Meet Your New Customer: The Millennial Parent

15 millennial family

Know your customer is the first rule of business. Millennials, huge in population numbers, are our new generation of parents. While individually, they may tell you they don’t like to be categorized, recent studies have shown as a consumer demographic, distinct patterns are emerging. Millennials are proving to be extremely knowledgeable, discriminating consumers who are more than willing to break with tradition, and who expect a lot from those who sell to them.

According to a new book, “Millennials with Kids” by Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler, these children of the Baby Boomers want products that make their lives “faster, better, easier, and more efficient.” They tend to be price conscious, responsive to special offers, and want a lot of personalization and customization. They also take time to research and network to ensure that they get just what they want. If you’re a company or entrepreneur who gets that right, and you provide great customer service, then Millennials are likely to be extremely loyal to your brand. Get it wrong at your peril because they won’t be shy about voicing their displeasure.

The choices they’re making in their careers and lifestyle are helping us understand them as future consumers. At work, one very clear indicator is that maintaining a work-life balance is of primary importance for this age group, and many are prepared to trade financial gain for pursuing their passions and having more control of their time. Two top concerns according to a study entitled, “Millennials as New Parents,” are about environmental issues and about the foods they give their children. The same study shows that in contrast to “helicopter parents” who raised a lot of Millennials, these young parents want their own children to have more free time for unstructured play.

Often cited as one of the most socially compassionate generations, more than half surveyed by Fromm said they “try to buy products that support causes or charities.” Among the things they want to teach their children is that possessions aren’t important to keep you happy. This is consistent with lifestyle choices being made to choose smaller homes, live closer to cities with better transportation, and opting to share and reuse rather than buying.

In terms of family, a Pew study found this demographic willing to challenge traditional thinking about what a family is – in terms of gender, dual or single parenting, parental roles and even the importance of children over marriage. In fact, fifty-two percent said “being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life; while only thirty percent said the same about having a successful marriage.

But the group is huge and growing – almost at thirty percent of the population, and a new report by Goldman Sachs says, “the rise of this new generation has sent marketers into a frenzy,” anticipating enormous sums they are expected to spend on their kids.

As consumers, preference is for companies or individuals that have “authentic narratives and share their world view,” according to Goldman Sachs. Millennials develop personal affinity for products and brands and this along with the “leveling force of social media, has given a newfound upper hand to smaller, social media-savvy upstarts that are able to use grassroots marketing to push boutique-style products with an aura of social responsibility or healthiness.”

Skeptics contend that this will change when Millennials settle down, but many say they’re playing a new game thanks to technology and social media, that places great importance on ensuring that their voices are heard and that they can effect change to get what they want. “Millennials see technology not just as a device or platform for communication but as a way to improve life, make better choices, and contribute to society….Brands that have a social media presence, manage a user-friendly website, and engage their customers with relevant, fresh content have a greater chance to impact Millennial purchasing decisions,” reports “Entrepreneur.”

“Creating a forum for this group to communicate and share their opinions with each other can create loyal followers and increase sales.” Then hold onto your seat because, as the technology consulting group Accenture concludes its recent report, “we believe retailing will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50.” And the key to success is in providing a consistently personalized, on-brand experience.


HistoriCorps: Volunteers in U.S. Historic Preservation Make Their Mark and Have Fun Doing It


Want to experience a slice of American history? Would you be willing to clear some brush, wield a hammer, and step off the beaten track? If so, and if you have a week, month, or more of your time to give, and you’re willing to travel, consider becoming a volunteer for HistoriCorps, a kind of national landmarks-focused Peace Corps for sites in the U.S.

Described by executive director Townsend Anderson as “a hybrid between a nonprofit construction company and an outdoor adventure company,” HistoriCorps “mobilizes and engages a volunteer workforce to work on historic preservation projects.” Anderson describes the experience as a kind of adventure vacation in some of the most beautiful—if sometimes remote—parts of the country.

