Outreach to Schools

Looking back to Artsmarketing.com today, I noticed they had a link to a FAQ about marketing outreach programs to schools. It is pretty informative for folks who want to do such things. It talks about who the decision makers and gatekeepers for schools are, what times of the year are bad to contact schools to set up outreach, how high school is different from elementary school.

The FAQ also discusses how to position your outreach so it will be more likely to be viewed as valuable to the educational process. It also directs groups to resources if they want to synch their offerings with teacher’s lesson plans, how to create good study guides and generally strengthen a relationship with the schools.

One of the things I was most impressed about was that the FAQ also addressed the perception by the students that the outreach was a free period where they didn’t have to learn or behave. Having gone on a number of school outreaches, I am familiar with this situation. The article encourages outreach groups to establish a protocol with the teacher prior to their arrival and also suggests finding a way to engage and involve the teacher in the process so they don’t give the impression it is an opportunity for escape themselves.

It Really Works!

I realized I had neglected to remove the line in “About The Blog” that refered to me being unemployed. That has, of course, been changed. I also changed the About the Author section because that too was essentially gauged to advertise my qualifications and help me find a job.

The blog actually worked to help me find a job. Some of the folks on the search committee commented on the blog during the interview and even now that I have started work. Some of them continued to read it even after they hired me so I have to watch what I write.

I had asked a career counselor if she suggested people list their blogs on their resumes (the entry is somewhere back in time, I will have to dig it out). She said since I was looking for an employer who would value my innovative ideas, etc, I should absolutely list it. Sort of the idea that I will attract the employers that deserve me. Well, I have to say, 10 days or so in the process. I am really feeling like I am working for a place that deserves me. (Lucky them!) I think I even wrote at one point that I started getting interviewed by places that deserved me/whose ideals and philosophies were aligned with mine.

We will see how far this impression bears out now as time goes on.

Stock Phrases

In my last entry, I mentioned how I was trying to resist using quotes from newspaper critics because it made me feel lazy to borrow someone else’s thoughts. I also doubted the power of such quotes to sway people because the phrases they employ seem over used.

I came across an article in the London Telegraph that refers to a list that the editors compile of over used phrases they felt they could do without seeing. The list applies to book reviews, but if you look at them, you will see quite a few that make an appearance in regard to live performances and art shows.

What It Means to Be Human

Okay, so I am in the middle of writing calendar listings and season brochure material trying to avoid falling into a boring writing style as pointed out by Greg Sandow and which I later commented on

I think I am doing fairly well, but time will tell and I may be too close to my own stuff. One of my other rules besides trying to avoid being boring is to also keep from quoting reviewers. I have seen so many people quoted saying “Fantastic”, “A must see”, “Best show of the season”, etc, etc, that I doubt the persuasive power of such quotes. Besides, it seems like inserting such quotes means you can’t think of enough interesting things to say about it on your own. Since I am trying to get into the practice of generating interesting things out of my own feeble brain, that is just another reason to avoid quoting folks.

On the other hand I was tempted to include a quote from a Pittsburgh paper that called a Dayton Dance Company’s performance “rollicking, lyrical, athletic and emotionally generous quartet of African-American dances” It was the emotionally generous part that caught my eye. I don’t frequently see that applied to people in reviews.

One thing I want to know though–when did being human become a selling point for a show? I constantly see (and I was guilty of it many times myself) people describe shows in terms of things that make us human or remind us of the human condition or celebrate what it is to be human. Andrew Taylor recently commented that people seldom go to the theatre simply because it will raise the SAT scores of kids in the neighborhood. Considering some pregnant women put headphones on their stomachs so that their forming child can be exposed to Mozart, I think there is a greater likelihood of folks deciding to support the arts for that reason than because they have lost touch with what it means to be human.

Now granted there are plenty of people out there who probably need to be reminded what it means to be human. However, I doubt anyone admits they need to be exposed to such stuff.

Again, I think this is a nebulous catch-all term people use out of laziness. It sounds impressive, but it really doesn’t mean much. I have seen it applied to some shows to refer to poignant moments, applied to others in connection with joy and familal bonds of love, and I have seen it applied to shows with incredible violence, hatred, pain and sorrow. You never know what you are going to get if you go to a “what it means to be human” show.

Yes, all these things are part of human existence, but it is much better to say poignant or violent. The problem is, using the term doesn’t help audiences understand art any better than they did when they arrived. It strikes me that this phrase is part of the alienating language the arts tend to use. I am not saying that language should be dumbed down–I am a big believer in people picking up dictionaries and teaching themselves. I am using phrases like “transient state” in my season brochure. Except in this case, the phrase very specifically describes a transformation which is occuring. (and I didn’t want to repeat the word transformation in the description.)

I won’t lie. This is hard. Even with all the practice I have writing about different issues, it is difficult to write something that accurately depicts a performance without falling back on newspaper quotes and important sounding, but empty phrases. This being my first weeks at a new job, there are plenty of other things I could really be spending my time on. But trying to do this well, even if I am not entirely successful, is important to developing my ability to communicate well with audiences.

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