Artistic Reflection Kit
Artistic directors and senior management should have open discussions with artists on a regular basis. Ask for their feedback not only about their development but also their opinion on the organisation’s artistic standards. This can include how they feel the organisation is contributing to the development of the artform or whether they feel their audience is engaged and stimulated.
These simple discussions, which could happen over coffee, are a great opportunity to get feedback from artists without using a structured mechanism. Remember to keep a note of these discussions and follow up on any major issues that you learn from these discussions.
Organisations, who do not want to implement a staff survey, should capture general feedback in meetings, planning workshops, general discussions and emails. A good idea is to start a register which records issues, ideas and feedback from staff. This register should be used in any future planning sessions and could be used when assessing the elements of artistic vibrancy. Your staff already know how you are tracking artistically, so ask them.
Ensure artistic vibrancy is on the agenda of Board meetings. It’s highly recommended that the Artistic Director report regularly to the Board and give updates on how the organisation is tracking against their artistic goals. The format of these discussions can be structured around the five elements of artistic vibrancy. For example, talk about the quality of the artists performances – do they need to improve? are they improving? are there any gaps? Be open and frank in these discussions.
The most important thing about artistic reflection is to do something. At a minimum, you could set aside some time to reflect on the questions in this Kit, with your staff or board, or on your own. This is the critical first step towards a deeper understanding of your artistic vibrancy and where to next.
It is important to have an artistic planning and decision-making process that is inclusive and collaborative. Staff should feel engaged and excited about the organisation’s artistic plan and goals. Hold regular staff meetings to discuss artistic matters and make sure you update the whole organisation on changes in the plan, celebrate achievements, discuss failure and get everyone’s input into “how things can be done better next time”.
Set aside some time to reflect on the artistic vibrancy of each work or the program as a whole. Include lessons learned and what changes will be made to future programs. Use this time to write the artistic report to the board or keep track of how the organisation is going in achieving its artistic goals.
Should the opportunity arises, have frank and open discussions with artists, artistic directors and management of other arts organisations. Ask them how they feel about a specific production/concert, how they think your organisation is tracking artistically or where they see your organisation’s place in the wider artform community.
Throughout the year gather external reviews from local and national press and analyse the overall response to the artistic quality of your productions/concerts/seasons. Remember that these will be subjective so ensure that you draw your conclusions from a wide variety of reviewers.
Remember to include reviews from online sources, like Facebook, blogs and other websites. A good idea is to create a list of printed media, online websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages that you will follow to analyse over time.
Ensure you have a system in place that will allow you to track ticket sales trends over a period of time. Agree on a set of reports that will be beneficial to marketing, artistic staff and other areas of the organisation.
Did the audience respond to the performance as expected? Did anything happen in the audience that you did not expect? Why was that? What are people chatting about during intervals or on the way out? Do a bit of spy work and keep your eyes and ears open.
Monitor all audience feedback received and regularly analyse as to identify key themes and patterns. The most important thing to remember with these tools is to ensure you make it as easy as possible for people to give feedback. This might include creating a suggestion box at the box office or allowing people to post comments on your website. Do a quick audit on your website and ask yourself if you find it easy for instance to navigate to a feedback form or email address.
A good idea is to publish feedback on your website or social media pages so that others can read it as well. Retweet a positive tweet on Twitter or respond to a feedback comment on Facebook.
What issues are of concern to your community? What is your community saying about your organisation? Search through blogs, forums and news sources to gather general information about your community and their perspective of you. Is your programming relevant to the issues and concerns of these communities? Do they feel a sense of connection with your organisation and your work? Do they think your work is connected to the diverse make-up of the community?
When you get the opportunity to ask people about your organisation and your work, use it to reflect on your relevance to these people. A good place to start is to explore what things they care about or what arts they are interested in. Ask people if they are aware of your work or other initiatives that you run. Did they know about your education programs or the other services that you supply like ceremonial performances. If they don't then ask what would make your program or service more relevant.