Culture Days 2010 demonstrated that municipalities can play a key role as community organizers. By convening a broad suite of partners and creative activities while leveraging their resources to provide local marketing support, they generated community excitement and participation in the event. In this Community Spotlight feature, you’ll meet Liesl Jauk who is the Manager of Cultural Development for the City of Richmond in British Columbia and played a key role in Richmond’s successful Culture Days event in 2010. Liesl is also a member of the Culture Days BC Task Force.
Culture Days -- Can you briefly describe your current role and your background?
Liesl Jauk -- I am the Manager of Cultural Development for the City of Richmond and have been in this position since fall 2008. Prior to that I have worked in the Vancouver arts community for about 20 years. Most recently co-running Rebus Creative which produces The Word On The Street festival, BC Book Prizes and does marketing for the Circle Craft Christmas Market among other things. I did/do graphic design for a range of arts clients, coordinate marketing and some event production. In terms of education I have a BA in Art History and MA in Social History of Art, plus some college courses in visual art (painting, drawing, printmaking, etc.)
CD -- How did you first hear about Culture Days?
LJ -- Via email from Culture Days. Not sure how I was on list, perhaps through Creative Cities Network, or Alliance for Arts & Culture.
CD --What made you want to get involved? What opportunities did you identify for Richmond’s participation?
LJ -- Honestly, my boss, Jane Fernyhough, told me to do it 😉
CD -- How did you approach promoting Culture Days? Who were some key people and organisations involved in organizing the community’s celebration of Culture Days?
LJ -- First I contacted CD to find out exactly what was being offered and not offered; that is, how were we allowed/expected to use the CD branding, acknowledge sponsors, etc. The key issue was that this was a broad national toolkit, rather than a marketing campaign that would have any resonance "on the ground". From a marketing perspective (beyond its "cultural call to action" raison d'etre) CD is basically a graphic identity and a website. The CBC and Globe and Mail ads are nice but meaningless outside of a pretty specific audience in urban centres. For CD to have any impact in a community like Richmond, it would need to be promoted on a local level in community newspapers, etc. This would require cash, arts community support and bringing on local promotional partners like The Richmond Review and Tourism Richmond.
CD -- Richmond had an impressive marketing campaign for Culture Days. Describe what you did to advertise and spread the word.
LJ: As part of my position, I have compiled an email list of hundreds of local artists, arts organizations, umbrella organizations, businesses, etc. I use this list to get the word out about events and initiatives of interest to the arts community. So, it was through this list that I informed the local arts community about CD, and outlined the promotional opportunities offered through the Richmond campaign. These emails provided clear instructions re: what events would be eligible to participate, deadline dates to be included on printed promotional materials, etc. and over several weeks provided new info as new opportunities arose and updates were announced. Basically, I was inviting everyone to take part and enjoy some free promotion. I also invited them to subscribe to the CD e-bulletin.
CD -- How did all the marketing activity come together? How were you able to convince media and promotional sponsors to get involved?
LJ -- We met with reps from Richmond Review and Tourism Richmond, inviting them to help us shape the campaign, as this was as new to us as it was to them. I think that by making them true partners in the development of the program, there was a deeper "buy in" to the campaign as they became creatively involved. It was through those meetings that the idea of the mini-bus tour for media and bloggers came to be, as well as the Fall Arts & Culture Preview issue of the newspaper, which had a 4-page wrap around supplement listing all the registered CD events in Richmond.
CD -- Are there any moments from the lead up to and during the Culture Days weekend that stand out in your mind?
LJ -- The mini-bus tour was a major highlight. We lucked out with good weather and enjoyed interesting behind-the-scenes tours at the Gateway Theatre and the Museum collections warehouse. Ending outside at the Terra Nova Rural Park to see the newly-built cob oven, experience "heritage" farming in a hands-on way and then eat food made from local ingredients was fantastic. Everyone there was beaming, feeling like they had had a very special experience.
Also, seeing so many people visit the Gateway Theatre for tours, where they had costumes, set design sketches and maquettes, masks, etc. on display was a big highlight. The visitors were clearly really engaged and fascinated to learn about how theatre happens.
Also, we made our Cultural Centre a hub of activity that weekend given many events were happening there. We put a large poster with balloons in the foyer that listed the dates, times and rooms of CD events. That helped attract people who just happened to be there, as did CD-branded directional signage to the various rooms.
CD -- After Richmond’s first experience with Culture Days in 2010, what longer-term benefits have you identified for continued annual participation? Challenges?
LJ -- Richmond's Culture Days experience was extremely positive. The newspaper wrap supplement landed on the doorsteps of just about every resident. So just in terms of raising awareness of arts/culture/heritage in the community, as a legacy, this was a very beneficial experience.
Moreover, the participating artists and organizations enjoyed profile as well as the opportunity to share their work and enthusiasm with the general public. There were some community-based volunteer-run groups that participated and, I think, they were surprised at how fun it was and how much they had to gain by increasing their profile.
I can't think of any specific challenges. For next year, we'll assign volunteers as "greeters" at the Cultural Centre so visitors have a go-to person for information and directions.
CD -- What advice do you have for other community organizers who are planning for Culture Days 2011? Was there anything you learned in 2010 that you’d count as a lesson for the future or a key success factor?
LJ -- Establish a partnership with your local newspaper, the one that is delivered to everyone in the community. If you do not have an email contact list of artists/cultural organizations, partner with someone who does. The key is to communicate directly as possible with potential participants, outline in an upbeat way what's in it for them, and then deliver. In our case, most participating artists do not have the capacity to do much beyond operate their event. They depend on you to provide the marketing, advertising, etc.
CD -- What’s in store for Culture Days 2011 in Richmond?
LJ -- Obviously, programming will be up to the participating artists and cultural organizations as to what is offered. Otherwise, we were really pleased with how things went so will likely repeat, as-is with perhaps a few minor tweaks.
CD -- Is there anything else about your experience of Culture Days that you’d like to share?
LJ --In the first year, Culture Days in Richmond was a success that surpassed expectations, thanks in large part to enthusiastic partners Richmond Review and Tourism Richmond who came to the project as creative partners, eager to work with us to develop a city-wide campaign.
Culture Days went from being “one more thing we are expected to do” to an unprecedented opportunity to showcase Richmond’s cultural community, an opportunity that was enthusiastically embraced by residents and the participants who shared their passions beyond their usual circle.
We managed to not only participate in a national weekend of arts and culture, but to leverage the Culture Days brand for our own purposes, raising awareness among local citizens and raising Richmond’s profile beyond city limits and even nationally.
Share your Culture Days story! Email and upload your Culture Days photos to Flickr. You can also post to the Culture Days blog, add your comments, photos and videos to Facebook or tweet with the #culturedays hashtag and we’ll re-tweet your message.
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