New Audiences. Museum Impact. Learning Styles.

This month I found three stories that can be used to enhance the content in Management and the Arts, 5e. The “Orchestra Myth” is a good compliment to Chapter 11, “Marketing and the Arts.” The posting from the Oakland Museum of California can replace the discussion topic in Chapter 4, “The Adaptive Arts Organization.” Lastly, the article about whether learning styles are indeed valid or a myth could find its way into a discussion about arts education practices in general.  

New Audiences

Aubrey Bergauer does an excellent job guiding the reader through the California Symphony’s process of confronting the challenges of securing new audiences. There are enough details in her posting that students can come away with concepts to ponder regarding how other types of cultural organizations could apply these techniques, or not. Arts managers will also want to check out what Audrey is trying to accomplish at CS.

Impact – Social and Cultural

Johanna Jones, Associate Director of Evaluation and Visitor Insights at the Oakland Museum of California, provides a detailed explanation of the process they undertook in trying to increase their social impact as an organization. The posting gives students a solid grounding in how complex it can be when trying to convert ideas into outcomes. There is also an interesting table from the Santa Monica Office of Civic Wellbeing that seems useful when thinking about topics related to cultural, political, and social policy and the arts. On a side note, one can’t help but marvel at how job titles have become so descriptive.

Learning Styles and Neuromyths

The last article is a posting from Inside Higher Ed by Greg Toppo which examines various opinions and research about the topic of learning styles (e.g., Visual Learner, Kinesthetic Learner, etc.). While arts management isn’t mentioned in the article, from my own experience, I have heard many of my colleagues in arts education departments at cultural organizations talk about learning styles as an important element in how the programming and student experiences are structured. The article provides a useful framework from which students can explore the topic and it may help them form a more nuanced understanding of the value of learning in the broadest sense.


The Orchestra Myth

And What We Can Learn From Nordstrom

Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director of the California Symphony

There is a big myth in the orchestra world. In the entire arts world, really. A falsehood so ingrained and so believed that seemingly everyone — staff, board members, journalists, and even the general public — spout it like gospel. The trouble is that continuing to factualize this fiction is to our own detriment.

It is a myth that we need new audiences.

Orchestras everywhere repeat this song over and over, using it to guide marketing campaigns, budget allocation, and programming. And we make major decisions each season based on this misinformation. We plan movie concerts and pops to bring in the “young people,” hope the celebrity guest artists we book bring a following, make entire marketing campaigns targeting newcomers with why they just need to give the symphony a try, and we spend a hefty portion of the budget on getting those campaigns in front of those newbies in order to meet our rising single ticket revenue goals. When you believe that we need new audiences, all of that makes a lot of sense.

The real problem isn’t getting new audiences though. The data shows that we are actually quite good at that. The problem is that nationwide, somewhere around 90% of first-time attendees never come back again, a widely reported statistic in our field first made famous by the former head of marketing at the Kennedy Center Jack McAuliffe. In other words, orchestras are generally great at attracting new audiences. We are generally terrible at retaining them.

Link to the full posting:


What problem in our community is our museum most uniquely equipped to solve?

Continuing to understand and measure how the Oakland Museum of California changes lives in our community.

Johanna Jones – January 23, 2019

Earlier this year, we had a social impact statement. We had even begun to publicly share that draft statement along with our process for documenting our social impact. But to be brutally honest, we kept getting questions about word choice and definitions and our “statement” seemed to need a paragraph’s worth of explanation whenever we talked about it. This is the story of how our vision for social impact at the Oakland Museum of California evolved and some of the lessons we learned along the way that might help your organization if you find yourself on a similar path.

Chapter 1: Finding ourselves at a crossroads

It was challenging to find ourselves in that position after working throughout 2017 with our staff, board, and community stakeholders drafting specific language for what we believed OMCA’s social impact was on the city of Oakland and how we were going to measure that impact. Each time we got closer to the final draft, the further away it felt we were from having something that everyone across our museum could authentically rally behind and felt could be realistically achieved.

Link to the full posting:

For more information about the arts fund – The James Irvine Foundation – New California Arts Fund

Through the New California Arts Fund (NCAF), we are helping arts nonprofits move engagement to the core of who they are and what they do. We are providing multiyear grants for organization capacity building and arts engagement programming that encourages participation in the arts among California’s diverse and low-income communities. This engagement work is resulting in significant changes to our grantee-partners’ artistic programming, staffing, governance, business models, and more. These 15 NCAF grantee-partners were selected through an invitation-only process.


‘Neuromyth’ or Helpful Model?

A nearly century-old idea about learning remains “ubiquitous” despite scant scientific evidence to back it up, many experts say. But others still see value in the concept.

By Greg Toppo , Inside Higher Education, January 9, 2019

A couple of years ago, the science writer Ulrich Boser wondered: Do educators still believe in learning styles?

The idea that some students are auditory learners, while others flourish by having information presented visually, through motion or otherwise is nearly a century old. It grew in popularity in the 1950s, then again in the 1970s, but for much of the past decade scientists have warned that it has little merit.

Boser, founder of the Learning Agency, a Washington consulting and communications group, had long followed the field. He was researching a book about learning strategies and knew that scientists had debunked learning styles, most notably in a widely discussed 2009 paper — in it, they said building instruction around the concept was an “unwise and a wasteful use of limited resources.”

So he set up a Google alert for the term. He found that, far from being dead, learning styles were perhaps as popular as ever. “It is incredible how much it pops up,” he said recently.

Educators continue to invoke the idea, he said. Last October, as she embarked on a four-state “Rethink School” tour, U.S. education secretary Betsy DeVos said she planned to visit schools that are “working to ensure all children can have access to the education that fits their learning style.” During her 2017 confirmation hearing, DeVos thanked Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, for displaying a chart in the hearing room that she could refer to during testimony, calling herself “a visual learner” — despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Education has discouraged the idea. It even funded a teachers’ guide that warns, “Education research debunks the myth that teaching students in their preferred styles (e.g. ‘visual learners,’ ‘auditory learners’) is an effective classroom practice.”

Link to the full posting: