This post is the second in culture365’s youth/student blog series. Be sure to check out the first post, Let’s Go Viral: A Call to Youth.
Are you a cultural advocate determined to make a given arts/cultural event bigger and better than ever? Target local colleges and universities. Institutions of higher learning are teeming with young people who are deeply engaged with dance, music, art, theatre, literature, etc., many of whom are looking to learn more, showcase their work, and make a mark in their communities. So let them know that your event is out there offering them a chance to do any or all of the above!
- Use what you have. Look around at your current contacts; are there students in your network? Volunteers with your organization, attendees of your lessons? Or are you a student yourself, in which case – great news – everything else on this list has suddenly become much easier? Approach them first. As campus insiders, they can tell you who to get in touch with and spread the news themselves. They can also give you insight into what kinds of features and marketing styles would attract more students to your event. For example, outdoors venues and anything hands-on are popular with this demographic.
- Call on clubs. Many students belong to arts- and culture-centred extra-curricular groups that have years of experience in putting together exciting showcase events. Take advantage of that organizational skill and offer them behind-the-scenes opportunities to help plan and run your event – I’m thinking they’d make pretty good Culture Days activity organizers, for instance! To reach them, check a university’s or college’s website for email addresses of relevant student clubs (if no emails are posted for specific clubs, email the general students’ society or student-run departmental associations – they can direct you to the proper channels).
- Highlight the benefits. Let students know what’s in it for them: depending on the nature of your event, participating in it could mean a chance for a club to garner attention, recruit more members, and strengthen relationships with the wider community, or for students to spotlight their own work or gain new contacts in the arts/cultural sector. Event organization and participation in an arts showcase also look great on a resume.
- Seek venues. University/college campuses tend to be fairly spacious. Request a venue and offer the institution a chance to engage with the community beyond its gates (also, if your activity takes place on campus, students are more likely to drop by). In particular, try the library. Partnerships with libraries have proven fruitful for Culture Days organizers in particular in the past, and universities have great libraries that are always looking for new ways to serve their students.
- Advertise. Get in touch with campus newspapers and radio stations, student societies, and student life offices, and see if you can run ads for your event in student publications or weekly electronic mailing lists sent out by the various departments as the weekend approaches. If you need volunteers for an activity, make a call for those too; many students are eager to offer their time to cultural ventures.
- Get the press out! When you contact a newspaper, don’t stop at advertising: see if student journalists would be willing to cover your event and provide content themselves. Take Culture Days as an example: you could ask them to write promo pieces leading up to the event to let their student readers know what kinds of activities are open to them this year, coverage of your or other Culture Days activities when they happen, etc. Use the search function on the national Culture Days website to find activities in the area that you think might appeal to students, and provide them with links to those activity pages. If you’re an organizer or past participant yourself (especially if you’re a student), you could offer them an interview.
- For students: Your institution probably holds an activities night or fair towards the beginning of September at which student organizations can sign up to have a recruitment table. No need to set up a table just for your event; why not promote it alongside a club you belong to? Also, talk to the prof. Many professors are great supporters of local arts/culture and are likely to oblige a request to make a quick announcement in lecture or send out an email about an activity taking place in the community.
What other ways can you think of to get the word out to students? What kinds of activities do you know or imagine students find attractive? Tell us by posting in the comments below or by detailing examples/tips of your own when you Submit your Story to culture365.
2013 CULTURE DAYS HIGHLIGHT: YOUTH ACTIVITY
Antigonight Art After Dark Festival (Antigonish, Nova Scotia): Make it a night out or two - artists/performers present interactive displays of all mediums Friday night on Main Street, and check out some art under the stars in Chisholm Park on Saturday evening. Read more here.
Many thanks to a number of students who attended the National Congress on Culture on May 23rd-24th, 2013, whose input went into this piece, as well as to Mount Allison University’s Dr. Rosemary Polegato for her invaluable advice. If you’d like to get in touch with someone who has experience in engaging students in a cultural event, look no further: you can check out her work with Culture Days at Mount Allison here and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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