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National Performing Arts Convention, Taking Action Together (Denver, Colorado)
Problems and Purpose
The purpose of the 2008 National Performing Arts Convention in Denver, Colorado was to include the inter-disciplinary arts community in a 21st-Century Town Meeting in an effort to construct a common agenda, create a multi-disciplinary infrastructure, and aid artists in advocacy. These goals would ultimately lead to those in the community being able to communicate the importance of the performing arts in the United States of America and having definitive methods for strengthening the future of the performing arts within the nation.
The National Performing Arts Convention (NPAC) is an affiliation of diverse members of the performing arts community, focused on the awareness and growth of art in the United States of America. This affiliation views the performing arts as an integral piece of American economics and cultural richness. For this reason NPAC establishes itself as a venue for artistic education and expression. NPAC employs over 100,000 individuals and maintains an annual budget of over $5 billion. With these resources, NPAC conducted its first convention in 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Its second convention was conducted in 2008, in collaboration with AmericaSpeaks, where a successful future of the community was deliberated in a democratic Town Meeting process.
AmericaSpeaks engaged 1,500 participants in a 21st-Century Town Meeting at the National Performing Arts Convention. NPAC extended an open invitation to this event. NPAC also encouraged potential participants to apply to specific service organizations that may provide them with financial aid in accommodations, registration and transport, in order to achieve diversity in its group of participants. The demographics of these participants are detailed in the "Notes" section below.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
Beginning on June 11,2008, participants joined in caucus discussions in Denver, Colorado at the Colorado Convention Center. AmericaSpeaks facilitated this process in an effort to ensure that all members of this diverse group of participants had their values and voice heard. Each day participants met in roundtable discussions, with 9 other participants, to discuss a question provided to them, which was relative to the topic of the future of the performing arts. Each of these questions built on the discussion from the previous day. Over 200 trained professionals led these daily discussions. During each day a group of individuals known as the theme team, worked to synthesize the information discussed at each table in order to formulate recommendations that were representative of all discussions that occurred. The questions asked each day were (respectively for June 11, 2008 to June 14, 2008):
1. Where are we currently most and least successful in reaching our vision?
2. What are the most important opportunities/challenges for the community to address in order to better reach our vision?
3. What are the strategies we need to follow in order to achieve our vision?
4. Which strategies will we commit to?
From this process, participants identified three goals that can be identified as challenges and opportunities for achieving their objective of strengthening the future of the performing arts community. These three challenges and opportunities are recognizing the value of the community/advocating for it in the public realm, promoting arts education, and engagement of all ages, cultures, identities and races in the community. Two other topics: how to engage individual artists and how to best use technology to better the community, were other topics that participants were passionate about. At this time a variety of strategies for approaching these challenges and opportunities were developed.
On the last day, June 14, 2008, participants gathered and used keypads to vote on the best strategies for approaching each priority on a national, local and individual level.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The influence of this process was the creation of five task forces. One priority was assigned to each task force. These groups are tasked with collecting more information, making progress reports and further developing strategies in order to overcome these challenges or take advantage of these opportunities for the advancement and betterment of the community. Each task force consists of members of service organizations interested in this goal and is chaired by a service organization member and President, CEO or ED. The budget of this project is $200,000.
Analysis and Criticism
Although NPAC made positive efforts to draw participants to the 21st-Century Town Meeting by encouraging them to apply for financial aid, the participant pool may have benefitted from more diversity. Although the group of participants was diverse in the realm of art, including administrators, artists, and teachers, the point of view of an individual not directly affected by the performing arts may have made a positive impact on this deliberative process. For example, they could give a point of view on how performing arts awareness could be increased in the public sector. The inclusion of more individuals like this could be an area of focus for potential improvement in future conventions.
Secondly, this particular event would have been bettered through the clarification of language. This includes the agreement of a definition of what the performing arts community exactly is. This recommendation is also included in an analysis of the convention. This would allow for more fluid discussions and effective outcomes.
The demographics of the participants are detailed here.
21 and under: 1%
60 or better: 8%
Chamber/Early Music: 2%
Popular/World/New Music: 5%
Choose all roles that most closely describe you:
Professional or Amateur Artist: 51%
Administrator of an Arts Organization: 63%
Production Personnel: 16%
Arts-Services Worker: 14%
Arts Educator or Student: 32%
If you are part of an arts producing organization, please identify its budget size:
Under $50,000: 9%
$1 million-$5 million: 26%
$5 million-$10 million: 12%
$10 million - $25 million: 6%
$25 million and up: 6%
Not Applicable: 9%
Region 1: 6%
Region 2: 27%
Region 3: 6%
Region 4: 8%
Region 5: 9%
Region 6: 14%
Region 7: 9%
Region 8: 2%
Region 9: 14%
Region 10: 4%
Region 1: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Region 2: New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC
Region 3: Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky
Region 4: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas
Region 5: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin
Region 6: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado
Region 7: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona
Region 8: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho
Region 9: California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii Islands
Region 10: International