Since its founding in 2009, as many as 900 HistoriCorps volunteers have logged more than 60,000 hours doing preservation work on close to 170 projects in more than 20 states. Projects are currently underway at Clermont Farm, Virginia; Santanoni Preserve, New York; Routt National Forest, Colorado; and Tahoe National Forest as well as special project sites in West Virginia and Arizona.

HistoriCorps evolved from a “partnership between a group representing land managers and preservationists, who collaborated to restore buildings on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest in Salida, Colorado. That initiative helped the U.S. Forest Service recognize the power of such a collaborative model, since the federal agency has thousands of historic buildings under its care, but it is not able to do all the preservation work that is needed.” HistoriCorps along with its sponsors and partners tries to help with projects that can benefit from volunteer manpower.

According to Anderson, the organization goes out of its way to provide an easy, accessible experience for those who join, and group leaders train them to work side-by-side with skilled tradesmen and other volunteers. No previous experience is necessary. Individuals are provided with the tools they need and basic accommodations, including a kitchen and camping equipment to provide adequate shelter.

“It has really become a gateway, if you will, that historic preservation has never had before,” explains Anderson. “It is introducing many non-preservationists to historic preservation. […] HistoriCorps has offered, for me, the best opportunity I have had to teach a preservation ethic.”

Those who work on HistoriCorps have the chance to repair and restore “places that preserve and tell the nation’s history.” Ann Pritzlaff, one of the founding members, calls HistoriCorps “more than a clearinghouse for volunteers or a resource for funding.” She described the mission as having a number of parts, to “build the capacity of land management agencies and local governments to achieve preservation projects, advance green technologies and enable innovators in historic preservation and stewardship, so that preservation can take on real value for communities and economies.”

Historic preservation can take many forms, preserving, conserving and protecting things from the past that are deemed to be of historic importance. It can be about protecting houses and other buildings from being destroyed, or the recovery and protection of artifacts and sites. In the United States, one of the earliest, best known examples was “the decision to maintain Mount Vernon, George Washington’s homestead, in its original condition rather than demolishing the property shortly after his death.” In the late 1940s, President Truman signed legislation to create the National Land Trust. More recently, in 2011, the National Trust announced a dynamic new program called National Treasures, through which the organization will identify significant threatened places across the United States, and take direct action to save them. National Treasures are part of a new and focused effort to bring more Americans into the preservation movement, and demonstrate the relevance of preserving the nation’s historic places.

On the grassroots level, HistoriCorps is one of a number of organizations trying to help out. For those who are interested in HistoriCorps but can’t participate as on-site volunteers, individuals can make donations to HistoriCorps, where even less than $100 can be allocated to buy new tools or buy meals for field teams. The organization also accepts applications from organizations and groups that have a structure or property they believe may have historical significance and should be restored and used to benefit the public.

To learn more about activities in historic preservation, visit HistoriCorps’ sponsor pageor the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). Preservation Action, a nonprofit lobbying group also hosts Preservation Week each spring to help raise awareness of important issues. And NTHP publishes a yearly list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places on their website to spotlight national treasures and rally efforts to save them.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]


Art-centric Apps Meet the New Art Audience in Full Embrace

15 Art instagram

Grab your hashtags and your paddles. Today, every second counts as #fineart artists, galleries, museums, collectors, and entrepreneurs connect socially and for business in the fast-paced art marketplace. Instagram and a host of art-centric apps are revolutionizing and democratizing the world of art.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that eighty-one percent recipients of National Endowment of the Arts grants said the Internet and other technologies are “very important for promoting the arts.” Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also emphasized their importance, telling CNBC that, “Social media and art-related apps have allowed the New York museum to expand the reach of its art in the world.”

Sreenivasan, whose goal is to expand access to the Met’s collection, said, “It’s common to look at the comments on the posts, see people tagging their friends and setting up outings to the Met to see the art in person.” For organizations, having a large presence on digital media can also drive sales and museum visits. And Dave Krugman, a social media consultant and social editor at the BBDO ad agency who has 173,000 followers on his own Instagram account, said social media users can “publish to their own audiences and be their own editors and be their own storytellers.”

In the world of social media, both according to the 2015 Online Art Trade Report by Hiscox, the London-based fine-art insurers, and as reported by Bloomberg News, “Facebook and Instagram are considered the two most important social media channels in the art world.” A recent survey of art collectors on Instagram found that 51.5 percent of them had purchased works from artists they discovered there, with an average of five purchased works by artists originally found on the app.

As CNBC reported last week, “Tech start-ups are combining data and social media with artistic vision to help expand art appreciation—as well as find lucrative buyers and potential investors.”

  • Aura, which was featured at this year’s Association of Art Museum Directors meeting, is an app that “uses ‘big data’ to help art lovers keep track of all the works and exhibits they’ve seen, and helps them share what they love on social media.”
  • The app Artsy aims to make art accessible. “It works as an online database of more than 300,000 works in galleries and museums as well as The Art Genome Project, a system that logs similar qualities between artists and artworks.” The objective is to help people find art they love and want to buy.
  • Paddle8, an online auction house and app recently profiled in the New York Times, is among many betting that there’s a lot of money to be made where art and tech meet in the cloud.

Art fairs are also seeing a benefit, as buyers are increasingly taking advantage of online previews to get a jump on negotiating for art pieces they want rather than waiting to browse onsite at the fair. For example, at this month’s Art Basel, more than 500 inquiries were made beforehand via Artsy. This kind of activity can also increase the popularity of a piece or an artist, making it easier to assess the potential for higher sales and how the market is trending. Aura is a tool for just that purpose. And the stakes can be enormous these days—as evinced by the fact that last month, auction house Christie’s had its first $1 billion week.

But Instagram and the others are also a boon for more average investors and art lovers. The Artsy survey about how art collectors use Instagram found:

  • Of collectors surveyed, 87 percent checked Instagram more than twice a day, and 55 percent opened the app five or more times a day.
  • Collectors rely on Instagram as a tool for discovering and researching art trends.
  • Instagram has a clear impact as a discovery tool. Around 61 percent of collectors consistently look at an artist’s hashtag before buying—and 42% do so often.
  • As reported above, 51.5 percent of surveyed collectors had purchased work from artists they originally discovered through Instagram.
  • A large majority of collectors—73 percent—believe that Instagram makes the art market more transparent, with many citing that as its key impact.

The Artsy report concluded:

“Instagram is best viewed as a marketing tool as opposed to a sales tool. It is great for finding out about an artist’s most recent body of work, or learning of a gallery’s latest exhibition, or getting behind the scenes takes on the inner workings of the art world.”

Going forward, as the art business broadens its capabilities and reach online, key questions will be: How much control will artists have over sales of their work and cultivation of their audience? Who will the major power brokers be and how will they ensure audience loyalty? And, what are the risks and pitfalls to everyone involved as art is made more digitally accessible and technology makes it harder to protect?

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]


Can a Robot Win the Newbery?

15 Robot Newbery

I know we’re just getting adjusted to social media, big data and predictive modeling, but it’s robots I think that (who?) we need to watch out for. Like it or not, the movie “Her,” which was not a personal favorite, did pose the question of just how wily those robots can be in making us think we could have a meaningful relationship. But as science fiction has often warned, they don’t care and might well leave us in the end. In fact, it looks downright scary, and many are predicting vast changes in our work and lives going forward.

Robots started out alright, just offering to vacuum our houses, clean the pool, scoop the litter, and turn on lights to deter burglars. But now they’ve gotten so personal – telling us when to exercise, if we’ve had too much chocolate, and insisting there’s one right way to cook broccoli.

