.

New (And Critical) Email Deliverability Changes For Gmail & Yahoo

Isn’t It Better To Be Damned If You Do Try

Chad Bauman, Executive Director at Milwaukee Rep made a post on LinkedIn today where he acknowledged that making a change in a business model can threaten the existence of an organization, but that changing times and expectations often leave you no choice.  While he is talking about the current challenges performing arts organizations face, he cites a series of decisions Milwaukee Rep faced in its early years that nearly saw the end of the theater.

Milwaukee Rep had a similar crisis nearly a decade after its founding. In its earliest years, it built a large audience based on the star system bringing big stars to Milwaukee to perform. In 1961, the star system was abruptly ended and a resident acting company was founded. In less than a year, the theater lost 60,000 patrons, or two-thirds of its audience. It took seven years for the theater to rebuild its audience and it nearly went bankrupt on multiple occasions. The decision was a correct one as the theater would eventually grow to more than 150,000 patrons, but it almost collapsed along the way.

The star system was common practice in theater in the late 19th century that waned rather than something Milwaukee Rep specifically was doing and decided to end. While the star system is most frequently associated with film studios, they adopted it from theater which apparently borrowed the concept from P.T. Barnum.

I have seen stories similar to this in which arts organizations made decisions 10-15 years ago to make changes in their business models or change their programming mix to include segments of their community which were underrepresented in their audience and casting. They too came to the brink of closing.

There is obviously a bit of survivorship bias to some of these cases. Those that didn’t succeed in the shift weren’t around to talk about it later. With all the closures, downgrading, layoffs, etc that arts organizations are undergoing, we are hearing of many more stories of arts organizations who are having difficulty continuing their existence than we did 10-15 years ago. Some of them were in the middle of trying to effect change, others were trying to stick with what worked in the past so there is no clear indication about which approach may be better in these times.

Some that haven’t closed completely may reorganize and continue on as Milwaukee Rep did. I am sure no one wants to be faced with the prospect of it taking seven years and several brushes with bankruptcy to make a successful transition.   From one perspective though, it might be better to fail while trying to do better for your community rather than attempting to preserve the status quo for as long as possible.

Experiences More Valuable Than Material Goods When It Comes to Happiness and Social Cohesion

Sunil Iyengar who directs the research arm of the National Endowment for the Arts recently posted on the idea of arts experiences as one way for individuals to create connections with others. He points to two studies conducted in 2020 where people received a text every few hours and were asked to respond about a purchase they had made within that period of time.

Study subjects were asked whether they had made a material (furniture, clothing, jewelry, electronic goods, etc) or experiential (concert tickets, trips, restaurant meals, going to sporting events) purchase.

In both studies, experiential purchases were associated with significantly greater self-reported happiness than were material purchases. Also, because the data collection methods enabled participants to respond within an hour of each transaction, the reports of happiness can be described as “in-the-moment” returns from these experiential investments, the authors suggest.

“People’s experiential purchases, in other words, live on longer and are likely to provide more active, moment-to-moment happiness as they lead people to feel better about themselves and connect more with others,” Kumar et al. write. Stressing the implications of these findings for social connectedness, the authors add that “because experiences also lend themselves more to re-living and sharing memories with others, individuals can also advance their momentary happiness through these types of extended consumption as well.”

Long time readers know that I am wary about any prescriptive claims about the arts curing social ills, raising test scores, boosting economies, etc., so I was pleased to see that Iyengar wasn’t making any claims that carved out special benefits attributable to arts and cultural activities but instead implied they were part of the mix. Certainly, we all recognize that there are many moving pieces that contribute to people having an enjoyable experience, including restaurants, traffic, parking, babysitters, etc.

Enjoyable changes don’t occur in a vacuum where they are attributable to one cause. Last night I idly started to look at Google Streetview in the neighborhoods around where I live and work, flipping back to pictures from 10-15 years ago and it became clear how different decisions by governments, businesses, and developers contributed to the attractiveness of these places and increased availability of local resources as well as the closure of some businesses and increased traffic.

In the same respect, arts and culture contribute to, cultivate, preserve, social connection and cohesion, but aren’t the sole product to be applied to solve issues that face communities.