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Arts Council - Minutes     
Saturday, October 05, 2013

Call to Order
The retreat was called to order at 8:05 am by Chair Jane Ditzler in the Council Chambers, City Hall, 9611 SE 36th St., Mercer Island, WA  98040.
Roll Call
Members Present: Bonnie Bradley, Paulette Bufano, Jane Ditzler, Anna Gordon, Linda Iwanyk, Karen Kaser, Mireya Lewin, Susan Szafir and Susanne Zahinser, Members Absent:  An Tootill and Julian Trejo.
City Council:
Council Member Jane Meyer Brahm.
Amber Britton & Eileen Hemmis Trifts
Staff Report:  Amber Britton
History of the Arts Council
Amber presented a slide show on the history of the Mercer Island Arts Council, 1985 - 2013 including highlights through the years.  Printed copies were provided to each attendee.
Amber presented information on the 2013 Arts Council Budget, including a breakdown of budget available by line item, and Revenues though September 2013.  Printed copies were provided to each attendee.
S.W.O.T. Exercise
Paulette Buffano, Facilitator
A SWOT (strengths weaknesses opportunities threats) analysis was used to identify Arts Council strengths
and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats to the organization.  The objective is to choose four main issues to discuss today, and put together a plan to cover some of the remaining issues at a later time.
The following is a list of items put forth for each category:
  • History
  • Infrastructure
  • Dedicated professionals and volunteers
  • Amber & Eileen
  • Clear Mission
  • Our Programs: Film Series, Gallery, MMIP, Shakespeare, Literary,  Public Art
  • Community we are part of
  • Continuity of members – i.e., Jane Ditzler
  • Access to 1% For the Arts funding
  • Good relationship with City Council
  • Relationship with other Arts Organizations
  • Good relationship with the schools
  • Not fully engaged with the community
  • Brand recognition:  Public Relations - external = lack of internal
  • Community building through dance and music
  • Fund raising program – gap in budget
  • Need more business/corporate support
  • High turnover on the Arts Council
  • Mission statement is limiting – should include performing artists, etc.
  • Difficulty recruiting volunteers
  • Ability to align with other organizations – no formal structure
  • Currently, no engagement with the schools
  • Not enough publicity – internal and external
  • Networking with other organizations in King County
  • Lacking a presence in social media
  • Lack of “artists” on the arts council
  • Outdoor Gallery is weak
  • Library has shut us out in terms of literary opportunities
  • Opportunities for new programs
  • Involve all “arts”
  • Public Art: online art map – which ties into social media, calendar and networking, promotions
  • 4Culture – networking
  • More classical music
  • More dance
  • Connecting with performing arts center (in the works) – finding a way to utilize and further our brand
  • Tap local artists for talents
  • Partnerships with other organizations, e.g., JCC, YTN, B&G Club
  • Increased involvement with sustainability
  • Better use of social media for branding
  • Better coordination with the schools on literary and other programs
  • Weekend event – “Art in the Park”
  • Videographer to document events and share on the website and social media.
  • Website: Calendar for all art related events
  • Enhance the website
  • Live our goals - overwhelming emphasis on visual arts, not much on performance, etc.
Challenges and Threats:
  • Money
  • People on council - ownership
  • Too broad a focus
  • Will makeup of council change if we have to fund raise?
  • Find a way to institutionalize things that have proven success and new programs
  • Balance experiencing art and acquisition of art - budget constraints
  • Build committees that do not pull only from the members of the Arts Council.  Engage other volunteers.
  • Have to work within the framework of all of the rules of the city.
  • News about a new performing arts center will make it difficult to promote ourselves.
  • Staff time in general
  • Define our annual plan - everything
  • Time  - with the city, etc., patience
Issues:  The following were the top issues the Arts Council chose to address today.  These will be included in the Annual Plan.
  1. Social media, public relations and branding.  Networking.
  2. Engaging the Community
  3. Work with the city on a performance center (YTN)
  4. Fund Raising and Money
1.  Social media, public relations and branding.  Networking
Identification of things that have been done and have been successful in the past:
  • Networking:  Engaging The Mercer, Aljoya and Island Books
  • Brochures
  • MMIP and Shakespeare in the Park inserts in utility bills to all Island residents
  • Banners
  • Information on the city website
  • Parks & Recreation Facebook page - where art events are listed.
  • Information in the Recreation Guide, Weekly (email from the city), monthly Parks & Recreation newsletter and quarterly senior newsletter
  • Direct emails:  gallery shows
  • Mercerdale Park event signs
  • 3-tier stand at the community center
  • Summer Celebration outreach booth
  • Distribution of flyers and posters for events
  • Newspaper articles, ads, etc. Patch, MI Reporter
  • Arts Council brochure (not current)
New ideas for consideration:
  • Arts Council Facebook page
  • Other Free Publicity opportunities
  • Stqry or similar websites
An Arts Council Facebook page was identified as something new that the Arts Council can do to increase community awareness that doesn’t cost much money and that doesn’t take much manpower.  Amber advised that the city policy at present does not allow the Arts Council to have a Facebook page; separate from the Parks & Recreation page, but that they could post all of their events on this page. However, unfortunately, the city is considering dropping the P&R page due to a low number of followers.  It was agreed that if everyone contacted their personal Facebook friends and asked them to friend the P&R Facebook page, the number of increased followers might be enough to persuade the City Council to keep the page.
