Before heading for the Denver airport today, I had coffee at Starbucks with Jim Copenhaver, a very creative guy who served with me for a while on the board of the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF). We had a great time batting around Web 2.0 ideas for a series of three workshops Jim will present next year in Montana on behalf of the Montana Arts Council. The workshops will help the state’s arts organizations and artists address strategies for audience development, and my part will be to give an overview of Internet tools available and to help participants come up with technology plans for their work. This follows similar presentations I’ve given this year for the City of Denver and the National Association of Independent Artists.
Jim brought to my attention several examples of arts organizations using tech tools that I hadn’t heard of yet, including a concert last month in Second Life by the London Philharmonic. I’d also never heard of holographic TV, in which 3D images can be broadcast to a real stage. He sees the benefits of connecting audiences with symphonies and other arts organizations by bringing conductors, musicians, and others into closer contact through blogs and podcasts. As we brainstormed the technology session at the Montana workshops, I enjoyed how one idea built on another. By the end, it was a case of two older guys nearly jumping up and down in their seats with enthusiasm about the future.
The great puzzle that Jim has been working on in his many arts-related leadership roles is how can arts organizations take advantage of technology’s benefits and at the same time deal with threats to traditional audiences posed by new media. In places like Montana, additional factors come into play, such as vast distances. Arts leaders in small organizations often feel barely able to survive day to day, much less take time to learn a whole new set of skills.
I’m looking forward to this new project and the chance to spend some time next year in the incomparable state of Montana. Via Twitter, I’ve already had one offer of assistance from a fellow arts geek yearning to join me in Big Sky country, Elizabeth Dunn of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. She admitted she doesn’t know how to ride a horse but promises that she can learn!