Does Your Real Estate Serve Your Current Strategy?

Bloomberg recently had a piece about how the Girls Scouts of Colorado recently opened a space in Denver known as DreamLab, envisioned to be a third space for girls.

As spaces for young people to hang out grow scarcer, and the mental health of young women, especially, reaches unprecedented lows, the Girl Scouts is investing in properties girls can make their own.

“We really want the Girl Scout DreamLab to be their third place,” after home and school, said Anne Smith, senior vice president of property strategy for Girl Scouts of the USA

Two other DreamLab spaces are under construction in NJ and LA and more may be on the way based on how Covid has apparently impacted Girl Scout operations and use of physical spaces.

“Troops found that the traditional public spaces they’d relied on to host meetings, like church basements and libraries, were getting harder to access. Girl Scout staff were embracing remote work like the rest of the workforce, leaving offices empty. Some Girl Scout councils started selling properties, as membership dues dropped.

[…]

Data showed that the best-utilized spaces were those within a 20 to 30 minute drive from the majority of their membership, for example. “There were a lot of different data points that show that our current model wasn’t meeting the needs of our girls,” said Smith.

The Denver DreamLab occupies about 4,000 square feet of leased space in a new property chosen for its prime location: It’s within 15 miles of nearly 30% of Girl Scouts of Colorado members as of 2020, and by 2026 it’s projected to be within 15 miles of more than 150,000 girls between the ages of 5 and 17.

I wondered if this might serve as an example or inspiration for arts organizations in some way. I don’t know exactly how at this point.  Back in January 2022, the Long Wharf Theater announced that after nearly 60 years operating in permanent spaces around New Haven, CT they were going to pursue being an itinerant company so that they could provide services closer to the communities they hoped to serve.  So there is something of a precedent for arts organizations disinvesting themselves of their spaces.

While there are performance, rehearsal and offices spaces that have been offered to arts organizations similar to how it seems DreamLab is being offered to Girl Scout groups, I don’t know that many arts organizations who have utilized these resources have done so with the intentional goal of being itinerant so much as adapting to the opportunities being made available.

It may not seem like a big distinction on paper, but you could say the same about Vine, Instagram, and Tiktok. While Vine seemed to be everywhere for awhile, it fell out of favor relatively quickly while other similar apps thrived.

 

When To Belt Out In Song And Not Belt The Person Sitting Behind You

By now most people have probably heard about the brawl between audience members at a Manchester, England performance of The Bodyguard because people were singing along to “I Will Always Love You.”  The more I read, the more I wonder if maybe opening the bars at the theater 1.5 hours before curtain might be as big a contributor as people having poor etiquette.

Assuming many have read their fill about the incident, I wanted to point to a different article in the Toronto Star which interviewed ushers at performances in that city about audience behavior. While they say they have also seen their share of rude behavior and vain attempts to keep people from singing along with shows, the ushers point to examples of productions leaning into the trend:

One way some producers have been able to satisfy audience’s cravings to turn the theatre into an enormous karaoke bar is to end the shows with a big medley — a so-called Megamix. The recent “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” tour in Toronto used that, and wannabe Broadway singers got to belt out the songs with the cast and record themselves doing it on their phones.

Aislinn Rose [artistic director of Toronto’s not-for-profit Theatre Centre] believes theatres could go even further and designate certain performances as sing-along shows
[…]

“I’m not advocating for every performance to look like that, but there’s an opportunity to build an incredibly loyal, live following of people who want to engage with live performance. I think we should find a way to support that.”

Apparently there was a time when some Toronto based productions were trying to get audiences to sing-a-long, and couldn’t so maybe there is an element of be careful what you wish for here.

Ironically, Mirvish Productions programmed sing-along performances for their production of the Queen jukebox musical “We Will Rock You” way back in 2008-2009. It didn’t catch on.

“We printed out lyric sheets and everything,” said Karastamatis. “But very few people sang along.”

But as the article suggests at the end, you generally don’t plan to spend a lot of money on a ticket to listen to the people next to you sing off-key. So unless you are doing a show like Rocky Horror which has a long tradition of audience participation,  having designated times or performances where people can sing along is probably going to be the best approach in the short term.

He Proved The Power Of The Rule Of (Folding In) Thirds

When I saw a notice about MAD Magazine artist Al Jaffee’s death at 102 yesterday, it was tucked in the corner of a website so I didn’t think there would be a lot of notice. But this morning there were a plethora of stories.

He has been feted for his work on the magazine’s fold-in back cover which turned a large picture into the wry answer the picture caption.  For me, that was an inadvertent bit of visual art education to readers of the magazine. Seeing how ultimate image was derived from the larger piece taught people to look closer at what might be happening at the edges of pictures. I can’t be the only person who tried to figure out the answer in my mind’s eye before folding the page.

While it may not have been high art, those covers could have been a great entrée for introductory level visual arts courses since so many classic paintings had meaningful images inserted in the periphery. And of course, the final fold in image wasn’t the only visual joke. The whole cover was peppered with satire and foolishness as a reward to the patient viewer.

You can find many examples of his fold-ins on different websites  DC Comics interviewed him awhile back where he discussed how he managed to engineer the covers.

Sometimes It Isn’t Bad To Be Rushing In Late To The Party

A Guardian article on classical music in Iceland caught my eye last week. The story basically suggested that because the country got a late start with classical music, (first major tour by Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra in 1926 and first full time ensemble in 1950), they don’t have the same hang-ups about what belongs in the concert hall as everyone else.

While the rest of the world was busy erecting barriers between music genres last century – roping off classical music, in particular – Iceland was simply trying to get things going. There was no time wasted deciding who was allowed to listen to what. For much of the second half of the 20th century, classical orchestral music felt new in Iceland. Here, the symphony orchestra was a postwar institution, not a 19th-century one.

According to the article,  pop artist Bjork had sang Schoenberg at the Salzburg festival and often performs with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. Rock band Sigur Ros is planning a US tour including a 41 symphony musicians and in 2020 released an orchestral piece based on a 13th-century Icelandic poem.

The Guardian suggests a possible reason for what other countries might view as a sort of open cross-pollination:

Student musicians in Iceland often find themselves crossing genre boundaries by necessity. There’s only one institution in the capital where you can study music to degree level, thrusting students of varied outlooks together. This eroding of musical silos has produced countless indefinable artists, including Hildur Guðnadóttir who became the first female composer to win an Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe in the same season. It was for her score to the film Joker – a cello concerto in disguise.