Miami's Miramar Cultural Trust was recently awarded a $12,000 Knight Foundation Challenge grant after presenting a compelling case showing how they would use the money to expand accessibility to the arts in the community. The issue of accessibility is universal, and Miramar's approach can be emulated by other arts organizations. Today we take a closer look at their strategy.
Before we drill deeper into the details of their approach, let's first take a somewhat "market-based" view at the issue of arts accessibility. At the most fundamental level, arts organizations must ask themselves, "What are the obstacles that prevent the public from accessing the arts in our community?" Here are just a few impediments:
- Location. The general public wants to access the arts, but no physical location exists for them to do so (or there's a dearth of locations).
- Financial. Would-be consumers can't afford the offerings being provided.
- Lack of awareness. Compelling programs exists, but organizations fail to effectively get the word out.
- Programming. The public finds existing arts programs uninteresting. Similarly, compelling programming gets crowded out by competing options like movies, the Internet, etc.
Miramar decided to tackle the accessibility dilemma by addressing challenges #3 and #4. First, they'd embrace robust community outreach. Second, to quote Miramar Cultural Trust's project Executive Director Maureen Kohler, they wanted patrons to have, as she put it, "more of an experience instead of just going home. We want them to meet, talk to, and pick the brains of different people in the art world." Kohler provided an example of attending a ballet and afterward being able to speak with the choreographer to learn more about the production.
Miramar's simple, yet effective approach addresses the aforementioned accessibility obstacles. Its community outreach efforts address the "lack of awareness" piece, while its experiential offerings epitomizes the idea of compelling programming.
Ultimately, the Knight Foundation liked what they saw. That said, it shouldn't come as a complete surprise, as the foundation makes no secret about its fervent commitment to issues like art accessibility and community-building. As Dennis Scholl, the foundation's vice president of arts, has said, "We're seeing a community begin to discover their sense of themselves through culture. They're defining themselves through culture, and we wanted to provide fuel to that momentum."
But we'll give Miramar accolades anyway. They knew the foundation's soft spot and successfully went after it.