While Darke County Center for the Arts proudly celebrates its 40th year of successfully presenting arts programming in our community, the organization also must look to the future in order to assure continuing its hard-won success. So, DCCA did what most corporations, profit or non-profit, do to assess past and present positives and negatives, establish hoped-for goals, and determine how those goals can be achieved – they held a strategic planning session in which staff and board members reflected, dreamed, brainstormed, and thought about what DCCA has accomplished, where it now stands as a source of cultural enrichment in our community, and how to not only continue but expand its reach and impact.
My initial knee-jerk reaction to such sessions almost always is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As ideas spew forth, my next knee-jerk reaction is, “We don’t need to re-invent the wheel.” And then, the wisdom of seeking new ways to fulfill a group’s mission becomes apparent. “We’ve always done it that way” is exposed as not a good reason to continue out-dated policies and actions. Not all the ideas brought forth are good ones, but they all provoke thought which may initiate a new perspective. And progress often ensues!
DCCA’s newly established goals include some necessary housekeeping duties involving organizational policies, procedures, and relationships, but the most vital decisions to be made revolve around a continued commitment to presenting high quality artists whose performances reach out to a broader new audience while continuing to please current supporters. (This on-going basic need always makes me think of the old children’s round: “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”)
But how does that get done? Risks must be taken, but decisions made cannot be too risky. Audience perceptions of DCCA and its programs and presentations must be examined, negative views and misperceptions addressed and positive feedback acknowledged. New ways to present enriching experiences must be discovered, while past experience must be heeded and valued. Methods of reaching out to potential new audience members in this era of ever-evolving communication must be evaluated and implemented without neglecting to continue cultivation of long-standing audience members. Combating the false idea that the arts are stuffy and elitist is a constant challenge that DCCA attempts to address by instituting innovative marketing efforts that stress accessibility and transcends barriers of all kinds, but how does that message get delivered to the appropriate audience?
DCCA officials are working on addressing all that, getting all that done, and more. Current efforts to attract new and younger audience members include crossover bookings where artists performing for students as part of DCCA’s Arts In Education program are also booked for DCCA’s Artists Series at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall or its intimate Coffeehouse Series at smaller local venues, encouraging youth to partake of all that DCCA offers. Feedback from current audiences is solicited and heeded when possible; but it’s all a work in progress.
Continuing to fulfill a mission is always a work in progress, even in the midst of resounding success. As Darke County Center for the Arts celebrates its treasured past in its ruby anniversary year, it must also embrace the future with all of its challenges and opportunities as it plans to continue providing enriching experiences that entertain, delight, and inspire. May DCCA’s strategic plan enable the organization to shine on well into the foreseeable future!
Marilyn Delk is the former executive director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.