Amber reminded everyone to have Facebook work in their favor; they would have to make an effort to send articles to her to post in a timely and ongoing manner.  We will need to keep the site current in order to keep followers interested.
It was suggested that the Arts Council take advantage of other free and low cost venues for publicity.  It was noted that anyone can submit any ongoing event to the Seattle Times and Mercer Island Reporter. If it doesn’t get printed, they often will still post it online.   Two radio stations that are known to accept public announcement are KPLU and KING FM radio stations. They also post announcements online.
Mireya Lewin felt the Arts Council should take opportunities to work with other websites. During her research for an online site that could handle the Arts Council’s online mapping needs, she discovered the site  Stqry is a technology platform that specializes in making a cohesive statement by uploading stories that could include photos videos, and event information.  It is a cross between a blog and a social media site.   She felt it could be very complimentary to the other venues the Arts Council is using.   Amber indicated that with (city) restrictions, we may or may not be able to be involved with stqry or similar websites. She will need more information in order to find out. 
It was agreed that the Arts Council should take every opportunity to promote themselves in order to raise public awareness about what the Arts Council is and what they do. They will make a renewed effort to better take advantage of the communications venues that are available to them now - P&R Facebook page, the City Weekly and Parks Monthly publications,  Patch, etc.  Everyone will start by inviting all of their friends to like the Parks & Recreation Facebook page.
Amber suggested that the website could be better used by the Arts Council. They could even get their own URL. The site has a lot of information that could use updating.  New photos and articles about programs and events can be sent to staff for posting.  The format can be updated as well.
Karen Kaser suggested a template be developed, similar to the one used at MMIP, to use during program introductions.  Ideally, it would not only introduce the program at hand, but would tell attendees who the Arts Council is and what they do.  It would be an opportunity to let the public know what the Arts Council is up to.
There was discussion about the best way to be sure each program gets publicity. Bonnie Bradley, Public Relations Chair, agreed to think about a format that can be used by everyone and whether everything should go to her (or an appointed Arts Council member) for release or if each individual should be responsible for getting the word out about the programs they are working on. 
The Arts Council acknowledged a need for continuity not only in programs and events themselves, but in getting information out to the public.  This means keeping things current when members leave the council or pass a program on to someone else.
2.  Engaging the Community
Identification of ways to reach out to the community:
  • Community dance
  • Dance until dusk - Mostly Music in the Park
  • Partner with JCC - dance
  • Boys & Girls Club - engage the younger generation
  • Reach out to Mercer Island musical artists - plan for music on the street
  • Signs at the Farmer’s Market
Karen felt that if the Arts Council could hold a community dance.  Dancing until dusk which is sponsored by the City of Seattle, has proven to be a popular format.  It was noted that this is not in the current budget.  Jane said the Arts Council has tried charging for dances in the past, but weren’t able to make enough to cover expenses.  Bonnie suggested an alternative might be to make it a part of Mostly Music in the Park and offer a half hour of dance lessons preceding the music.
The Arts Council should take advantage of availability of the new JCC performance center and use every opportunity to engage with them. It was noted that they have a fabulous PR machine, and the Arts Council should take advantage of it when possible.
Boys & Girls Club and Fine Arts Advisory Committee:  Mireya felt that to engage and develop these audiences is part of what the Arts Council is here for.
Reach out to artists (musicians) who live on the Island to plan an event. Consider asking them to do an MMIP event or music on the streets for Summer Celebration or some other event where a crowd is anticipated.  Bring them into the Arts Council sphere.   Ask them to volunteer.  Perhaps this could even be tied to fundraising.  If there is a program that we want to fund raise for, we could ask them to volunteer to help us. 
In response to a query from Bonnie regarding placement of event signs on the island, Amber will provide information on the City rules for signs.
Jane Ditzler felt it was important to get out into the community and talk to people.  Find out what they think and bring that information back to the Arts Council for consideration.
3.  Work with the city on a performance center (YTN)
  • On Art - performances
  • Discuss with the City Council, the view of the Arts Council.  Possibly a survey of what people (in the community as a whole) want in a performance center.
Bonnie stated that she could get behind a performing arts center that the entire community can benefit from.  She felt like that is the direction Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN) is going.  If they are genuine about it being a community platform, she would like the Arts Council to support them.
Jane stated that building the performing arts center is several years away.  She felt the Arts Council needs to find out what they (YTN) want from us.  Do they just want us to give them moral support and publicity?  She stated that we have been very supportive over the years and that the two groups have a lot of history together.  In the past the Arts Council supported them monetarily with the 1% for the Arts Fund.  They were supposed to reciprocate by allowing us to use their facility.  This never materialized.  She stated that she will personally support them, and would like to see the Arts Council get involved.  Suzanne suggested one way to be more involved would be to give them input into what we would like to see other than performing arts now.  We can’t wait until they fund-raise and it gets built.
It was suggested that someone from the Arts Council attend YTN’s meetings regarding the performing arts center this year so that we have a voice.  It was agreed that the Arts Council should have a discussion to decide what their priorities are and then communicate that agenda consistently.  Jane Ditzler stated that she and Suzanne Zahinser will be attending a meeting between now and the November Arts Council meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 11:30 am

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