Friends have said, “Let them do the rote tasks, help keep us healthy, crunch data to ensure we only hear about the products we want.” A recent email thread even suggested we might eventually do away with jobs in sales, marketing, and those held by overpaid CEOs – and advance to a time where we can focus on technology, science, art and creative fields that “need the human touch.”

What? Marketing not creative??!! Well, we’ll save that for another time…. But, in fact the question we increasingly face in light of developments in AI, is, what is uniquely human and what is meaningful in our business and personal interactions – and what can robots really be taught to do?

Right now, we’re witnessing the rise of robot journalism and even the beginnings of robots doing art. In March, Associated Press announced robots will be covering college sports, the Los Angeles Times is using robots to cover some news, and others are finding robots perfectly suited for disaster coverage. The company Narrative Science has developed a program to facilitate all this and which takes statistics and data from sports, finance and other areas and turns it into articles. In fact, the founders have been predicting it won’t be long before a robot wins the Pulitzer. Bryan Clark, gave an excellent overview of robots covering news on the tech site, MakeUseOf, entitled, Meet the Robot Who’s Trying to Take My Job.

Robotic art’s not quite so far along, but experiments are well underway – and some that are doing art might surprise you. iCub, one of the most advanced humanoids can dance and make music, and learns by interacting with the world the way a toddler would. Paul-IX, according to the Huffington Post, is “an automated sketch-bot who can outline a still life better than your high school art teacher,” and The Painting Fool is a robot that/whose work has been exhibited in galleries.

So how far are we, and will AI go in making robots to replicate and even improve on the things we do? Things are changing fast, and we don’t know what will be possible, but perhaps the lesson for all of us in art and in marketing is to think about our human connections and, possibly, not be so quick to want to automate and abbreviate everything we do.

But we should realize we’ve always had predictive systems in place to project successful outcomes. Bryan Clark sums it up saying, “the robot is more than capable of telling us who won as well as identifying key facts, but “they aren’t able to recognize the subtle nuances that really tell the story. The bad jump on a fly ball that led to a double, the bunt single that a replay showed to be a foul ball – these are all details that a human beat reporter relies on to deliver a compelling story. These nuances are why sports fans watch games, but they’re largely qualitative and beyond the scope of modern machine learning.”

Ken Goldberg, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations at the University of California, Berkeley, where he directs a lab on automation sciences, concurs in a recent article for Nautilus, “Robots Can’t Dance.” Goldberg says working with robots has taught him “to have a huge appreciation for the nuances of human behavior and the inconsistencies of humans.” It’s the “ability to have an emotional response, to be compelling, to be able to pick up subtle emotional signals, these are all the things that we haven’t made any progress on with robots.”

Will he and others do so going forward? We don’t know, but for now, it’s the ability to use all those skills in to create nuanced, multifaceted stories, whether in writing, art, or in marketing, that will as it always has been able to — touch others in a meaningful way.

And, if that doesn’t work – I’m for waiting for a good rainy day and pushing those smug robots right outside to rust!


Global Initiative to Ensure Women Artists Gain Traction in Museums

The history of women in art has traditionally been about the pieces in the museum or gallery, rather than about the artists who created the art that’s there. That’s because so little of the art is by women, and few women artists have gained the access and the level of acceptance and success their male counterparts have in the male dominated art world.

The work of women artists has been barred, banned, and belittled in past generations, and even now, many would agree, they are significantly underrepresented in public and private collections around the world. In fact, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C., founded in 1987, still bills itself as “the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to women’s creative contributions.”

But now, Valeria Napoleone, a philanthropist and art collector who has made women’s art the sole focus of her own collection since she began collecting in the early 1990s, has launched a global project in conjunction with the Contemporary Art Society in London and the SculptureCenter in New York to try to help even the score. According to ArtNet News, the new project, entitled “Valeria Napoleone XX,” will “endeavor to increase the number of commissions and number of female artists in public collections.” The first work was a commission by Anthea Hamilton from SculptureCenter in New York.

