When Priscilla and I relocated to New Haven twenty-five years ago, we had little idea what we were in for. We were excited by our new professional opportunities and interested in learning about the possibilities provided by a community we assumed would be dominated by Yale University. It has proved to be so much more. Arts and culture is the fabric of a community that truly is the “cultural capital of Connecticut.” In addition to Yale, with its School of Music, Drama School, art museums, and School of Architecture, organizations such as Long Wharf Theatre, The New Haven Symphony, Shubert Theatre, Neighborhood Music School, Creative Arts Workshops, provide limitless opportunities for learning and discovery. The Arts Council of Greater New Haven serves as a catalyst for the cultural livelihood of the region.
I am honored to serve as President of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. The Arts Council serves several constituencies with a variety of needs. Individual artists need resources as well as opportunities to display / perform their work. Arts organizations need opportunities for collaborations as well as an advocate with state and local officials. Finally, the community at large needs to inform itself not only of its own resources but also of the wide variety of opportunities in our diverse community.
A second and perhaps less obvious challenge is relevance. Ten years ago, social media was an alien concept. Today, as newspapers disappear, land lines are being replaced by cell phones and the post office is in peril, new forms of communications and expressions are emerging. With its limited human and financial resources, the Arts Council has been adapting to this changing landscape. An example is a collaboration with the New Haven Independent called “Breaking Arts.” Over the past year more than 100 stories have been posted. This initiative was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Council has moved into non-traditional arts performance opportunities such as a zany vuvulula orchestra on the New Haven Green conducted by Maetsro William Boughton of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. Also, the Council supported opera at a farmers market downtown where tomato vendors break into song surprising lunch time shoppers. Finally, and most recently, our new mobile marketing iPhone application, ANDI: Arts, Nightlife, Dining, Info has been launched. These activities are a small sample of how we are reaching out to the community.
We publish The Arts Paper, ten times a year. It includes a calendar of regional events and bulletin board for artist opportunities and articles about events and programs happening that month. Arts Council Members receive the paper in the mail and it is distributed to 200 Greater New Haven sites for the public to pick up for free. We also email a weekly eNews to 2,500 subscribers about the week’s events. We developed a smart phone app, ANDI: Arts, Nightlife, Dining, Info that features a comprehensive database of events, venues and restaurant in Greater New Haven. A first-of-its-kind, regional application, it now linked to Facebook. We help local artists by driving traffic to Greater New Haven’s creative projects through our curated page on Kickstarter. We are the only organization in Connecticut partnering with Kickstarter. We maintain an active digital presence, through our website and social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Recently we were invited to host an hour arts show on WPKN. This enables us to interview artists and arts leaders, showcase special arts events and promote our artist and art organizational members events. We also have a weekly spot to announce the week’s highlights.
We also convene meetings four times a year with peer arts marketers to share best practices. We also invite experts to addresses pressing topics such as audience development and the ever changing landscape of social media.
Short-term success is measured by the increased number of “hits” on our website; increased number of “likes” on Facebook (3380); Twitter (2,409 followers); YouTube (106 videos posted and 9,147 views) and increased number of users of the ANDI app (2,230).
Social media is monitored by digital analytics. We can now monitor how many people read The Arts Paper online because it now lives on Issuu, a site for easy access that provides stats of uploads.
2. Launched the app ANDI for smart phone devices and developed link to Facebook 3. Launched a curated page on Kickstarter that drives traffic and donations to fund projects by Greater New Haven performing and visual artists
Exhibitions are curated at two venues, the Sumner McNight Crosby Jr. Gallery and Perspectives…The Gallery at Whitney Center. At Crosby, the thematic shows include emerging artists as well as professional artists and are often curated by a guest artist. Exhibitions also focus on specific groups such as artists with Alzheimer’s and a recent show by artists who also work as art therapists. The annual members’ exhibit occurs in the summer and for some of our members, this is the one occasion for them to display their art. We also reserve an annual exhibition for the Photo Arts Collective. On occasion we curate pop up shows alternate spaces such as at Katalina’s Bakery and we sometimes collaborate with other galleries in the area.
The partnership at Whitney Center continues to strengthen. We curate three to four group shows each year, that are thematic in scope. Because of the spacious gallery,artwork is often large scale and has included site-specific pieces. We have also formed a strong relationship residents who curate and exhibit in the Resident Gallery and now coordinate our public receptions to happen at the same time. The most recent reception was very well-attended with artist talks and a multi-media performance.
From the Crosby Gallery guest book three visitors write:
“Eye opening show! Many double takes. Bravo to all” – Disturbing the Comfortable
“I loved this. Am bringing friend and family back to see it” – The Art of the Picture Book
“So impressive and diverse. Thank you.” Once In A Lifetime
Measurement tools to capture the criteria are both quantitative and qualitative or anecdotal. For the former, we count heads at events, total the number of consultation hours and artists served, and assess the number of new and continued cross sector partnerships. For the latter, we rely on anecdotal feedback from our members and participants, Results that we glean help us measure the impact in planning our programs.
