Collaborative Art

As arts organisations look to resume events and exhibitions, attention also turns to the future. The challenge is how do we attract funders, donors, audience and customers? One solution may be collaborative art.

Arts organisations tend to be focussed on a specific aspect of art or performance. This naturally restricts the size and variety of their artistic program. One way of expanding the artistic program may be to work together with other arts organisations and create collaborative art.

There can be many benefits from collaborative art programs. The process brings together artists, and audiences, from different genres, or different organisations, giving rise to different perspectives and new levels of performance.

Imagine if a dance theatre were to join forces with a visual arts group and bring in some singers or a poet and together they create something unique and special! They share the work, the audience, the revenue and the recognition and each organisation builds its family of supporters.

In 1989, a comprehensive marketing survey of cultural audiences in Philadelphia sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts demonstrated that cultural institutions are not necessarily in competition with one another. For example, the study found substantial crossover among attendees of jazz, theater, and dance performances. Capitalizing on that finding, arts marketers put together a special subscription series combining the three art forms and increased the size of the audience for each. In another example, the study found that the Afro-American Historical & Cultural Museum plays the role of cultural gateway in the black community by promoting other cultural events. For many blacks, the museum represents their first membership in a cultural institution, and many in the museum’s audience eventually become active in the Philadelphia-area’s larger cultural community.

In 2012, a group of nine small to medium arts organisations based in Melbourne, Australia began a collaborative marketing project. Now established as Arts West, the group hopes to share their experience of the past eight years for the benefit of other small to medium organisations who want to know how collaboration works in practice.

Artistic collaborations should be structured in the same way as any other form of collaboration. When two or more parties come together share resources they also bring with them their own structures, processes, beliefs and desires. To avoid potential misunderstanding or conflict, the parties should create a guiding document that sets out how the collaboration will take place, roles and responsibilities, desired outcomes, timeframes, accountability, conflict mediation/resolution and how the collaboration might cease to exist.

John Coxon is founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency helping arts organisations to remain viable through application of The Cycle, a proven model for arts organisations. Shout out to John.

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