“The UK project will see a work from a female artist donated to a museum each year,”ArtNet News reports. To qualify for the UK project, institutions have to examine their collections, identify where they lack female artists’ work, and then make a case to be a candidate for the donation. If chosen, the museum will then host a solo show for the female artist. “Institutions who are members of the Contemporary Art Society and interested in the project can apply to the CAS and Napoleone for consideration from April 2016.”

There’s a lot of work to do to achieve parity, as evidenced by stats on the National Museum of Women in the Arts website. They report that while 51 percent of visual artists today are women and women earn half the MFAs granted in the U.S., only a quarter of solo exhibitions in L.A. and New York galleries feature women. In Europe, at the Venice Biennale, the 2009 edition featured 43 percent women, but in 2013 and 2014, the numbers dropped to only 26 percent and 33 percent respectively.

“Museum collections necessarily reflect historical gender imbalances and the 20th and 21st centuries have seen many more female artists achieving international recognition,” said Caroline Douglas, director of Contemporary Art Society. “But there’s still work to do. In joining forces with Valeria Napoleone, we have a unique opportunity to proactively help our Museum Members build collections that accurately reflect the diversity of great work being produced by living artists.”

NMWA’s director, Susan Fisher Sterling, has concurred, saying, “Women in the arts receive more recognition than they used to, but you only have to look at the winter auctions in London to see that we’ve got a long way to go: none of top 100 prices were for pieces by women artists. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with issues that are very entrenched, like those to do with power and money, it takes a long time to see a significant change.”

And then there’s the perception of value, which also needs to change. As Georgia O’Keefe famously said, “The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]


Oh, The Place You’ll Go in 2016: The Seuss Museum, in Springfield, MA

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

In an effort to ensure no other city will claim Dr. Seuss for its own, Springfield Museums has announced it will create “the first museum dedicated to the life and legacy of (Springfield) city native Theodore Seuss Geisel.”

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum is scheduled to open in 2016 at the Quadrangle, precisely two blocks away from the real-life Mulberry Street, the site of Dr. Seuss’s very first picture book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The museum will also be only a few blocks from the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, where sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, Geisel’s stepdaughter, created bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and some of his most beloved characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Lorax, and Yertle the Turtle.

The new museum will feature all those characters and many more, and include a mural of an illustration from that first book, “which launched Geisel’s career as the most recognizable in children’s literature.” The first floor of the museum will open in 2016, and a second floor, which will include a “recreation of Ted Geisel’s studio,” is scheduled for completion the following year. The Springfield Museums has raised more than three million dollars toward the project, which includes “funds from donors, foundations and $1 million grant from the state.”

As WAMC-Radio reported, “The Dr. Seuss Museum will include interactive exhibits featuring the classic characters from the children’s books,” which “include references to many local landmarks.”

Like the hugely successful Eric Carle Museum not far away in Amherst, Massachusetts, the new Dr. Seuss Museum will promote both its namesake and children’s literacy overall. Dr. Seuss’s books are sold in 17 languages in 95 countries, making this development important for tourism and as a place to promote and cultivate a love of children’s literature. Museums officials, citing the worldwide popularity of Dr. Seuss, expect the new museum will result in a 25 percent increase in visits to the Quadrangle. They also believe it will help advance the cause of literacy in their community and beyond. In Springfield, currently “only 40 percent of the city’s public school students are proficient readers.” City officials hope to double that percentage over the next year by the time the new museum opens.

Springfield Museums President Holly Smith-Bové said at a meeting of the editorial board of the Republican, “With input from the Davis Foundation, educators from the Springfield public schools and Square One early childhood agency, the museum will also be a place where children can practice the basic reading skills including letter recognition, vocabulary and rhyming.”