Anecdotally, there are two examples to cite that demonstrate the meaningful impact our community programs have on the participants and artists involved: the positive response to the doll making workshops this winter and the successful experience two of our guest curators had at the Crosby Gallery. In actuality, we can state quantitatively that the openings of both exhibitions, “Disturbing the Comfortable” and “Once In A Lifetime” brought more people to each reception than the Arts Council has counted for previous receptions: over 100 respectively. Our guest curators included emerging and practicing artists who were unaware of the Arts Council yet excited and pleased to have an opportunity to exhibit their artwork. They brought family and friends attracting a young and diverse audience. Another guest curator, of “The Art of the Picture Book,” installed an interactive, hands-on educational exhibit that several nursery schools brought their students to view. The children were curious and engaged.
Artist Services includes workshops, technical assistance and “Art Advice,” a bi-monthly service we offer at local neighborhood libraries and community centers. While artists request meetings on a regular basis with the director of artist services and often meet at the office, presenting “Art Advice” in other venues broadens our reach to artists who may not be familiar with the Arts Council.
In its second year, Make.Art.Work. is a series of workshops that teaches business and entrepreneurial skills to visual artists. Made possible with support from the Tremaine Foundation, we have co-organized the program with the Cultural Council of Fairfield County and the Greater Hartford Arts Council.
This March we introduced a new series for writers. Open to the public, once a month, we plan to invite guest writers to start a conversation about writing practices, critique and getting published. There are few opportunities for writers to meet informally and share their stories and experiences; we hope to fill that void. We will collaborate with the Institute Library and The New Haven Review.
The executive director is continually advising and assisting leaders of small arts organizations with questions on issues of board development, funding and staffing. The director of development and marketing is available to help member arts organizations with grant research and grant writing and the communications manager offers social media assistance.
“Make Art Work is a good foundation in developing an understanding of different ways to pursue a career in the arts. It also is a great opportunity to network with artists in your area.” ~Kathleen
“MAW has made a difference both in being asked into two galleries, winning a couple awards and meeting some wonderful fellow artists. It has also given me the tools to obtain a Fiscal agent and I just applied for my first grant. Thanks for your part in making the program artist friendly.”
Evaluations are distributed after each Make.Art.Work. session. High marks have been given for the instructors, the topics and the materials. Feedback includes “exceeded expectations.”
Community Engagement includes our annual Audubon Arts on the Edge family festival. In its 19th year, this all day event, in partnership with our Audubon Street neighbors, draws thousands of families to listen to music, watch international dance, watch artist demos, try out a musical instrument, draw on a communal art mural and have fun with many hands on activities. Each year we meet new families, include new activities and performers. Last year we were able to rent a larger stage from the City of New Haven that accommodated larger performance groups.
Since last fall, we have organized five artist led doll making workshops with residents who visit the Dixwell Senior Center, clients of The Connecticut Mental Health Center, families in the neighborhood of Stetson Library, women in the residential recovery program at Virginia Wells House, and ex-offenders transitioning back into society from Project More. The workshops have been designed to precede the multi-media art exhibition “Doll Like” that will open this May at the John Slade Ely House. The doll is a universal icon, offering social, political, and historical context to explore issues about personal and cultural identity, gender roles, play, heritage, magic, ritual, childhood, and memory. All the participants of the workshops have been invited to include their own creations in the Community Curated Doll Collection as part of the exhibition. Additional workshops, open to the community, will take place throughout the duration of the show. A Doll Doctor will be “on call” on designated days.
The artist led doll making workshops have been particularly meaningful because we were able to engage with different populations: the elderly, mental health clients, women in recovery, formerly incarcerated men, and families in the neighborhood of Stetson Library. Surprisingly, several fathers and sons participated in creating Afro Caribbean Dolls which was a celebratory program during Black Heritage Month. Also, with the success of the workshops at Project More, the agency has express interest in pursuing a partnership with the Arts Council.
Julie Trachtenberg joined the Arts Council in September, 2011 as Director of Development and Marketing. Prior to coming to the Arts Council, she worked as Resource Development Specialist at Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven and as Development Manager at the Weir Farm Art Center, the nonprofit partner to Weir Farm National Historic Site. Earlier in her professional career, Ms. Trachtenberg worked in New York as photography cataloguer at the Canadian Centre for Architecture and the Museum of the City of New York as well as registrar at the International Center of Photography. She contributed to the catalogue of the opening exhibition of the CCA’s museum in Montreal. As an exhibition assistant at the Yale University Art Gallery, she installed a photography show at the Betts House and she was one of the founders of the Photo Arts Collective. She also served as a commissioner of the Hamden Arts Commission.
Ms. Trachtenberg received a B.A. in Art History from SUNY Purchase and a M.A. in Art History from Hunter College.
Soonil Chun, a native of South Korea, has been working at the Arts Council for 26 years, most recently as Director of Finance. She is also the keeper of the history and archives for the Arts Council. She participated in the planning for the Audubon Arts District. Before coming to the United States, Ms. Chun received a B.A. degree in Music from the Seoul National University. She then studied at Long Island University where she received a B.A. in Education. After studying accounting, she accepted the position at the Arts Council.
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Greater New Haven is home to a thriving arts community that includes theatre, music, dance and the visual arts. It is invested in its museums, historic preservation and the celebration of its members’ ethnic and cultural diversity.
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