The research shows we can help.
What We Learned
Note About the Capacity-Building Cohort Modification
The research design was based on participation of eight dance makers in the capacity-building cohort. Late in the ART program there was attrition and one artist elected to leave the program. For reporting purposes, we have included feedback and interview comments from all eight members in the cohort to illustrate the most inclusive qualitative dimensions of ART. The quantitative dimensions of ART, e.g., changes in income and numbers of performances and residencies are reported for the seven artists in the cohort for which there was complete data.
Attrition in the capacity group could represent a potential threat of attrition bias if those who dropped out of the study were systematically different from those who remained in ART. However, the attrition over time was not systematic, and there were no unique characteristics that defined the artist who dropped out. In this case, there was no attrition bias, even though the capacity group decreased in size between points when data was collected.
ART DEVELOPMENTAL EVALUATION AND FINDINGS
January – October 2017
Early in the ART program, the researcher focused on a Developmental Evaluation (Patton 2010), a process suited to developing rapid, real time feedback in user-friendly forms that helped to inform Pentacle’s organizational learning as ART developed and to measure how well the project functioned. During this phase (January 1 – October 31, 2017) the researcher:
- Distributed, collected and analyzed mentors’ quarterly reports that described mentor activities with their capacity-building artists,
- Facilitated a mentor focus group,
Interviewed each artist in the capacity group,
- Facilitated a focus group of Pentacle administrators and staff, and
- Reported recommendations from focus groups and artist interviews to improve administration, communication and accountability.
January – October 2017
All eight artists drafted plans in collaboration with their mentors to
- refine their artistic vision to identify artistic goals, performance venues and residency prospects, and
- assess administration capacity to delegate projects to Pentacle administrators or their company staff, examine fundraising to increase contributed income, and improve fiscal practices to establish accounts for earned income related to choreography commissions, performances, and teaching.
Mentors worked 300 hours total on the activities described above, including submission of quarterly progress reports for their mentee.
Pentacle administrators worked approximately 1400 hours on a wide range of tasks for the eight artists, including funding research, grant writing, creation of social media promotion, web site development, rehearsal coordination, presenter research, and bookkeeping.
Implementation funds of up to $2,000 were available as matching funds for each capacity artist, if the artist could match grant funds 1:1 toward specific project goals developed jointly by the artist and mentor.
Other Pentacle senior staff advised artists about 1) strategies to advance their position in the dance marketplace, 2) booking opportunities, and 3) grants, performance and residency projects. Pentacle staff also provided admission to the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) in New York, which included attendance at talent showcases and panel discussions about emerging trends and issues in the dance field. All artists received regular email correspondence relevant to ART program goals.While ART made significant progress during the 10-month period from January-October 2017, there were important lessons learned during the start-up. To gather feedback, program observations and recommendations were solicited from all participants during individual artist interviews and two focus groups — one with mentors and one with administrators. The following remarks from these program participants have been aggregated for evaluation purposes.
- In general, artists were satisfied with the support they receive from mentors, administrators and Pentacle staff. This support included artistic visioning, administrative strategy, marketplace advice, web site development, rehearsal coordination, grant and residency applications, and routine administrative duties.
- Several noted that being part of ART with guidance from mentors and support from administrators has allowed them more time to devote to artistic development, rehearsal time, and improvement of their own budgeting and time management.
- Attitudinally, a majority of artists reported that their self-concept had improved because the inclusion in ART made them feel more professional and recognized for their unique artistic vision and accomplishments.
- The roles and responsibilities of artists and the administrators need to be clarified, including the type and fulfillment of tasks undertaken by administrators and commitment to regular meetings in person or by phone between the artist and their administrator.
- Both artists and administrators stated that adjustments are needed in some of the artists’ working habits, which are not confined to the administrators’ business hours at Pentacle.
- Some artists had difficulty delegating work to administrators that they previously handled themselves. Their concerns included 1) how an administrator represented the artist in emails or phone calls to presenters and others, 2) when assigned tasks will be accomplished, and 3) insecurity about investing their time, disclosing personal information, various mailing lists, and contacts to an administrator who might leave Pentacle during the ART program.
- In general, the program was very helpful for the artists, and the artists appreciated it. A majority reported significant accomplishments guiding their mentee artists in areas of artistic vision, residency applications, communications with potential presenters, and company finances and administration.
- Mentors were pleased to learn that ART had been extended for six months because of the time it took to begin building relationships with the artists and the administrators. Some mentors noted that they had not used their available hours.
- It was recommended that Pentacle administrators and staff improve administrative procedures as the program matures. During the start-up phase, administrators did not have enough contact with mentors.
- Regular reporting about the status of projects undertaken by artists and their administrators was also recommended; it would help mentors guide the work of mentee artists more effectively. It was not clear how many administrator hours have been used.
- As a further recommendation, mentors felt they could help artists decide how to leverage the ART implementation grant to best support their artistic vision.
The developmental evaluation process identified the early successes and areas that needed attention. To address the broad range of feedback from artists, mentors and administrators, the following policies and procedures were instituted to improve ART:
- A job description was developed to define the duties of administrators.
- Pentacle convened an artist program update meeting to 1) distribute the new ART Program Guidelines and administrator job description to improve communications and efficiencies and 2) to offer capacity-building artists the opportunity to network and build community.
- It was determined that team meetings composed of artist, mentor and administrator should take place monthly to develop a more cohesive shared vision and prioritize tasks to enhance workflow and improve outcomes.
- Mentors were encouraged to serve as a bridge between artists and administrators to improve communication. Fidelity to complete and submit quarterly reports on time was emphasized.
Flexibility was incorporated into the ART Program Guidelines to allow for artists’ performance and residency schedules, fundraising, and other activity. Once established, these policies continued for the remainder of the program as business and personal relationships were developed among artists, mentors, and administrators.
CAPACITY GROUP AND COMPARISON GROUP SURVEYS
In October 2017 surveys were distributed to the capacity and comparison groups (n=16). The surveys sought to compare the progress of the two cohorts from January-October 2017 and collected statistical data to supplement artist interviews. Major data fields included:
- Current artistic vision, process and activities January 1 – October 1, 2017,
- Future planned activities from October 2017- October 2018,
- Earned income,
- Unearned income and fundraising, and
- Administrative structure.
While the surveys provided useful data to gauge the general progress of the two cohorts, the responses to indicators in both groups were approximately the same. The survey results suggested that even though the capacity group was receiving dedicated administrative support and coaching from mentors, the cumulative effects of these interventions had not yet produced substantial improvement in earned and contributed income, numbers of performances or residencies, or enhancements to internal administrative structures [see Appendix].