This is important for all visitors, because, to quote another Dr. Seuss book, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]


Libyan Antiquities Feared as Next ISIS Target

Leptis Magna, Libya

With the horrifying images still fresh from ISIS’s attacks last month on rare, precious artifacts and statuary in the Mosul museum, Newsweek is reporting that officials and experts around the world fear the antiquities of Libya are in imminent danger.

Stating that “ISIS holds an intolerance towards items that are deemed jahili (pre-Islamic) and antiquities that depict humans,” Dr. Hafed Walda, the pending deputy ambassador to the permanent Libyan delegation at UNESCO, has said “Their eyes are on big museums which have fine collections of Greek and Roman sculptures…. This, coupled with the fact that ISIS’s power has grown substantially in Libya, particularly along the Mediterranean coastline, has brought the group closer to sites of historical significance.”

Among the sites cultural and government leaders believe are most vulnerable in Libya are the ancient Roman theatre, Leptis Magna, just outside of Tripoli; the coastal town of Sabratha, a former Phoenician trading post with the remains of an amphitheater, temples and a basilica; and the archaeological site of Cyrene, considered one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world. ISIS militants have also proclaimed the city of Misrata, which houses a museum, a Roman forum, and a great basilica, as one of their primary targets.

Issandr El Amrani, director for International Crisis Group’s North Africa Programme, doesn’t hold much hope for securing the “completely unprotected” sites. He says, “ISIS is driven to a large extent by doing things that have a propaganda value more than a practical military value so, yes, they could be tempted to [attack the sites], to create the narrative that they are fighting anything that is jahili.”

Responding to the wreckage in Mosul, Iraqi archaeologist and associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology Lamia al-Gailani Werr said in an interview with Reuters that “the militants had wreaked untold damage” and that at stake was “not only Iraq’s heritage; it’s the whole world’s.” She and others have compared the devastation to the 2001 dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Afghan Taliban.

Other militant groups have done the same over the centuries, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Nazis in Germany, and many more. As has happened many times before, the motives are shock value, undermining the cultural identity and heritage of others and, more practically, for the monetary gain of the terrorizing group, selling what has been pillaged on the international black market.

According to National Geographic, “Experts outside of Iraq are now engaged in remote triage, watching the footage frame by frame and trying to create a list of the real artifacts that were destroyed.”

Those on the ground in Libya and who watch from around the world say it will take a massive joint effort to head off future violence. Newsweek Reporter Jack Moore concluded:

“As the North African country continues its slide into chaos, becoming a magnet for foreign fighters, and an embryonic extension of ISIS’s caliphate, there seems to be little hope for Libya’s cultural legacy. […] In the aftermath of the Mosul attack, UNESCO’s director general Irina Bokova told a press conference that the UN’s cultural body ‘does not have an army’ and ‘there is not much we can do’ to prevent the looting and damage of antiquities in war-torn areas. But, for Libya, Dr. Walda disagrees with Bokova, proposing tough security measures as a solution to protect his country’s rich history. ‘We have to fortify the museums,’ he says.”

Experts, including Al-Gailani Werr, concur, saying, “This as a cultural tragedy with a global impact. These things are part of the history of humanity. If you destroy them, you’re destroying the history of everyone.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]


End of an Era: NYC’s Last Store to Sell Classical Sheet Music Closes

Frank Music

Frank Music Company is the latest brick-and-mortar music store to bow to the pressure of online competition. Store owner Heidi Rogers told the Wall Street Journal that Frank Music had been struggling for years and that she’d gone from “seeing 15 to 20 people per day to seeing two or three” as music “became readily available online.”

The store, which opened in 1937, has been a place where musicians, composers, singers, educators, students and music lovers young and old would shop and also have a chance to meet, socialize, and get answers and ideas from staff and from each other. Ms. Rogers, who bought the store in 1978, said while there are other places that carry classical sheet music, including the Julliard School’s bookstore at Lincoln Center, Frank Music is the “last store in the city dedicated to selling classical sheet music.” According to theJournal, the store’s celebrity clients included pianists Emanuel Ax and Jeremy Denk, violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pamela Frank, and cellist David Finckel. Readers commenting on the WSJ Frank Music story reflected on its closing as a loss of a city landmark, a social gathering place and a trusted venue.

