Fund Helps Museum, Orchestra Test New Programs, Audiences

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The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville will use educational programs and partnerships with community organizations to reach new audiences in 2014. (Ingrid Damiani)

Whether the realm is classical music or contemporary art, arts organizations across the state are stretching to find new programming strategies and reach new audiences. In November, the trustees of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund awarded grants to two Florida cultural organizations to support those efforts.

The Florida Orchestra today considers research and development to be as important to its success as artistic ability. The orchestra, which performs nearly 100 concerts annually in Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg, has developed an innovative strategy to test new programming concepts and assess their viability before embedding them in the orchestra’s regular programming and financial budget.

The trustees of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund agreed to provide $120,000 in support to this “venture” fund over three years, helping the orchestra find the best mix of programming for its audiences and its bottom line.

In recent years, The Florida Orchestra has worked hard to reduce debt, grow audience and stabilize its operations. As it moves out of difficult financial times, the orchestra is focus on growing in a disciplined and thoughtful manner.

To that end, it created the Artistic Initiative Fund, which underwrites new programming in the testing phase. For example, the orchestra’s Coffee Series, which is part of the Artistic Initiative Fund, has shown a 56% increase in attendance, suggesting that it may have promise as a permanent part of the orchestra’s programming.

“Orchestras need to innovate and The Florida Orchestra does not have funds that would otherwise allow us to invest in program development,” said Michael Pastreich, president and CEO of the Orchestra. “The Artistic Initiative Fund provides capital to create and support new concepts while the Orchestra develops sustainable funding for the most successful programs.”

For the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a major challenge lies in attracting non-traditional audiences and introducing these audiences to the institution’s array of cultural experiences.

In 2014, with the help of a $74,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, MOCA Jacksonville will use three exhibits to reach out to different sectors of the community and introduce them to the museum and its programs.

MOCA hopes to triple the public reach of its programs and have 75% of the new audiences come from outside of MOCA’s core geographic market.

Three exhibits scheduled for 2014 create distinct opportunities for new programming:

  • Material Transformations (sculpture), January – April;
  • The New York Times Magazine Photography (photography), April – September;
  • Get Real: Narrative and Contemporary Painting (painting, realism), September2014 – January 2015.

Each exhibition will feature a unique mix of free educational programs, initiatives and tours. MOCA will use targeted messaging and program-specific advertisements to reach more diverse populations. And the museum plans to partner with organizations that have a proven track record of working with underserved populations.