_________________________________________________________________________________ BRAINSTORMING OUR COLLECTIVE FUTURE
Networking and visualizing session for cultural managers
A Blog Post by Pratika Poorswani, Programmes Leader, TIFA Working Studios __________________________________________________________________________________
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a sudden and substantial impact on the arts and culture sectors. In response there have been numerous intensive efforts to provide alternative or additional services through digital platforms, to maintain essential activities with minimal resources and to keep the spirit of the arts alive.
Arts Culture Resources India (ACRI) along with its Pune chapter host, TIFA Working Studios hosted a networking session for cultural managers from all across the country. The purpose of the session was to collectively discuss and ideate on what the future of the arts and cultural sector looks like amid the pandemic. The core of discussion were three distinct aspects that fall under the management sector; Audience & Outreach Planning, New Skills and Programming and Production.
Moderated by Trishla Talera, Founder - TIFA Working Studios, Pune, along with Rashmi Dhanwani, Founder - The Art X Company and Dipti Rao, Head of Research at The Art X Company, the session raised multiple questions and ideas around thriving and surviving during these trying times. The two hour long session was structured in a way as to have participants divided into groups based on their skill sets and collectively brainstorm with their peers. Each of these groups had a facilitator to ensure well rounded discussion and raise questions of debate. The session came to a close with each of groups presenting their ideas and discussing with the rest of the forum, with the eventual goal being a peer-recommended plan of action through intensive thinking together.
How do we change our programming in order to adapt to the current situation? This question formed the basis of discussion for Rashmi Dhanwani’s group - Programming and Production. ’It’s not about making your team adapt, it’s about making yourself adapt to the situation’, says Meera Krishnan, Senior Programme Coordinator at Prakriti Foundation. Earlier everyone understood each other’s roles and had an understanding of the space that they were working in, and now pivoting to the digital has disrupted this system in a way. With everyone having more time on their hands and the internet in constant reach, the need for versatile content creation is greater than ever. How do we keep our audiences engaged? So the question arises, since everyone is on the same digital platform, how do you create a sense of uniqueness? To this, Aditi Rakhe - Project Coordinator (Museums Of India) at Sahapedia says, develop your databases! Segregation and diversification is key - find out who understands what, and don’t get too comfortable and stick to one kind of medium.
When it comes to the question of funding, she says, that the educational sector is one that will rarely face an issue. Cultural organisations are excellent platforms to promote alternative forms of education. Looking at how education in a classroom has transformed into e-learning, collaborations between educational and cultural institutes can become a source of income.
The shift from taking a physical space and transforming it into a digital one is the current quandary we’re all in. How do you translate the feeling and experience of watching a live performance in front of you, which is it’s primary selling point and shift it to a digital platform? Organisations need to brush up their knowledge on the possibilities of the platform and be able to come up with primarily a digital model.
Cultural organisations who cannot produce digital content risk getting left behind. Digital platforms have given audiences the accessibility to culture, be it on a screen – particularly easy in these times of physical distancing.
While a lot of institutions have been looking into shifting digital as part of their 5 year or 10 year plan, this sudden and unprepared jump has caused a lot of them to fall off the rails. Vivek Madan of Indian Ensemble highlights the importance of database management, catalog management, and having a consistent online presence that carries a narrative of it’s own that isn’t necessarily in sync with on-ground activities - be it marketing, branding, publicity, even education and training purposes as an outreach function. He says, ‘ We must not be disheartened by the fact that we can’t go back to the process of creating, but instead look at how we can solidify this backbone of skills for when we can go back to creating - whether digital or on-ground’
Pawan Rochwani, Founder - Platform For Artists, mentioned ‘young minds guide younger minds about possible career paths’ This is something that is not very often considered, but could prove to be very beneficial. This gives young people a sense of responsibility, allowing them to develop new skills and have new experiences, which in turn gives their skills and confidence a chance to grow.
The Audience and Outreach Planning group headed by Trishla Talera discussed in great depth, about finding and creating new formats of viewer engagement and reaching out to audiences worldover. Ashish Shenoy of OML spoke about getting larger brands to collaborate on events since their audience and viewership is of a very large scale. “Had we not teamed up with Google for our One Nation Festival which was a curated live stream, in collaboration with Youtube, we would’ve never gotten a reach of 17.3 million viewers” he says.
Newsletters are a great way of initiating audience interaction, says Hina Siddiqui, Drama School Mumbai. There has been a spurt in the number of readers ever since the start of the lockdown, since audiences have a lot more time on their hands. To this, she adds that increasing the frequency of newsletters, creating informative series, etc is a great way to get audiences hooked. “The trick to monetise newsletters is to consistently put out great, well-curated content for a span of time, just enough to pull crowds in and eventually set up a paywall.”
At the end of the day, all it comes down to is the content you create. If you are not doing something that is consistent, that has engagement value, and things that matter to people, your audiences will scatter. As arts and cultural managers, our consistent clash is with the artistic side, i.e the artists want to create what they want to create and our job is to sell their work to the audience. We use media, catalogues, performances, etc. as a medium to jump these hurdles, but how do we take it forward from there? How do we revolutionise the way audiences interact with arts and culture? And moreover, how do we find a way to pivot to the digital from something that has always had a close connection with physical interaction and emotion?