II. Community Engagement

Marketing Cultural Diversity Networks Pilot Project
The second pilot project identified through the Marketing Cultural Diversity research study was begun in 1998.  Arts Queensland engaged the services of Australian Arts Enterprise to call together and coordinate four network groups. 
The facilitator’s role was to help each group find a common goal, identify relevant issues and develop strategies to address the issues.  The networks included:

* Network One – Production Companies and Arts Services Organizations.  The goal of this group was to create strategies for developing audiences
by building long-term relationships with culturally diverse communities.

* Network Two – Culturally Diverse Arts Organizations.  The goal was to create strategies for developing audiences by building long-term relationships with mainstream arts organizations and the broader community.

* Network Three – Artists and Artists’ Collectives.  Common issues were identified rather than goals, including the need to improve publicly skills

and resources, lack of coverage in mainstream and ethnic media, lack of awareness of funding resources and guidelines, division within ethnic communities and therefore small support base and the need to develop wider audiences beyond specific communities.
A Different Drummer (p.16)
For some guidance on working directly with Aboriginal peoples, see Best Practices In Aboriginal Community Development: A Literature Review and Wise Practices Approach, by Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux and Brian Calliou

While other elements of this toolkit are important for the overall change within the organization, engaging communities in an inclusive and empowering process is at the foundation of any movement forward.  Having arts organization participate as one of many within the community, within a network of community-based services in education, childcare, immigrant settlement, and friendship houses and, further, working with community leaders in business and media, engaged arts organizations find themselves in the centre of various groups.  And just as each of the other groups share and learn about each other, passing important information on to members of their communities, arts organizations can be a provider of information and a beneficiary of the benefits of increasing access to information about the arts and how to participate in them.

For this reason, following organizational leadership, community engagement is arguably the second most important value and activity arts organizations, particularly presenters, need to consider.  Success in engaging diverse communities in participatory processes that value their experience and input is key to opening doors to other components of this toolkit.

The suggested activities below look at ways Aboriginal and ethno-racial communities might be enabled to participate in arts organizations in meaningful ways.

 Involvement in Art’s Organization Activities

 Arts organizations are usually run by a general manager, artistic director or programmer, and marketing/communications staff as well as committees that may be set up for specific purposes.  It is important to engage communities in the decision-making of an arts organizations beyond being on the organization’s board of directors.  Arts organizations can do this by:

 Identifying Artists and Individuals from Diverse Communities to Work With

- Making connections with and supporting the roles of ‘cultural ambassadors’, ‘community connectors’ who can assist the arts organizations in developing relationships with diverse communities;
- Establishing criteria and a recruitment process, including interviewing, to select community ‘connectors’, ‘ambassadors’ and artists from diverse communities;
- Promoting an accessible and transparent process in recruiting and selecting community ‘connectors’, ‘ambassadors’ and artists from diverse communities;
- Being clear regarding the desired roles and functions, (e.g., outreach, curatorial development, audience development) in the relationship between presenters, community ‘connectors’, ‘ambassadors’ and artists from diverse communities;
- Setting aside the time and resources needed to develop constructive, mutually beneficial relationships between presenters, community ‘connectors’, ‘ambassadors’ and artists from diverse communities
- Developing strategic alliances and partnerships with other like-minded arts organizations/artists and individuals from diverse communities to address common issues and look at ways of sharing resources, expertise, results;
- Connecting with diverse communities through their own organizations and networks to develop long-term relationships;
- Connecting directly with Aboriginal and ethno-racial media and businesses;
- Working with Aboriginal and ethno-racial artists to increase understanding of diverse cultural histories, traditions, ways of engaging in the arts, and contemporary expressions;
- Appointing artists and key individuals from diverse communities to the organization’s key committees;
- Engaging diverse communities in creating and promoting a season’s program;
- Working with diverse communities to support their interest in arts and cultural activities and enabling them to use the arts organization’s facilities during dark hours for rehearsals and performances;
- Setting up an advisory committee or group to work with the arts organization in its efforts to connect and build relationships with diverse communities.