Last June, the Washington Post similarly announced that Dale Music, the D.C.-area’s last sheet music store, would be shuttered after 64 years. And a few months before that report, Naomi Lewin, host of New York City’s classical music station WQXR, reported the closing of the iconic J&R Records, after 43 years, saying it had “gone the way of Tower Records, HMV, Virgin Megastore, Sam Goody and other brick-and-mortar shops that used to make New York City a music superstore haven.”

There’s been great concern about decline in audience for classical music recording and performance. Last month, Slipped Disc, a site that reports on classical music and related culture, somberly quoted Neilsen Soundscan data saying “only one classical record—The Ultimate Bocelli—sold more than 350 copies” in that previous week. However, it’s worth noting that Slipped Disc itself reports having site traffic of more than a million visitors, so arguably there’s substantial audience to be had.

But sustaining a brick-and-mortar store is particularly difficult these days, as evinced by the struggles faced by the book, music, and other industries to compete on many fronts with digital giants like Amazon, specialty websites, and the myriad free sources of music and literature that seem to spring up at every turn.

Ms. Rogers told CBS 1010 WINS Radio’s Al Jones that consumers are “voting with their dollars or their lack of dollars, and the only thing I wish is that Amazon would go bust.” Unfortunately for other Manhattan retailers who may wish the same, they may soon have added competition on the ground if Amazon proceeds with plans for their own brick-and-mortar store in midtown.

But for Frank Music, which is closing tomorrow, the finale will consist of sending the store’s remaining stock of “hundreds of thousands of scores” via a gift from an anonymous donor to the Colburn School, a music conservatory in Los Angeles.

So, like the community center it once was, the remains of Frank Music will be redeployed for the public good.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]


Changing the Landscape of Theater Education: Pig Iron Theater and UArts

©Pig Iron Theatre

©Pig Iron Theatre

Breaking the fourth wall in theater education, the University of the Arts’ Ira Brind School of Theater Arts will bring avant-garde theater inside the ivory tower. Beginning this fall, the university’s faculty will work side-by-side with company members of Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre to challenge and train graduate students to push traditional boundaries in performance to hone a new generation of “theatrical innovators.”

The partnership will create two new degrees at the University of the Arts: a Master of Fine Arts and a Certificate in “Pig Iron School’s Devised Performance program.” Poised to “change the landscape of theater education,” according to Broadway World, the MFA and Certificate programs will be under the direction of Pig Iron’s cofounder Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel, within the UArts Ira Brind School of Theater Arts led by Joanna Settle.

“This partnership breaks down the traditional boundaries of a theater education to create a program that is adept at serving the current landscape of performance,” said Settle, director of the Ira Brind School. Students will train alongside award-winning faculty, who are artistic practitioners and educators.

Settle believes devised performance represents the future of theater. Devised theater has been gaining momentum globally. It draws “from the collective inspiration of the group, not from a script written by a singular playwright, and performances are not confined by the boundaries of the stage, but often occur in found or public spaces.”

“If you’re a theater student or professional theater practitioner, this is pretty big news,” reported PhiladelphiaMagazine. “From an artistic standpoint, the new program is a win-win: Pig Iron’s current program will be accentuated by professors and additional coursework at UArts.” As Bauriedel told Philadelphia:

“We are thrilled about this partnership because the curriculum as we’ve designed it and as we’ve taught it will remain intact. The core of the program is the same and the faculty will not change. Now, students who want to earn an MFA will spend 2 years in the studio with the certificate students, training to become theatre practitioners. MFA students will take additional courses at UArts: they’ll study visual art practice and music theory; they’ll learn an instrument and will study theatre pedagogy. MFA students will also stay for an additional semester (making the MFA a 2.5 year or 5 semester program), during which time they’ll stretch their learning toward full-length original works, site-specific pieces, [and] collaborations with visual artists, composers and choreographers. They will also have the opportunity to partner with a community organization to test the meaning of devised performance beyond the conventional spectator/performer relationship.”

Founded in 1995, Pig Iron Theatre Company has been lauded internationally. The New York Times called them “one of the few groups successfully taking theater in new directions.” In 2011, the ensemble created their diploma program, Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training. The program trains artists in physical theater rooted in Lecoq pedagogy and ensemble theater practice.

Established in 1876, the University of the Arts is one of the only U.S. universities dedicated solely to educating students in the visual and performing arts, design and writing. In January 2014, noted director Joanna Settle was brought in to lead the Brind School, and the program has evolved quickly under her leadership.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]


Art and Trauma: The Soldier Art Workshop

©Art Therapy Alliance

©Art Therapy Alliance

Art may not be the first therapeutic tool that comes to mind when treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has proven to be effective and is being used in a number of places to help returning soldiers. In El Paso, a new collaborative project called the Soldier Art Workshop Program will be launched by the El Paso Art Association in March. The volunteer effort brings local artists together with area soldiers and their families and is designed to teach art to the soldiers as they “make the transition to normal military and family life after deployment.” Twelve workshops will be held at the El Paso Museum of Art and the Fort Bliss Family Center over the course of a year. They will focus on visual arts, including oil and watercolor painting, mixed-media encaustics, and digital photography.

Arts organizations participating in the Soldier Art Workshop Program include the El Paso Museum of Art, Plein Air Painters of El Paso, the Pastel Society of El Paso, and Rio Bravo Watercolorists. Military sponsorship has been provided by Ft. Bliss MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation), the Warrior Transition Battalion, and the Ready & Resilience Center. Among the El Paso artist volunteers are Jan Wisbrun Dreher, Krystyna Robbins, Julie Caffee-Cruz, Nina Walker, Ben Avant, Pat Olchefski-Winston, Darrell McGahhey, Jimmie Bemont, Ron Fritsch, Melinda Etzold, and Rami Scully.

These artists are in good company in using art with returning soldiers. A National Geographic cover story this month, “How Art Heals the Wounds of War” by Andrea Stone, reported on an art therapy program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which had soldiers making masks revealing an aspect of their experience. Melissa Walker, an art therapist who works with veterans at Walter Reed, said the program started in 2010 to help returning injured service men and women. “We needed to look for additional types of treatment,” Walker said. “At the time, I’m not so sure people understood the impact it would have, (but after) a very short time, it became clear [they] were taking to art therapy.”

Jackie Biggs, a 2013 masters graduate from George Washington University’s Columbian College Art Therapy Program, was given a National Endowment for the Arts grant to “integrate art therapy into treatment for active-duty military patients at Fort Belvoir,” one of the first in the country to focus on the area of art therapy for trauma victims. That treatment has now become a standard component of the hospital’s patient/soldier protocol. Biggs believes it’s been effective because “this is a group that tends to internalize their trauma; they hope it will go away if they don’t talk about it.” But swallowing trauma like that can lead to depression, abuse, or suicide, whereas art therapy can “give them a voice when words aren’t there.”

Another program that has received national recognition is Operation Oak Tree, run by the Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) in Chicago. Operation Oak Tree utilizes art therapy and the creative arts to help military families from the time of pre-mobilization and deployment through reintegration. It gained the attention of Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden when it was part of a presentation made in June where Dr. Biden was touring to promote an initiative she’s promoting with First Lady Michelle Obama to mobilize all sectors of society to give members of the armed forces and their families opportunities and support.

The new El Paso program has the potential to serve as an affordable model in this vein because it encourages the local arts community to serve as a conduit for supporting soldiers and their families at a very difficult time.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]