Communicating with NESB Audiences – Points to Consider (p.66 and 67)
- Determine what the relevant media options are for the target group(s) through consultation with the relevant ethnic community organizations. Find out if there are any specialist media consultants working with the target groups.
- Contact media outlets and establish operating details, prices, requirements, and reach.
- Identify informal media opportunities and the materials required for these, such as multilingual flyers or  other promotional material.
- Develop a communications strategy including:
    * Budget;
    * Internal and external resource identification (people and skills);
    * Production time;
    * Implementation, including distribution;
    * Evaluation measures specific to the media decision.

For example: West Yorkshire Playhouse created a new show, written by a local playwright, about a particular street in one of Leeds’ more deprived inner city areas.  As well as the local angle, the show benefitted from pre-opening workshops with local colleges and youth groups and contained bad language, drug taking, was extremely funny and the Playhouse wouldn’t normally attract an audience from that area, and getting an audience for new writing is never easy, the show attracted large audiences, significant numbers of whom came from the post code areas in question – and mingled on the night with subscribers and other traditional members of the audience.  Morton Smith  Not for the Likes of You (p.33-34)

For commentary on community engagement and partnerships, see CPAMO Workshop #3, Partnering with Aboriginal Peoples


Exchanging Knowledge and Skills – Presenting and Curatorial Development

Actions to exchange knowledge and skills provide opportunities for presenters, artists and community members to learn from an experienced presenter, artist and community activist.  Presenters can impart what they know to artists and individuals from diverse communities as part of enhancing their knowledge of the presenting field and issues presenters work with on a daily basis.  Artists from diverse communities can educate presenters regarding their form of expression, its history, traditions and contemporary modes of expression.  Activists, community connectors and community ambassadors can engage with presenters and artists regarding ways to connect with diverse communities and to build relationships.

 The learning relationship is critical to building long-term relationships between all parties and can be done by:

- Establishing a program that ensures supportive and nurturing relationships are provided to presenters, artists and individuals from diverse communities;
- Establishing residencies and arts education programs for artists from diverse communities to work directly with presenters;
- Encouraging and supporting senior staff, artists and individuals from diverse communities to be actively engaged;
- Providing education and training to those who will be involved so that they have clear expectations of the relationship and of their responsibilities to each other, their organizations and diverse communities;
- Ensuring all education and training include equity and diversity considerations;
- Acknowledging and providing credit to those involved;

In working with a presenter, individuals and artists from diverse communities may need to know how to balance the differing values of the organization, its practices and their own communities’ culture and traditions.  As noted earlier, arts organizations have both standard and hidden workplace norms and assumptions.  Individuals and artists from diverse communities need to know what these are so that they can respect them and, also, influence their change.   At the same time, presenters may need to learn the same from the artists, arts organizations and diverse communities they engage with.  These activities can be done by:

- Including such education as part of the exchange of knowledge and skills;
- Providing opportunities for individuals and artists from diverse communities to discuss their cultural background and values and what they may add to the organization;
- Having senior presenter staff provide individuals and artists from diverse communities with an orientation to the organization’s history and, through this, support discussions on the organization’s future directions;
- Having the organization’s key committees meet with individuals and artists from diverse communities to discuss the art’sorganization culture and how individuals can contribute to its growth and development.

For comments on the relationship between community engagement, programming and  audience development, see paper  presented by Ajay Heble, Artistic Director of the Guelph Jazz Festival, at the CPAMO Town Hall of January 28-29, 2010 (Opening the Gate: Town Hall on Pluralism in Performing Arts, pp.21-25 – (https://sites.google.com/site/cppamo/reports-and-resources-1/workshop-3)

See  the work of MT Space and Neruda Productions regarding immigrant and ethno-racial youth (http://www.volunteeringeh.com/). See also the work of Puente Theatre in engaging immigrants in play
development (http://www.puentetheatre.ca/theatre_forum_plays). As well, see the work in Quebec on cultural mediation (http://www.culturepourtous.ca/forum/2009/PDF/compterendu_eng.pdf)

Urban Theatre Projects’ Production of Going Home – Developing Contacts with a Community

In 1995 Death Defying Theatre (now renamed Urban Theatre Projects), a community theatre based at Casula, in Sydney’s west, decided to work with the Maori and Polynesian communities in their area.

The reasons for choosing to work with Maori and Polynesian people in the community were:
- The Maori and Polynesian communities are relatively recent arrivals and growing quickly;
- These groups are both mythologized and under-represented in the arts;
- These groups (along with other small groups in the community, such as the Kurds) have particular difficulties accessing cultural resources and government arts funding;
- No-one was targeting arts programs to this audience and their story was not being told.

Once the Company came up with the idea of creating some sort of theatre event with Maori and Pacific Island people, they put the idea to a local Polynesian youth worker.  He thought it was very relevant and had a resonance with his own life story.  The youth worker became an enthusiastic community advocate for the production.  The theatre then talked to a range of other people, including artists, community workers from Polynesian groups, and the community at large.  This process enabled the Company to devise an outline of the themes of the production and a process to explore these themes.  They then applied for funding from the Australia Council and also from Creative New Zealand – the latter for funding of a residency for a Maori writer to work on the project.

This project was conceived as a community project with community members having an opportunity to tell their stories, write, perform and play music for the show.  The Company employed a director, writer, co-musical directors and a designer.  A public meeting was then held in the Sydney suburb of Fairfield to inform the community as to what the theatre and the production was all about.  This meeting was of crucial importance in getting community involvement, working out the topics for the production, getting priceless community information about where to hold the production, on what nights (e.g. don’t do anything on Sunday because people go to Church), and what type of theatre training was required.  Public workshops were then held over a 14-week period to turn the life stories into the show.

Once the writer and the director were employed, a steering group of community representatives was set up to guide the production.  A community liaison worker was employed, a young Samoan social worker, who very effectively linked up with Polynesian community organizations and churches, ensuring that the production received good ‘word of mouth’.

At the same time, the Company contacted several Polynesian community arts organizations with the idea of incorporating their existing material into the show.  However, for a variety of reasons these community arts groups did not perform en masse in the show, although individual performers became involved.  Some of these groups (such as Cook Island drummers) were professional performers.  The Company’s salary budget had been allocated to the project artists who ran workshops and pulled the production together, so these groups could not be paid.  However, setting aside payment for such professional groups was an idea well worth considering for future productions.

The production involved 43 community members as performers and another 20 people who contributed their stories to the script, and to the production design.  A feature was the wide age range from 11 to 60 years.  While the show set out to draw upon and showcase cultural traditions (such as the haka, poi and Samoan dance), a lot of the young community performers, without prompting, wanted to blend traditional cultural forms with newer forms such as hip hop.  Thus a ‘fusion’ product was developed out of the experiences of the participants.

This experience shows that it is beneficial to:
- Involve the community in the production;
- Look to the migrant group’s source country for funding, skills and knowledge (in this case New Zealand);
- Gain the endorsement of key community figures;
- Use community members to tap into networks and include ‘street’ knowledge of how a community functions and then how to position your production;
- Be flexible and prepared for a fusion product to emerge from such an initiative.

Queensland Museum and Chinese Community Pilot Project

One of the first pilot projects for the Marketing Cultural Diversity Project was developed out of the research study conducted in 1997.  The Chinese community was chosen as a focus for the pilot project as they are the largest ethnic group in South East Queensland and have a high level of community involvement.  The Queensland Museum had already embarked upon a few strategies to develop this audience, such as hiring two officers who spoke Cantonese and Mandarin, so a marketing framework was developed to establish and build a long-term relationship between these two parties.  The strategies outlined in the framework identified short and long-term actions to fostering mutually beneficial working relationships.  To date, the project has hosted the following events and programs:

- Launch- the project was officially launched by the Minister for the Arts during the opening of the 1998 Brisbane Festival.  Chinese community leaders were invited to a full evening program: an official welcome at the Queensland Museum, a joint performance by Expressions Dance Company and City Contemporary Dance Company of Hong Kong at the Conservatorium Theatre, a post-performance reception at Rydges Hotel South Bank, and the Opening Night Party of Energex Brisbane Festival at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).
- Chinese Community Reference Group – a reference group was formed including high-profile members from all factions of the Chinese community and Museum staff, including the Curator Cross-Cultural Studies. This group acts as an advisory panel and provides a networking role within the communities and encourages members to visit and participate in Museum activities.
- East Meets West – a quarterly program was initiated, which invites high-profile Chinese masters to conduct workshops and demonstrations in activities such as tai chi, calligraphy, Chinese art, bonsai, origami (originally a Chinese tradition).
- Spiritual Treasure from China – an exhibition of arts and crafts from Beijing and Shanghai was negotiated with the People’s Republic of China and opened in the Queensland Museum on 10 August, 2000.   Official guests contributing to the launching ceremony included the Governor of Queensland, the Cultural Attaché to the Chinese Ambassador in Australia, the Minister for the Arts, a delegation of 35 official guests from China and members of the Board of the Queensland Museum.
- Guest speaking invitation – ICOM MPR – Japan – the Assistant Director of the Queensland Museum was invited to speak at an International Council of Museums Conference in Japan on the development and implementation of the Pilot Project.
- Prominent Person’s Invitation to visit China- the Australian Chinese Friendship Society has issued an invitation for a member of the Museum to be part of this visit.

Under planning and discussion are the following projects:

- Bequest of Chinese shop – select members of the Chinese community will be invited to view the recent bequest received by the Museum of an old Chinese-operated shop in Queensland, and to attend various catalogues and conservation works-in-progress for this unique collection.
- Taoist Temple Conservation – the Museum is exploring the possibility of providing volunteer training of members of the Taoist Temple in Brisbane to undergo basic conservation training in order to maintain the Temple’s incredible antiques.

Superleague Bulldogs – Researching the Community

Superleague Bulldogs, a Rugby League football club based in the Canterbury/Bankstown region of Sydney presents a multicultural day with a multicultural arts event before the main game.

The aim of this program is to use arts as a means of promoting sport to the local community.

At an organizational review held in 1992-93, it was agreed that the Club was doing well in all its activities, except attendance.  A strategy to boost attendance was developed.  The short-term goal of this strategy was to get more people from non-English speaking backgrounds to the game.  The long-term strategy was to generate a long-term commitment to the game amongst second and third- generation migrants.  To address this situation, the club decided to find out the characteristics of their local community, using Australian Bureau of Statistics demographic data.  The results of this analysis were staggering: 44% of the local population had at least one parent from a non-English speaking background.  (This proportion is now estimated to be 50%.)  It was decided to target the top five migrant groups in Canterbury/Bankstown. 

The Bulldogs then contacted the local councils to find out who the key people and key structures (such as the church in the Greek community) were in the target communities.

The next stage was to undertake qualitative research by talking to people from these communities.  The end result of this research was that attitudinal barriers to Rugby League could be overcome if non-English speaking background groups could be encouraged to participate in ‘owning’ an event.

The way to do this was by holding multicultural days, whereby the five groups in each local government area were invited to devise and stage (with the help of a producer) a half-hour multicultural arts entertainment before the game.  The communication strategy consisted of umbrella television advertisements targeting parents.  It also relied on using community contacts and the main media outlet for each ethnic group.  A successful strategy was to send players out to the 11 or 12 schools which had the highest concentration of non-English speaking background students to give talks and to hand out free tickets.

The initiative was very successful. The first multicultural day set a ground record and subsequent days have enjoyed a well above-average attendance.  The only problem was the constant pressure to keep the arts production fresh and inspiring.  In 1997, contributions were sought from second and third-generation non-English speaking background people and this generated a production which fused elements of their respective cultures with aspects of mainstream culture.

The lessons learned:

- It is essential to develop and follow a systematic, long-term plan.  This requires commitment and patience, as well as significant resources.

- The community must be invited to work with your organization to gain a sense of ownership.

- It is vital to keep productions fresh and appealing.

This case study gives a clear indication of how strategic planning, research and targeted communication strategies can ensure that a non-English speaking background arts production is a success.  It also illustrates an imaginative way in which NESB cultural performances can be used to broaden the appeal of mainstream events, in this case, Rugby League.